The new Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2022, released earlier in March, provides and in-dept analysis of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific and its five subregions. It was released by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. The ESCAP is an intergovernmental platform in the region promoting cooperation among its 53 Member States and 9 associate members with the objective of finding solutions to sustainable development challenges.
The report, addressed to stakeholders, regional analysts and national experts, highlights how the efforts to reach the objectives set out by the sustainable development goals has decelerated in the past few years. The progress towards these goals in Asia and the Pacific has slowed due to Covid-19 and climate challenges that have worsened the challenges of development. At the current pace the region will not achieve the goals until 2065. As a matter of fact, even if there has been significant progress on industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9) and affordable and clean energy (Goal 7), the region is not on track to achieve any of the 17 SDGs. The report also highlights that the “Asia-Pacific region is now facing the economic impact of the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis and the risk that progress will slow down even more in the coming years as environmental and social targets are compromised”.
To achieve these goals, it is fundamental to protect the most vulnerable elements of the population to promote an inclusive, equitable and just recovery. As of today, the report underlined that progress in Asia and the Pacific disproportionately excludes some specific groups. Among those left behind, there are women, rural populations and poorer households. For these defenseless sections of the population, food security, education and livelihoods have worsened during the pandemic.
For example, some figures from the report highlight that less than half of the countries in Asia and the pacific have achieved the universal coverage with some form of pension. 32 million children in Asia and the Pacific are affected by wasting. 15-64% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of intimate partners over their lifetime. The Asia Pacific region hosts 19% of the world’s total refugee population and one third of the global population of child refugees. The intersection of poverty, climate change and the aftermath of the pandemic often impacts the livelihoods of these vulnerable populations. The analysis in this report shows that more must be done in the region, to expand social protection for vulnerable populations, including persons with severe disabilities, and to improve the labour market prospects of people with disabilities.
Also from the perspective of environmental sustainability, although the climate crisis has become more acute, alarmingly, the region has regressed on responsible consumption and production (Goal 12) and climate action (Goal 13).
Further work must be done to also close the remaining gap in data available from the region. While the report shows that data availability has improved since 2017, 57 out of 169 targets (34 per cent) still cannot be measured. Major gaps are also to be found in data on gender equality (Goal 5), life below water (Goal 14) and peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16). An important role in the facilitation of collection of data is the cooperation between national and international custodian agencies for SDG indicators. More investment and technical cooperation are needed to enhance national coordination and data sharing and integration, to harness the full potential of administrative data for the SDGs.
Finally, policy interventions and solutions must address the urgent need for regional collaboration and partnerships to ensure that no one and no country in any of the Asia-Pacific subregions is left behind as SDG progress stagnates or regresses.
Image – Microsoft