UN dialogue: sustainable development needed to transform Asia-Pacific’s least developed countries

6 March 2015 – Transforming the lives of some 300 million people in the least developed countries in Asia and the Pacific “is not about ticking the boxes on a few variables,” but to ensure that economic growth and development is sustainable to lift the millions above the extreme poverty line, a senior United Nations official in the region said today.

That was among conclusions at the three-day High-Level Asia-Pacific Dialogue on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2011-2020 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

“Graduation is not about ticking the boxes on a few variables alone to move beyond least developed country status,” said Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

“It’s about real transformation of the lives of the 293 million people living in our 12 LDCs, of whom 113 million remain below extreme poverty line, with high exposure to natural disasters, and about the 130 million who have yet to enjoy access to education, health and other basic services,” Ms. Akhtar said.

According to ESCAP, the greatest challenge facing the Asia-Pacific least developed countries is to promote inclusive and sustainable growth and development for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of the people.

“In these countries, such growth requires measures to accelerate growth with structural transformation, diversifying their economies towards manufacturing and services, along with a focus on increasing agricultural productivity and promoting rural development, strengthening social protection, and enhancing financial inclusion especially of the poor and disadvantaged groups,” ESCAP said.

A clear message from the three-day meeting was that least developed countries, development partners and the UN system must meet the commitments and implement the actions agreed in the Istanbul action plan, including those related to mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity building.

The meeting’s outcome document will be delivered by the Government of Cambodia to ESCAP’s 71st Commission session for its consideration as the basis for the regional mid-term review ahead of the global mid-term review of the programme of action to be held in 2016.

The Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011, adopted the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.

It sets out actions to be undertaken by the least developed countries and their development partners in eight priority areas of action, each supported by concrete deliverables and commitments. These priority areas are: productive capacity; agriculture, food security and rural development; trade; commodities; human and social development; multiple crises and other emerging challenges; mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity-building; and governance at all levels.

The Gates Letter, 2015

The release of an annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates has become an event akin to the State of the Union Address for the international development and health crowd. The big highlights from this year: The Gates’ predict what life will be like in 2030, including worldwide child deaths halved; diseases like, polio, guinea worm and river blindness will be eradicated; and a cure for malaria. Also, the Gates’ announce an ambitious plan to organize “global citizens” and are ambitiously backing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Read the letter. Read a news story about the letter from Reuters.

Why Obama’s India visit is such a big deal…President Obama is heading to India this weekend. This is the first time that a president will visit India twice while in office. Tanvi Madan of Brookings explains the significance of this trip, what can be expected on the climate change front and why this trip could have profound historic consequences. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1yVcGMR)

Saudi Arabia’s long King Abdullah has died at the age of 90. He was best described as a cautious reformer.  The transition to Prince Salman seems to be smooth, at least on the surface. NYT http://nyti.ms/1yVchKk

Is private equity really hot for sub-saharan Africa? The Economist thinks so. http://econ.st/1CHO2wo

Ebola

Sierra Leone said on Thursday it would reopen schools across the country in March, with the deadly Ebola epidemic slowing throughout west Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B6V3)

Even though the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues, the U.N. says it’s time to plan for the recovery of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A joint mission has just completed its assessment in Sierra Leone. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AaNp)

Recent news reports indicate a drop in the number of new cases the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  Some treatment centers built with foreign aid are operating at a fraction of their capacity.  Health care specialists say now’s the time to focus on revitalizing weakened health care systems. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AjAp)

Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Senate has announced a one-day delay for its vote on a proposed electoral law that has sparked days of violent protests. Senators now say they will vote Friday on the bill, which would require completion of a national census before a presidential election can be held. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AcVr)

Nigeria should delay next month’s elections to give organisers more time to distribute millions of biometric ID cards to voters, the country’s top security official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1CGddPT)

Madagascar’s opposition is to challenge the appointment of Prime Minister Jean Ravelonarivo in the constitutional court after the administrative court said it would not hear the case, extending uncertainty in a country struggling to repair its economy. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yJMCTa)

A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopia’s government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 elections. The report, released Thursday, details how Ethiopia has restricted independent reporting since 2010. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sq9r)

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sB4K)

An outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Nigeria has spread to 21 commercial farms in seven different states, with more than 140,000 birds having been exposed to the virus, the agriculture minister said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uXAC)

The slaughter of rhinos in South Africa hit a new record in 2014, with poachers killing 1,215 of the iconic savannah animals as Asian-led demand for their horn showed no sign of abating, authorities said Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B8fC)

Chad’s President Idriss Deby has secured control of regional operations against deadly Boko Haram Islamists, riding roughshod over his supposed allies in a week-long diplomatic and military offensive. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6Ba78)

MENA

The Yemeni government has offered its resignation to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a source close to Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1CjcwhD)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on world leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Thursday to unite against the global threat of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uRci)

Rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Saudi Arabia would postpone the flogging of blogger Raef Badawi, whose case has sparked international criticism, for a second week on medical grounds. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1y3xLxK)

The U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinians will run out of money by the end of January to repair homes in Gaza damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation, an agency spokesman said on Thursday. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1Bi67lg)

It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ClB3CO)

It costs thousands of euros for a false passport and place on a boat to Turkey, but Syrian refugees stranded in Cyprus are ready to try anything. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Bi6E6B)

Asia

Thirteen Vietnamese social activists say they were attacked by police and taken into custody after visiting recently freed dissident Tran Anh Kim. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rUZ4)

Pakistan says it wants an early repatriation of Afghan refugees in the country but does not intend to forcefully evict them. Meanwhile, Afghan officials are warning that unwarranted pressure on the refugee population as part of Islamabad’s increased counterterrorism measures could hinder bilateral ties. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zE20)

Cambodia has managed to reduce poverty in many parts of the country but admits it is still falling behind on many of its United Nations development targets as a deadline to reach such goals approaches. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rVMM)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that China’s slowing economy reflected the broader, global situation and promised that he would forge ahead with major reforms to boost growth prospects. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rW3p)

The disclosure by a key United Nations witness, that parts of his testimony about his life in North Korean prison camps were untrue, is raising questions about the credibility of the U.N. report on human rights abuses in that country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zHL9)

“We cannot be counted as citizens of the 21st century” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a hard-hitting message to the country during the launch of a nationwide campaign to save and educate girls. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2Afkn)

Pakistan has outlawed two militant groups accused of plotting terrorist attacks in neighboring India and Afghanistan. The announcement comes before President Barack Obama’s trip to New Delhi this week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yJLMWL)

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra strongly defended herself in parliament before a vote by members on whether to impeach her for her role in a controversial rice subsidy scheme. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CGcC0C)

India will look to the United States for more private sector partnerships and technology to support a drive to expand its use of clean energy, as Washington looks to secure political support for a global climate change deal in 2015. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Cjdjiu)

Myanmar’s government has accused ethnic rebels of trying to scuttle a nationwide peace deal, as tensions soar in the northern state of Kachin, where an activist said sporadic clashes between the army and insurgents have trapped more than 1,800 villagers. (AP http://yhoo.it/15vNQ8U)

The Americas

Amnesty International is calling on the Mexican government to investigate the army in the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico on September 26. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E7biIl)

A bill that would prohibit using federal money to pay for “any abortion” or for “health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion” has been approved by the US House of Representatives. (NPR http://n.pr/1Bit9IN)

Opinion/Blogs

Bill and Melinda Gates Want the UN to Get Real (Businessweek http://buswk.co/1E6Voxw)

Africa’s Economy Is Rising. Now What Happens to Its Food? (Upshot http://nyti.ms/1JdYD6r)

Microfinance not a quick escape from poverty, studies show (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1JdYAHV)

Nigerians Don’t Need More Boko Haram Coverage, They Need Action (Vanity Fair http://vnty.fr/186mg3E)

Is USAID Helping Haiti to Recover, or US Contractors to Make Millions? (The Nation http://bit.ly/1yKfKbw)

Why Boko Haram Has Stepped Up Attacks in Nigeria (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/15tX5GK)

Double standards of celebrity humanitarianism (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1yOavHT)

Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse. (Vox http://bit.ly/1CGBeX9)

Heartfelt and provocative on Boko Haram (Storify http://bit.ly/1yOaseY)

Research/Reports

The United Nations asked governments on Thursday to submit plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the building blocks of a deal due in Paris in December to limit global warming, after scientists said 2014 was the hottest year on record. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1y3xAlQ)

Countries are divided on how a new global plan to reduce the risk of disasters should measure progress, with some governments opposed to setting numerical targets for cutting deaths and economic losses and protecting infrastructure. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1y3xHOi)

Discussion

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Annual UN Asia-Pacific policy forum spotlights

4 August 2014 – Asia-Pacific countries will gather in Bangkok this week for the annual policy session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), focusing on the role of regional connectivity in supporting economic growth and development.

With a particular focus on the three dimensions of sustainable development &#8211 social, economic and environmental &#8211 senior Government officials from over 40 member countries and associate member countries will meet at ESCAP’s 70th session today through 6 August, ahead of the Commission’s high-level ministerial segment, which will run from 7 to 8 August, to be attended by Heads of State and senior ministers.

In a press release kicking off the annual session, ESCAP says that more than 30 ministers from Asia and the Pacific are expected to participate in the ministerial segment.

In addition, Ministers from Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands and Tonga will be among key speakers at panel discussions during the high-level session this week, focusing on steering the region towards equitable, environment-friendly and resilient growth.

The ESCAP session is being held against the backdrop of high public debt levels and declining international development assistance, which has affected Asia-Pacific growth and contributed to rising income inequality, both within and between countries in the region.

A Ministerial Round Table on the theme of the 70th session, &#8220Regional connectivity for shared prosperity&#8221, on the opening day of the ministerial segment will focus on transport, ICT and energy connectivity and multi-sectoral and cross-border cooperation.

At a media launch on 6 August, ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar will present the key findings of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2014, the Commission’s flagship publication, outlining the latest macroeconomic projections and policy advice for the region.

On the second day of the ministerial segment, Asia-Pacific Government leaders and policymakers will join a panel discussion on sustainable development and development finance to suggest policy options for addressing existing and emerging vulnerabilities.

Key events during the week, including all panel discussions, will be webcast live at http://www.unescap.org/commission/webcast.

The Commission session can also be followed on social media using the hash tag #CS70.