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UN urges Asia-wide cooperation to fight Covid and climate emergency

UN urges Asia-wide cooperation to fight Covid and climate emergency

WEDNESDAY, March 24, 2021
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The United Nations warned on Wednesday that Asia must ramp up regional cooperation to build resilience to the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency – “the twin crises that threaten our future the most”.

The warning came in Bangkok at the opening of the 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development hosted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The UN estimates the pandemic has pushed 89 million more people in the region back into extreme poverty at the $1.90 (Bt59) per day threshold, erasing years of development gains.

“The economic and educational shutdowns are likely to have severely harmed human capital formation and productivity, exacerbating poverty and inequality,” it added.

The meeting's sidelines saw ESCAP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launch the latest edition of the Asia-Pacific Social Development Goals Partnership Report.

Titled “Responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind”, the report calls for a renewed focus on people and inclusive cooperation. A key finding was that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, driving technological innovation and rapid policy adaptations that are helping countries cope with Covid-19 challenges.

However, it said regional cooperation was crucial to mitigate future shocks and the threat of an uneven recovery between countries where some are left behind.

“We need cooperation that enables universal and affordable access to high-speed internet, new trade and tariff regimes, support across countries to transition faster to renewable energy and greener technologies, and governance that is more open, participatory, and accountable. This goes beyond old-style regional cooperation to one that learns from hard shocks such as Covid-19,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN assistant secretary-general and director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific

UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana urged countries to “formulate a set of policy packages that could create harmony between health and economy, and between economy and the environment”.

“As we prepare for sustainable and resilient recovery, let us remember that the SDGs are our compass and can continue to play a force for good in transforming our societies in the post-Covid-19 era,” said Alisjahbana.

More than 1,000 delegates representing governments, civil society, businesses, and international organisations are taking part in the online forum this week from March 23 to 29 to discuss sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.