Asia and the Pacific has more than half of the world’s population, including nearly 900 million of the world’s poor, and 30 percent of the global land mass.
The region's unparalleled economic performance overall in the past decade has resulted in dramatically decreased levels in poverty. Already, the region has reached the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.
In fact, in the last decade the annual growth in human development has been higher for Asia and the Pacific than any other region worldwide, according to the Human Development Report 2013. Similarly, as a sign the region’s growing maturity and resilience on the economic front, it weathered the impact of the financial and economic crises of 2007-2008 relatively well.
At the same time, the sustainability, quality and inclusiveness of rapid growth, combined with persistent income, social and gender disparities, continue to be critical development challenges.
Asia and the Pacific faces a number of challenges, key amongst which are climate change and women's empowerment.
The region stands particularly vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change. According to the 2010 Asia Pacific Disaster Report, people in Asia and the Pacific are 4 and 25 times more vulnerable to natural disasters when compared with people in Africa and in North America/Europe, respectively. Asia accounted for 75% of more than 2 million deaths caused by 6,367 natural disasters recorded between 1974 and 2003. In 2008, Asian countries were listed in nine out of the top ten countries in the global statistics of deaths attributable to natural disasters.
The region has witnessed remarkable economic progress and rapid development in recent decades, yet gender inequality remains entrenched even through this era of change. The region lags behind on gender parity on multiple counts, despite progress on several other dimensions. While overall indicators for economic prosperity, educational attainments and access to healthcare have improved for the region’s population over the recent decades, gender gaps have not closed.
All countries face challenges—even those performing well on the income, health and education indicators. People, particularly women, continue to confront discrimination in jobs, disparities in power, voice and political representation, and laws that are prejudicial on the basis of their gender.
The region as a whole, especially South Asia, ranks near the worst in the world—often lower than sub-Saharan Africa—on basic issues such as protecting women from violence or upholding their rights to property, as well as on indicators in such key areas as nutrition, health, education, employment and political participation. Sub-regional disparities are striking.
Overall, East Asia is pulling ahead of South Asia on progress toward gender equality. In the Pacific, a complex brew of customary laws, practices and constitutional provisions represents a key factor behind the subordinate status of women.