Strengthening social protection, trade, and environmental protection are key to building back better in the Asia-Pacific region, says UN report
Bangkok : Broadening social protection, investing in a sustained recovery, keeping goods and information flowing, and protecting environmental health will be key to emerging stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a flagship report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today.
The theme study for the 77th session of the Commission, Beyond the pandemic: Building back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific, shows that throughout the region, countries have suffered abrupt economic contractions, interruptions to trade, broken supply chains, and the complete collapse of international tourism – leading to widespread job losses and increases in poverty. With no country spared from the effects of COVID-19, the region’s structural weaknesses are more visible now than ever before.
Specifically, the report argues for building universal social protection that extends coverage to informal workers and more women and vulnerable population groups. It points out that countries will need to strengthen trade and transport links and invest in digitalization and broadband connectivity. The report also sets out regional priorities for planetary health, identifying the institutional, structural economic and behavioural changes needed to effectively manage our human and natural environment.
“The report identifies fault lines in the region’s societies and economies that the virus was quick to expose,” said Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “Not just the stark inequalities and the fragility of our health and social protection systems, but also weaknesses in internet coverage and digital capacity, and the limitations in some trade and transport links that seized up just when they were needed most.”
“We hope its information and analysis will assist countries across Asia and the Pacific as they look beyond the pandemic and set a steady course towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” she added.
The report sets out an ambitious policy agenda grounded in regional cooperation. Notably, the report recommends that countries reject protectionist measures, favouring regional solidarity to aid trade facilitation and decarbonize industry, shifting to a more sustainable and lower-carbon, multimodal freight transport. To support long-term, resilient and sustainable development, countries should reorient spending away from non-developmental areas and consider tax reforms to mitigate inequalities.
The Commission, scheduled to meet from 26 to 29 April 2021, is expected to adopt a resolution based on the report findings to strengthen regional resilience and cooperation and build back better.