UN forum urges commitments be translated into concrete actions in Asia and the Pacific, ahead of global ‘Pact for the Future’

UN forum urges commitments be translated into concrete actions in Asia and the Pacific, ahead of global ‘Pact for the Future’

The 11th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) opened today in Bangkok with a resounding call for countries to take urgent, accelerated actions supported by strong, sustained multilateral cooperation – or risk falling further behind on their aspirations for sustainable development in the wake of recent multiple crises. 

“No country or region can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or navigate contemporary global challenges alone. International cooperation is essential, but the multilateral arrangements of today are simply not up to the job,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in her keynote address. “Your leaders recognised this last September, supporting the UN Secretary-General’s call for an SDG stimulus and demanding that it be advanced without delay. And they also recognised the need for deeper change.”

Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) from 20 to 23 February, the Forum brings together a cross-section of key development actors, including senior government and UN officials, the private sector and representatives of youth and civil society to share their experiences, and mobilise regional action and solutions.

“While the challenges ahead are formidable, the transition we envisage opens vast avenues of opportunity. We can herald an era of sustainable prosperity if we choose to act decisively and collaboratively,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She further highlighted six entry points for transformative actions — food systems; energy access and affordability; digital connectivity; education; jobs and social protection; and climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution — to amplify efforts across multiple SDGs.

Paula Narvaéz, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said in video remarks, “The data tells us that at the current pace of implementation, the region will miss 90 per cent of the 118 measurable SDG targets by 2030.”

“Despite these trends, we know that there is energy and potential for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region to build on their proven innovation to scale up action. The region has lessons to share across all the SDGs, including disaster risk reduction policies, the uptake of digital technologies and trade and regional economic cooperation.”

Over the next four days, Forum participants will undertake an in-depth review of the region’s progress on Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 13 (Climate Action), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). The outcomes will feed into the global High-Level Political Forum in July and the Summit of the Future, to be held in September in New York.

“Sustainable development is about society, the people and the planet. These fundamental elements need to be addressed in a balanced and inclusive manner. Business-as-usual can no longer be the way forward. Transformative mindsets and actions by all of us are urgently needed if we are to fulfill the promise of leaving no one behind,” said Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

“The need to improve the lives of grassroots communities in the region is now at a critical level…We must address the structural causes of persistent poverty and deepening inequalities, and recast development as a process organised and led by the people,” said Antonia Lilii of the First Pasefika Fono Network and representative of the Asia-Pacific People’s Forum.

Shilpa Lamichhane of Visible Impact and representing the APFSD Youth Forum, drew attention to the need for meaningful engagement of young people in development processes: “We call for a dedicated and sustainable civic space for young people at the local and national level, connected cohesively at the regional level where we sit at the table as active decisionmakers, as active national delegation members and decide on the sustainable development issues that matter to us.”

On the sidelines later today, ESCAP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will jointly launch the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Report 2024, which this year is titled “People and Planet: Addressing the Interlinked Challenges of Climate Change, Poverty, and Hunger in Asia and the Pacific.

The report notes that more frequent and severe climate-related hazards will result in reduced agricultural and labour productivity, loss of livelihoods and human displacement. These strain socio-economic and environmental systems, and hinder efforts to promote food security and alleviate poverty, especially for poorer countries and vulnerable communities.

The report also draws attention to promising solutions for the region that reflect the interlinkages between climate, poverty and food insecurity. One example is food systems approaches that, designed properly, could support sustainable livelihoods for millions of farmers, ensure food security and reduce the environmental and climate impacts of food production.

Since 2014, the APFSD has provided an annual and inclusive platform for countries to share regional best practices and lessons learnt, support the presentation of their voluntary national reviews, and assess progress made towards implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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