UNDP Chief: Asia-Pacific economic miracle not yet a sustainable development path

08 Nov 2013

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Vietnam meeting examines evolving challenges in the region and how to address them

Hanoi -- “While we have witnessed an economic miracle in Asia-Pacific, it is clear that we have not yet seen a complete transformation towards a sustainable development path,” said UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark in her opening address to the annual UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific meeting of its senior officials.

The theme of the three-day meeting is Advancing UNDP’s Strategic Plan (2014 -2017) in Asia and the Pacific. UNDP representatives from across the region are examining the new development landscape in Asia and discussing ways in which UNDP can enhance partnerships, work more effectively with middle-income countries, help countries deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, strengthen governance, and build resilience.

At the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai of Viet Nam talked about the country’s progress toward meeting its development targets, particularly in the areas of poverty and education. He said that UNDP is an important development partner and Vietnam looks forward to the continued policy advice and capacity development that UNDP can provide to country.

UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu, pointed to three important priorities for the region: addressing rising inequality, ensuring effective and inclusive democratic governance, and building resilience among countries so they are better equipped to plan for and recover from crises and disasters.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark noted that the region has been the most economically dynamic in the world. In 2000, 15 of the 36 UNDP programme countries in Asia and the Pacific were low-income countries, now there are only six.

“The rapid economic growth seen in many countries in the region has not benefitted all segments of society equally,” said the UNDP Administrator. The region is home to more than 70 percent of the global population lacking access to basic sanitation, and close to 70 percent of the world’s underweight children, she noted.

“Although much has been achieved in girls’ education, women’s economic and political empowerment continues to be a pressing priority for the region,” she said. “Only 31 percent of women are active in the paid labour force in South Asia. Female parliamentary representation is less than 20 percent in the region.”

She also addressed other subjects, such as confronting environmental pressures, the effects of climate change, and disaster-related events that cause more deaths in Asia and the Pacific than in any other part of the world.

Meeting the regions’ clean energy needs will be an urgent challenge, as 700 million people in Asia and the Pacific have no access to electricity, she noted.

Turning to the UNDP Strategic Plan 2014, Miss Clark said that UNDP’s vision is to help countries eradicate poverty, significantly reduce inequalities and exclusion, while also protecting the environment. “The new UNDP Strategic Plan reiterates our determination to become more focused, results-driven, effective, and efficient,” she said.

She also talked about a new era marked by greater expectations of the world’s citizens. She cited the UN report on the Million Voices: The World We Want in which the global conversation revealed that people expect governments to deliver on the MDGs, address inequality and disparities, take responsibility for the state of the planet, and create conditions for decent work.

To meet such demands, partnerships and coordination will be critical, she said, especially through increased engagement with South-South and triangular cooperation, stronger coordination of the UN Development System within countries, and partnerships with regional bodies, civil society and the private sector.

“UNDP’s primary partnerships are with programme countries,” she said. “High levels of trust, confidence and mutual respect between our Country Offices and national government counterparts are fundamental to our success.”

Her trip to Vietnam from 6-10 November includes meetings with Prime Minister H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pham Binh Minh; and Minister of Planning and Investment, Mr. Bui Quang Vinh, among other high-level officials. She will have a dialogue with ethnic minority women to discuss their challenges and aspirations, and also meet civil society organizations on their role in advancing development in Viet Nam. Her visit began with a one-day meeting of the UN Development Group in Asia and the Pacific, which includes heads of all UN agencies in the region.

Contact Information

Cherie.hart@undp.org; 66 8 1 918 1564