By Sudip Ranjan Basu, Programme Officer, ESCAP; Monica Das, Associate Professor, Skidmore College; Alexandra Boakes Tracy, President, Hoi Ping Ventures; and Achim Wennmann Senior Researcher, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

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Unsplash / billow926

The United Nations has tasked the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Population and Public Health (CIHR-IPPH) to lead the research roadmap to identify priorities that will support an equitable global socio-economic recovery from COVID-19 within the broader framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). …


ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction

By Sanjay Srivastava, Madhurima Sarkar-Swaisgood and Dr Edmond Fernandes

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iStock / suc

Asif Ali (name changed) and his wife live with three children in a rural township bordering India and Bangladesh. Asif lost his job as a mechanic when the COVID-19 lockdown forced the closure of a small repair shop. Furthermore, the months leading into the monsoon season led to severe flooding, leaving him with a damaged home and lost livestock that had provided an additional livelihood. As the waters receded, it became a perfect breeding ground for vectors.

Unfortunately, he and his wife contracted dengue fever, with Asif in dire need of blood platelets for survival and left at the mercies of an overwhelmed health system. While the wife solicited platelet donations, the children were left to fend for themselves. With dwindling savings, food insecurity and the threat of malnutrition, the future was bleak. This scenario of cascading risks is now playing out among millions of families throughout South Asia. …


Trade, Investment and Innovation

By Tengfei Wang, Jonathan Wong and Mia Mikic

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iStock / vittaya25

Technology often has inherent limitations

All sorts of frontier technologies have been widely used to fight against COVID-19. A good lesson learned by using various technologies during the pandemic is that technology can help the most only when we understand its limitations.

An inter-governmental meeting at ESCAP in August showcased how countries have deployed technologies during the pandemic. Using artificial intelligence (AI) as an example, AI has showed its usefulness in developing much needed medical products and services like a diagnostic kit developed within a month in the Republic of Korea.

On the other hand, AI is still perceived as weak in “human” factors such as showing empathy and having conversations with people. In this connection, chatbots launched to deal with COVID-19 related concerns may have serious limitations. Indeed, the need for unique response mapping, complex contextualization and dynamic, human-guided validation of content in dealing with questions had been well studied by ESCAP and Google before the start of the pandemic. …


Environment and Development

By Solene Le Doze and Acacia Jennings

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Kuensel Online

What’s the recipe for cooking up outstanding policies? Policy practitioners the world over have strived to get the right people in the room and stay abreast of the latest research.

In Bhutan, an exercise to realize a healthier environment led ESCAP to learn important lessons in supporting environmental policies in other countries.

The National Environment Commission (NEC) of Bhutan requested support from ESCAP on revising the 1998 National Environment Strategy (NES) of Bhutan.

This led to the development of The Middle Path: National Environment Strategy of Bhutan 2020 (NES 2020). The strategy, that responds to Bhutan’s specific circumstances and unique vision of environment and sustainable development was launched on 4 June 2020, under the Patronage of the Queen of Bhutan. Its vision is “a healthy and sustainable environment for present and future generations in pursuit of Gross National Happiness.” It provides an overarching framework for all existing environmental policies of Bhutan, with priority areas linked directly to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. …


Statistics

By Maria Fe Talento and Rikke Munk Hansen

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Pixabay / Julius Silver

The success of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is measured using 231 globally agreed indicators, 46 of them require the calculation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a complex indicator calling for a long list of statistics. Measuring success in achieving the 2030 Agenda therefore depends on a considerable amount of work by all national statistical offices of the world. This requires financial and human resources, something often in short supply in small, developing nations such as many Pacific island States.

So how are Pacific island States doing when it comes to generating the multiple statistics needed to calculate GDP to monitor 46 of the indicators for the 2030 Agenda? Let’s first have a look at the situation in the broader Asia-Pacific…


Disaster Risk Reduction

By Sanjay Srivastava, Madhurima Sarkar-Swaisgood and Dr. Edmond Fernandes

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Unsplash / Piyush Priyank

COVID-19 challenges the very fabric of human possibilities, survival and needs while amplifying the impacts of any ongoing crisis, especially the one faced currently by South Asia. Against a backdrop of critical socioeconomic vulnerabilities, the sub-region is now confronting the pandemic along with extreme events like tropical cyclones, recurring flood hazards, as well as outbreaks of water/vector-borne diseases. The increasing complexity from cascading risks is leading to greater uncertainties in policy responses. Given the current pandemic, the centrality of the health sector in protecting lives is paramount-. …


By Tiziana Bonapace, Sanjay Srivastava, Keran Wang, Siope Vakataki ‘Ofa, and Cristina Bernal Aparicio

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Pixabay / Gerd Altmann

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented changes to the way we lead our lives and our reliance on ICT connectivity has grown even faster than before. However, the region is also one of the most digitally divided, with less than 14 percent of the population connected to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet.

As shown in the figure below, while fixed-broadband is accessible to most of the population in two of the three income groups, fixed-broadband subscriptions remain unaffordable for more than half of the population for the Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries, Small island Developing States and Landlocked Developing countries, identified in the “low and lower-middle income” income group. A total of 44 per cent of households in developing countries of the region have Internet access at home, which means that those who relied on the Internet from work or school have lost their access during the lockdowns. …


Sustainable Development

By Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary for Sustainable Development and Van Nguyen, Sustainable Development Officer

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Unsplash / Lynda Hinton

After decades of impressive growth, for the first time, Southeast Asia is experiencing a drop in measured human development. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will likely take months to reveal itself and years to put right. Yet, a legacy of mobilizing under constraints is leading Southeast Asia’s pandemic response.

During the first two months of COVID-19 lockdown, the once bustling streets of Bangkok were unusually quiet. In the alley nested between two high-end shopping malls in downtown Bangkok, an elderly couple were not at their usual rice cart. Their regulars, motorbike taxi drivers and shop assistants, were absent. The couple have not returned now that things have eased. …


Statistics

By Giordana Aragno, Petra Nahmias, Tanja Sejersen and Sharita Serrao from ESCAP; and Kate Richards and Amber Kiwan from the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

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Photo: Vital Strategies

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for reliable and timely mortality statistics into sharp focus. Knowing how many people are dying and where they are is essential to tracking the virus’ spread and virulence. While this sounds simple, COVID-19 has exposed deep and pervasive gaps in death registration systems in Asia and the Pacific, especially in low-income countries. Importantly, gender bias in death registration could be obscuring the pandemic’s gendered impacts.

We know that we are far from universal registration of deaths in Asia and the Pacific, and we know that COVID-19 affects men and women differently. But in many countries where few deaths are registered, men’s deaths are more likely to be counted. This means that estimates of COVID-19 death rates and excess mortality are underestimated and biased towards men. …


ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction

By Sanjay Srivastava, Sung Eun Kim and Maria Bernadet Karina Dewi

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Unsplash / Milind Ruparel

The last few months have seen the collisions of COVID-19 with climate extremes. Its impact is potentially inter-generational where poverty, disaster risks and environmental degradation converge, especially in multi-hazard risk hotspots such as South Asia. The recent ESCAP policy study on protecting the vulnerable from climate and COVID-19 in South Asia maps out the cascading risk scenarios of climate extremes emanating from the South West monsoon and its intersection with the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

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United Nations ESCAP

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

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