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Accelerating Sustainable Finance Through Private Sector Participation in Sri Lanka

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Mon, 28/08/2023 - 19:38
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PI/16/2023
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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Sri Lanka is embarking on a transformative journey towards a sustainable, resilient economy, bolstered by a strategic partnership between key stakeholders. In pursuit of ambitious climate goals and the effective management of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks, the nation is setting the stage for a paradigm shift in sustainable finance mobilization. The roadmap for this transformation includes a Roadmap for Sustainable Finance in Sri Lanka, the Green Finance Taxonomy introduced in May 2022, and further emphasizes the development of local guidelines, operational tools, and the adoption of global standards for thematic bonds.

As Sri Lanka works diligently with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other stakeholders to restore macroeconomic and debt sustainability, the government's focus remains on economic reforms. This pivotal moment also presents a unique opportunity to harness innovative sustainable finance mechanisms, particularly by mobilizing the private sector towards innovative financial instruments to finance the Nationally Determinant Contributions (NDC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Recognizing the private sector's pivotal role in facilitating NDC and SDG investments, a targeted capacity-building workshop was conducted to equip key stakeholders with the knowledge and tools fundamental to mobilizing sustainable finance.

The Accelerating Sustainable Finance Through Private Sector Participation workshop, jointly organized by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Sustainable Development Council, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), builds on the momentum of previous sustainable finance knowledge sessions held in Sri Lanka. The training program, conducted in partnership with the Luxembourg Green Exchange (LGX) and LGX Academy, aimed to enhance capacity and understanding in several critical areas for financial institutions:

  1. Sustainable Bond Issuance: Participants gained insights into sustainable bond issuance, ESG financing products, compliance with international best practices, and mainstreaming ESG instruments and risk management.
  2. Diversification of Financial Products: The knowledge sharing on sustainable finance instruments like thematic bonds, allowing participants to explore this distinct market segment, diversify financial products, and attract a broader range of investors.
  3. Best Practices and Taxonomies: Attendees learnt best practices, green labeling, external reviews, and reporting guidelines, as well as the use of taxonomies in ESG products.
  4. Risk Management and Disclosures: A focus on ESG products, risk management, and disclosures, with practical examples and case studies to develop reporting, compliance, and ESG-related disclosure capacities.

The training program was designed to empower private sector stakeholders considering future thematic bond issuance and those seeking a deeper understanding of sustainable finance instruments, including ESG lending. The highly interactive training sessions featured group work, presentations, and ESG application considerations. Participants are equipped to apply their newfound knowledge practically within their respective organizations, driving forward Sri Lanka's sustainable finance agenda. The program also served as a unique platform that generated crucial data for regulators through engagement with the key actors of the financial ecosystem in Sri Lanka on the topics of Sustainable Finance.

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UN forum paves the way for a regional vision of feminist finance

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Thu, 17/08/2023 - 17:20
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PI/14/2023
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Bangkok
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Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Feminist Finance Forum closed in Bangkok today with a rallying call to accelerate efforts and enhance multistakeholder cooperation to close this gender gap in access to finance for entrepreneurs across the region. The Forum provided an opportunity for key regional stakeholders to strategize on collaborative efforts to alleviate the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs across Asia and the Pacific.

Approximately 70 per cent of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises globally lack adequate access to financial services. Compounding this, only 7 per cent of private equity and venture capital is invested in female-led businesses. Across Asia and the Pacific, the gender-finance gap is a prevalent issue, with an estimated US$300 billion gap in financing for formal women-owned small businesses, and more than 1 billion women excluded from formal financial systems.

This gap results from and drives prevailing social norms and entrenched gender discriminatory practices, which continue to constrain uptake and usage of financial services among women. In her opening remarks, Rupa Chanda, Director of the Trade, Investment and Innovation Division of ESCAP stressed the need to accelerate action and promote innovative solutions. “More action is needed to ensure that the financial ecosystem in the region is able to respond to the needs of women and underserved populations. This will require channeling investment capital into transformative gender-responsive solutions to climate change and economic disparities; encouraging capital allocators to move capital to first-time gender lens funds; creating financial products that support the safety, stability, and success of women; building private-public partnerships to strengthen blended finance solutions, as well as a regulatory environment that facilitates women’s financial inclusion and success”.

Cam Do, Director General of the Innovative and Climate Finance Bureau, Global Affairs Canada shared, “Feminist finance goes well beyond providing access to services and opportunities. It also involves transforming social norms, power dynamics that exist, and structural barriers that hinder equality. When women can fully participate in the economy, whether as entrepreneurs, agricultural producers, managers, employees, or business leaders, economies thrive, and more people benefit from growth.”

The two-day interactive Forum convened over 200 participants, including policymakers, women entrepreneurs, investors, financial service providers, academics, civil society and women’s grassroots organisations, and development partners.

During the event, participants explored the climate finance and gender equality nexus, the need to drive investments into the regional care economy, women’s financial inclusion and resilience, tools to overcome gender bias in funding processes, support services for women entrepreneurs, and actionable insights on gender lens investing and gender responsive financial products and services.

At the Forum, ESCAP launched its report: Policy Approaches for Financial Inclusion: An Examination of Approaches across Asia and the Pacific and Latin America, developed in partnership with the Government of Colombia. A Community of Practice on Women’s Financial Inclusion was also initiated, with a goal to bring policymakers in Asia and the Pacific and Latin America together to engage in mutually beneficial exchange on key priority areas identified during the Forum.

On the sidelines of the event, regional thought leaders and practitioners of Feminist Finance unveiled innovative new tools and initiatives to close the gender-finance gap. Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) launched its Orange Bond, set to unlock US$ 10 billion to empower 100 million women, building on the success of the Women’s Livelihood Bond Series, implemented in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and ESCAP.

Women-led Southeast Asia-based impact investment firm, SWEEF Capital, which was established with support from ESCAP, introduced participants to its recently launched Gender ROI™ tool, demonstrating the positive impact of adopting a gendered approach within organisations.

She Loves Tech, the world’s largest acceleration platform for women and technology, hosted a competition for women led start-ups from the Mekong region to pitch in front of the region’s top investors and funding institutions. The winning pitch was awarded to Vietnamese entrepreneur, Dung Claire Tran, Founder and CEO of Rayo- an AI-powered browser to make websites accessible for people with disabilities

During the Forum’s closing, a partnership agreement between ESCAP and 2X Global was signed ahead of the launch of two introductory and acceleration training programmes for female led or gender balanced fund managers from across Asia and the Pacific, which will run from September 2023 to March 2024. ESCAP also announced its intention to forge a joint initiative for Women investing for Women, in collaboration with 2X Global and other partners, to unlock gender smart capital at scale in Asia-Pacific, in addition to plans to commission a study on the FemTech Industry in South East Asia.

The Feminist Finance Forum was organised in the context of ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme, funded by Global Affairs Canada. Through the Programme, ESCAP is working to foster women’s economic empowerment, reduce poverty and increase gender equality by supporting women’s entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region.

To date, a total of 176,000 women entrepreneurs have gained access to finance through the project, and the programme has unlocked over US$89.7 million in capital. The Forum sought to build on these achievements, with a goal to drive tangible action for a feminist entrepreneurial ecosystem in Asia and the Pacific, and beyond.

For further information: https://www.unescap.org/events/2023/feminist-finance-forum

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ASEAN forum emphasizes valuing and investing in the care economy as key to advancing gender equality

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Thu, 27/07/2023 - 15:39
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PI/13/2023
Origin Location
Vientiane
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Women and girls in Asia and the Pacific spend a disproportionate amount of time on unpaid care and domestic work – four times more than men. This gendered division of labour limits their opportunities for education, work, and participation in public life. Despite ASEAN’s commitment to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030, challenges persist to the effective implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy.

The Regional Forum on Care Work in ASEAN Countries, held from 27 to 28 July in Vientiane, shed light on the undervalued but essential work carried out by caregivers and emphasized the need for increased investment and recognition in this sector. The forum was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), Oxfam and the ASEAN Secretariat.

Bringing together participants from across all ten ASEAN member-states, regional organizations, the private sector and technical experts, the forum represented a significant stride towards advancing gender equality and promoting sustainable development, delving into gender-responsive and care-sensitive policies and programs in the Asia-Pacific region.

“To create lasting change, we must prioritize transformative policies that recognize and redistribute the care burden equitably, without reinforcing traditional gender roles and norms. By promoting shared responsibility for caregiving among all members of society, we can pave the way for more meaningful opportunities for women to realize their full potential and empower women and girls to dream big and reach far,” said Cai Cai, Chief of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Section, ESCAP.

“Women spend a lifetime on unpaid care and domestic work, limiting their opportunities for education, work, and active participation in public life. It's time to recognize the immense value of care work and take action to create a more equitable society where caregiving responsibilities are shared and women can fully realize their potential in all aspects of life,” said Thasphorn Butsaling, Country Director, Oxfam.

The Regional Forum covered five key objectives over the course of two days. First, it aimed to create a Comprehensive Care Policy Ecosystem by facilitating extensive discussions to design a nurturing and supportive policy environment for care work within the ASEAN region. This included exploring care infrastructure and services, social protection policies, and care-related employment strategies.

Second, the forum focused on enhancing the well-being of care workers and caregivers, aiming to foster an ecosystem that supports their professional growth and personal development.

Third, it sought to safeguard and promote the care workforce by recognizing their indispensable role and addressing key considerations to ensure their rights and promote gender equality. This involved addressing issues such as fair compensation, decent working conditions, and the need to reduce gender disparities within the care sector.

The forum further explored challenges in Maternity Protection, with a core focus on comprehensive support for working mothers through maternity protection and childcare policies.

Finally, the forum advanced Evidence-based Care Strategies by encouraging the sharing of best practices and facilitating knowledge exchange. The emphasis was on identifying innovative approaches and evidence-based strategies for fostering sustainable care systems in ASEAN countries, with a focus on building inclusive, resilient, and equitable care frameworks.

To work towards this vision, the Regional Forum called for enhanced collaboration and partnership among ASEAN member states and stakeholders to facilitate the establishment of a robust and sustainable care sector.

"Fostering partnerships and synergies is vital in addressing unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring the well-being and empowerment of women and communities. By working together, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all," underscored Thamma Phetvixay, ACW Chair and Vice President of Laos Women’s Union. 

Recommendations from the Forum were shared for the consideration of Indonesia as the 2023 ASEAN Chair and Lao PDR as the incoming 2024 ASEAN Chair.

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Parricipants at Regional Forum on Care Work in ASEAN countries

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Countries in North and Central Asia review implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and discuss leveraging investment to enhance connectivity in the subregion

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Mon, 12/06/2023 - 11:52
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PI/11/2023
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held its Expert Group Meeting on the Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) in North and Central Asia on 7-8 June, with a view to review progress and gaps in achieving specific objectives of the VPoA in the sub-region.

Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) face an array of common challenges in achieving long-term development and prosperity. Due to their geographical location, LLDCs suffer from limited competitiveness due to high trade costs and high dependance on neighbouring transit countries to access regional and international markets. Transport and connectivity challenges are also prevalent as these countries generally face higher administrative and trade costs, longer transit times and more complex border procedures.  The climate crisis is also having major impacts on LLDCs with many heavily affected by desertification, biodiversity loss, drought and receding glaciers.

Recognising the complex challenges facing LLDCs, the international community in 2014 adopted the Vienna programme of action for Landlocked Developing Countries. This is a ten-year action-plan aimed at accelerating sustainable development in LLDCs. It consists of a set of six priority areas of interventions: (i) Fundamental Transit Policy Issues; (ii) Infrastructure Development and Maintenance; (iii) International Trade and Trade Facilitation; (iv) Regional Integration and Cooperation, (v) Structural Economic Transformation; and (vi) Means of Implementation. These priority areas are intended as a holistic approach to the peculiar challenges faced by LLDCs that have, over the years, impeded their economic transformation, as well as inclusive and sustainable growth.

“The impacts of multiple interlinked crises due to climate change, COVID-19, geopolitical uncertainties, and global economic slowdown in the subregion have placed greater urgency and importance in addressing the special needs of LLDCs,” said Michiko Enomoto, Acting Head of ESCAP Sub-Regional Office for North and Central Asia “Concerted efforts are needed to ensure we remain focused towards full implementation of the VPoA by 2024.”

These challenges have put LLDCs in a very disadvantageous position for economic development and make them more vulnerable in the case of global disruptions to value chains and cross-border restrictions, negative (or limited) economic growth, and reduction in trade flows.  Of the world’s 32 LLDCs, 7 are in North and Central Asia.

The two-day Expert Group Meeting reviewed progress, gaps, challenges and opportunities on the VPoA priority areas, and addressed the impacts of multiple crises on LLDCs progress.  Over the course of two days, discussions involved sharing innovative solutions, lessons and policy measures on national and subregional development priorities and gaps in implementing key action areas of the VPoA Roadmap. The main focus of the discussions was on transport, energy connectivity, digital trade and trade facilitation in North and Central Asia.

“Central Asian economies are strongly inter-dependent and require effective regional connectivity and integration to reach their potential,” said Sohail Khan Deputy Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation “Regional organizations and partners have a critical role to bring countries and stakeholders from the region together and provide an inclusive platform to discuss priorities, needs and gaps at national and regional level.”

The meeting brought together government representatives and technical experts dealing directly with the implementation of the VPoA and related issues of transit, trade, infrastructure development, structural economic transformation and transport from the 7 LLDCs in the sub-region. The meeting also included representatives of transit countries from the region and development partners as well as the UN system, relevant regional and sub-regional organizations, other international organizations, regional and international financial institutions; and the private sector.

“Although Central Asia has made some notable progress, this Expert Group Meeting provides the opportunity to reflect and look inward in proposing elements and solutions that will effectively respond to the unique challenges faced by LLDCs in the sub-region,” said Arken Arystanov, Chairman of the Board, KazAID.

As an associated event of the EGM, the Secretariat organized the Workshop on Leveraging Public and Private Investment for Accelerate the Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action in North and Central Asia on 9 June to have focused discussion on resource mobilization to accelerate the implementation of the VPoA.  Experts and participating policymakers exchanged experiences and good practices in attracting foreign direct investment and enabling Public-Private Partnership to finance sustainable connectivity infrastructures. Participants also explored the potential of sustainable and innovative finance, such as SDG bond and debt-for-climate swaps and discussed deepening multilateral cooperation between stakeholders at all levels.

The outcomes of the Expert Group Meeting as well as the Workshop will provide inputs to the Euro-Asian Final Review of the Vienna Programme of Action in Bangkok, Thailand, in August 2023 and, in turn, to the Third UN Conference on LLDCs in 2024. The Landlocked Developing Countries in North and Central Asia are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

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UN, GGGI and Government of Cambodia announce support to green bond issuers

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Thu, 08/06/2023 - 09:28
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PI/12/2023
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Bangkok
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In March 2023, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Securities and Exchange Regulator of Cambodia (SERC), in collaboration with the Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF) and GuarantCo, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group, launched the Cambodia Sustainable Bond Accelerator. ESCAP and our partners are pleased to announce that three private-sector bond issuers have been selected and will be provided with green and sustainability bond issuance support in 2023.

The selected issuers are:

  • Amret PLC - A Cambodian microfinance depositing-taking institution which will prepare to issue a US$ 50 million sustainability bond.
  • Golden Tree Co. Ltd. – A real estate company that will be supported to issue its second green bond in the amount of US$ 25 million for green building development.
  • Royal Group Phnom Penh SEZ – A publicly listed company that manages Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone and will be supported in a $20 million sustainability bond.

While bond issuers in developing markets generally face considerable barriers to issuance, issuers of thematic bonds (green, social, and sustainability bonds) are further constrained due to the issuer’s limited awareness and capacities, as well as higher issuance costs. Collectively, CGIF, ESCAP, GGGI and GuarantCo will provide technical assistance and support to prospective issuers, including support in the development of bond frameworks, meeting best practices, facilitating post-issuance reporting and providing co-financing options to decrease bond issuance costs and investment support.

Overall, the Accelerator provides the selected issuers with the technical and financial assistance required to support green and sustainable bond issuance on the Cambodia Stock Exchange and other listing bodies, as appropriate. Additionally, three additional prospective bond issuers were also shortlisted for support and will receive preparatory support for their issuances as they move forward.

“The launch of the Cambodia Sustainable Bond Accelerator marks a significant milestone in our collective efforts to promote green and sustainable finance in the Asia-Pacific region. By addressing the barriers faced by bond issuers in developing markets and enhancing their awareness and capacities, we aim to unlock the potential of thematic bonds to contribute to the transition to a more sustainable and resilient future,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

The Government of Cambodia has prioritized climate mitigation and adaptation as one of the top priorities in its national development strategy. The funding needed to achieve these goals is substantial. In Cambodia’s latest nationally determined contribution (NDC), the government of Cambodia declared that its climate mitigation and adaptation plans would require total funding of roughly $7.8 billion. Thematic bonds have the potential to close this financing gap by mobilizing investment for the public and private sector for green and sustainability initiatives.

"The Sustainable Bond Accelerator program in Cambodia has achieved significant milestones. The sustainable bond size of three potential issuers collectively is around USD95 Million, which is close to 50 per cent of the current plain bond listed in Cambodia. GGGI remains committed to supporting private sector issuers in identifying green projects, sustainable bond framework development and providing credit enhancement opportunities to promote sustainable financing in Cambodia,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of GGGI.

“SERC, with our development partners ESCAP and GGGI, is pleased to announce the selection of private-sector bond issuers to receive support under the Cambodia Sustainable Bond Accelerator. This is a crucial step towards growing Cambodia's capital market and achieving our goal of encouraging the use of green, sustainability, and sustainability-linked bonds to aid private sector growth and sustainable development in Cambodia.” H.E Sou Socheat, SERC Director General

By the end of 2023, ESCAP and its partners look forward to supporting three new green and sustainable bond listings in Cambodia.

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UNICEF and ESCAP convene experts from South Asia to boost birth registration for children

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Tue, 06/06/2023 - 13:58
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PI/10/2023
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Kathmandu / Dhaka
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ESCAP News
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                                                                           More than 1 in 4 children under 5 years is unregistered in South Asia, according to latest data 

KATHMANDU/ DHAKA, 6 June 2023 – More than 100 civil registration professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka came together today in Dhaka to call for greater progress in registering children at birth.

At the meeting, supported by UNICEF and ESCAP, experts will review progress to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics in South Asia, highlight the successes, lessons learned, and identify promising initiatives in the region. 

“A birth certificate is more than just a certificate. It is a basic right for every child in South Asia and the passport to their future. Not only does it safeguard children by giving them an identity, but it also allows every child the right to use health, education, and other critical social services,” said Noala Skinner, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, a.i. “We must invest in a world where every child, no matter who or where they are, can get registered as soon they are born.”

According to the latest estimates, South Asia accounts for nearly one-third of the total number of unregistered children worldwide. Over 50 million children under the age of five in South Asia, or 1 in 4, were not registered in 2021 - depriving them of the right to an identity and access to social services.

Although countries in the region have made progress in registering more children, widespread challenges for parents remain. These can range from difficulties in using registration points, to complex procedures to register children, especially for ethnic or language minorities.

“A universal civil registration record is an essential source of data for vital statistics on births and deaths. Governments require these statistics to design, implement and monitor public policies,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “By investing in civil registration and vital statistics, we can ensure the monitoring of progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The need for timely, accurate data used by policymakers and trusted by the public has never been clearer.”

South Asia is on track to meet goals of universal and responsive civil registration and vital statistics systems by 2030. However, additional investments are required to accelerate progress to reach every child before 2030. 

UNICEF and ESCAP are calling on every country in South Asia to:

  • Strengthen the role of health systems in registering children, by enhancing collaboration between civil registration and health and immunization systems.
  • Enhance digitization of systems while ensuring safe digital practices, data protection and confidentiality.
  • Increased public financing for civil registration and vital statistics systems.
  • Address inequalities in civil registration by removing barriers and ensuring equitable access, regardless of background and location.

The Sustainable Development Goal Target 16.9, which calls for a legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030 is key to advance the 2030 commitment to leave no one behind. As a step towards that commitment, governments proclaimed 2015–2024 as the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Decade, a shared vision to allow everyone, including children, to benefit from civil registration and vital statistics systems.

To work towards this vision, UNICEF supports the implementation and scale up of birth registration services through enhanced collaboration between the civil registration and health sectors; works with partners to scale up innovative approaches; and supports the shift towards digital systems. ESCAP provides support to countries to implement the Regional Action Framework on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific; supports them in monitoring progress; and offers support to countries on the implementation and use of civil registration and vital statistics systems and products.

######

For more information, please contact:

Sabrina Sidhu, UNICEF South Asia, +919384030106[email protected]

Kavita Sukanandan, ESCAP, [email protected]

About UNICEF 
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) works with UNICEF Country Offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to help to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. For more information about UNICEF’s work for children in South Asia, visit www.unicef.org/rosa and follow UNICEF ROSA on Twitter and Facebook. 

About ESCAP

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the most inclusive intergovernmental platform in the Asia-Pacific region. The Commission promotes cooperation among its 53 member States and 9 associate members in pursuit of solutions to sustainable development challenges. ESCAP is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.

The ESCAP secretariat supports inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the region by generating action-oriented knowledge, and by providing technical assistance and capacity-building services in support of national development objectives, regional agreements and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ESCAP also provides support to partners at the national level. ESCAP’s national offer is rooted in and linked with the implementation of global and regional intergovernmental frameworks, agreements, and other instruments.

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Group of happy Nepalese children in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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National consultation to strengthen social protection in the Maldives

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Fri, 12/05/2023 - 07:35
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PI/09/2023
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The National Consultation on Readiness to Implement Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in the Maldives was launched in Maldives jointly by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, and the United Nations Maldives team.

Governments in Asia and the Pacific have increasingly recognized social protection as a key policy instrument to build a more productive, protected and healthy population in Asia and the Pacific. In 2020, ESCAP member States endorsed the regional Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection, which serves as a shared vision, strategy and platform for promoting partnership and peer learning as well as identifying needs for capacity development. The Action Plan sets out 12 national actions that underpin the achievement of more inclusive and comprehensive social protection systems, ranging from upholding the right to social protection in legislative and regulatory frameworks, to ensuring a more effective design, coordination and delivery of social protection schemes.

To support member States in the implementation of this first ever regional Action Plan, ESCAP has been undertaking stocktaking initiatives on the readiness to implement the Action Plan and achieve more inclusive and comprehensive social protection systems in Cambodia, Georgia, Maldives, Mongolia, the Philippines and Turkey.

The Maldives has demonstrated strong commitment to social protection and achieved universal old age pensions through both contributory and non-contributory schemes, as well as a universal disability allowance and universal health insurance.

The stocktaking consists of a brief report that showcases the Maldives’ policies for promoting social protection and its overall readiness to implement the national actions of the Action Plan. A second part of the stocktaking exercise involves a national consultation with selected participants from the Ministries to discuss and validate the findings of the draft report, notably its recommendations for achieving the objectives of the Action Plan. The consultation also served as a forum to reflect how a more holistic and strategic social protection system could be an economic investment in future labour markets, the economy and prosperity of the country.

Launching the National Consultation, the Vice President of Maldives Faisal Naseem highlighted ongoing progress made on social protection, such as the launch of the registry portal for persons with disabilities by the National Social Protection Agency (NSPA), the implementation of non-contributory schemes for persons in vulnerable situations, as well as pension plan.

Aishath Mohammed Didi, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, elaborated on the recently developed National Framework on Social Protection that sets the architecture to establish a minimum social protection floor, enhance the sustainability of social protection programs, and promote a legal and regulatory framework to ensure greater quality, efficiency, and equity in providing social protection services.

Reflecting on the different pathways to more inclusive and comprehensive social protection systems across countries in the region, Srinivas Tata, Director, Social Development Division, ESCAP outlined the key elements within the Action Plan that underpin strong social protection systems. Emphasizing the need for a lifecycle approach, Catherine Haswell, UN Resident Coordinator for Maldives, indicated it was an opportune moment to gather and review the various components of Maldives’ social protection system, to leverage what has worked and make adjustments to transform the system into one which meets the future needs of the Maldives.

As the country moves forward to implement the National Framework on Social Protection, the Consultation was a rare opportunity to engage stakeholders from across different line Ministries and stakeholders in the Maldives to chart actions towards a future where all Maldivians are protected.

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ESCAP partners with TransitionZero to accelerate low-carbon development through energy connectivity

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Wed, 12/04/2023 - 12:33
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PI/08/2023
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London
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ESCAP News
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is working with climate data nonprofit TransitionZero providing investment-grade open data and modelling to improve energy connectivity and accelerate low-carbon development in the Asia-Pacific region.

TransitionZero will present modelling analyses from its open source energy systems model Future Energy Outlook (FEO) at ESCAP regional events on energy systems planning and power system decarbonisation. Additionally, TransitionZero will contribute open source modelling to the Asia-Pacific Working Group of the Green Grids Initiative – chaired by ESCAP – which works with parliamentarians, investors, and large donor institutions to facilitate a globally interconnected electricity grid.

As one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations, ESCAP provides a platform for its member States to dialogue and strengthen regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP promotes energy connectivity through workshops and expert group meetings designed to delineate and address the principal barriers to energy connectivity from national, subregional, and regional perspectives.

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New UN handbook on navigating trade provisions for sustainable development

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Wed, 12/04/2023 - 09:15
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PI/07/2023
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Bangkok
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The United Nations has released a new handbook to build the capacity of developing countries to design and negotiate sustainable development provisions in trade agreements that consider their specific situation, and to encourage research and discussions on maximizing the impact of such provisions in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UN Handbook on Provisions and Options for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Trade Agreements uniquely provides a range of alternative sustainable development provisions with explanation on their binding nature and flexibility from legal perspective. It includes chapters on environment, labour, gender, MSMEs and investment.

Regional trade agreements are increasingly addressing various aspects of sustainable development through specific provisions and chapters. Developed economies and a growing number of developing economies have included provisions related to health, environment, labour rights, engagement of small and medium sized-enterprises and environment. Many less developed economies have expressed concerns about the inclusion of such non-trade issues as they create potential new trade barriers. At the same time, however, governments in key international markets are taking steps to increase sustainable development related non-tariff measures in trade agreements and this trend may be expected to accelerate.

The Handbook, developed by the five UN Regional Commissions, UNCTAD and other partners, was launched at the Rethinking World Trade 2023 conference hosted by Georgetown University yesterday. The guide is based on inputs collected from a wide range of experts, including from WTO, civil society, academia and the private sector, under the Global Initiative on Mainstreaming Sustainable Development Provisions in Trade Agreements.

For more information: https://www.unescap.org/project/imsdp

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New tech challenge and training mobilises women innovators in Cambodia

Submitted by SSUPHUTT on Mon, 10/04/2023 - 09:26
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PI/06/2023
Origin Location
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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ESCAP News
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has partnered with the Cambodia University of Technology and Science (CamTech), Khmer Enterprise (KE) and Techo Startup Center to launch a new startup and entrepreneurship training program, with a focus on mobilising women innovators. The four-month program was launched alongside an Innovative Tech Startup Challenge for students, organized by KE and Cam Tech, which aims to harness technology to address Cambodia’s sustainable development challenges.

The competition and training program is backed by ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women Entrepreneurship project, which has to date supported 15 innovative fintech start-ups, directly benefitted over 100,000 women entrepreneurs and unlocked over USD 65 million in private capital to support women entrepreneurs.

During the launch event on 5 April 2023, CamTech and ESCAP signed an agreement to strengthen collaboration among all institutions to promote entrepreneurship and mark the beginning of the incubation training programme and the startup challenge for undergraduates.

The initiative creates a new wave of support for research, innovation and entrepreneurship capacity building for undergraduates, especially female students, in the field of science and technology in Cambodia and promotes public-private partnerships in implementing the national development policy agenda.

Directly following the event, applications for the innovation challenge were opened. Winning applicants presenting the best solutions will not only receive a cash prize, but also the opportunity to compete in the United States next Year.

Students who are interested in the incubation training program can now register for the orientation from 4 April to 26 April 2023 via the following link: https://lnkd.in/g-rZA9XF

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Officials of ESCAP and CamTech show the signed document

Photo credit: Cambodia University of Technology and Science

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