The Sistem Monitoring Imunisasi Logistik Secara Elektronik (SMILE), an innovative platform to digitize the vaccine cold chain run jointly by the Indonesia Ministry of Health since 2018, is being used to monitor roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in the country. Photo: UNDP Indonesia.

Bangkok – The 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) opened today with a resounding call for countries to build resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency - the twin crises that threaten our future the most.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been undermining progress towards the 2030 Agenda and is a major setback for Asia-Pacific’s sustainable development. The UN estimates that 89 million more people in the region have been pushed back into extreme poverty at the $1.90 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.

On the sidelines, ESCAP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), jointly launched the latest edition of the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Report – Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind.

The report identifies pathways to recovery and how to build resilience in the region. It calls for a renewed focus on people and inclusive cooperation and underscores that environmental sustainability must become central to economic and physical integration efforts.

One of the report’s key findings is that inventive responses to the pandemic showed digitalization might be one of the most powerful forces of societal and economic change. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, driven by technological innovation and rapid policy adaptations that are playing a critical role in enabling countries to respond effectively.

Regional cooperation must also support countries to build greater resilience. These measures will be vital to mitigate the threat of an uneven recovery between countries where some are left behind and prepare countries to deal with future shocks.

“COVID-19 has shown us that not only is greater regional and global cooperation indispensable in an interconnected world, it also has to be different,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. “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.”

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. 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 Ms. Alisjahbana. “ESCAP is committed to strengthening, in close collaboration with the UN development system, multi-stakeholder partnerships at the regional, subregional and national levels to recover better together.

More than 1000 delegates representing governments, civil society, businesses, and international organizations are gathered online at the Forum this week from 23 to 29 March to discuss sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Since 2014, the APFSD has provided a unique annual platform for countries in Asia and the Pacific to share perspectives, challenges, and best practices as they progress toward implementing the SDGs. Outcomes from the APFSD will provide input into the global discussions held at the High-Level Political Forum in July this year.

The full Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership report can be accessed at:  

For more information on the 8th APFSD:

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