United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the priorities of your organization?

The COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented socio-economic impact on the Asia and Pacific region and required a well-coordinated, multi-sectoral response. In assisting member States in responding to the pandemic, the three core functions of ESCAP and the balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development of ESCAP’s programme of work were of increasing importance.

Through its research function, ESCAP focused on assessing the development impact of the health crisis and reoriented its support for member States where it was most needed. In May 2020, ESCAP launched a framework outlining its support to member States in addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Building on the organization’s mandates it included four main areas of work: ensuring economic recovery, protecting people, restoring and building resilience in supply chains, and protecting and restoring ecosystems under the overarching principle of building back better through integrated actions aligned with the SDGs.

Convening member States at the 76th Session of the Commission, held for the first time in virtual format, resolution 76/2 “Regional cooperation to address the socioeconomic effects of pandemics and crises in Asia and the Pacific”, reaffirmed the mandate of ESCAP and highlighted member States’ concerns about the COVID-19 impact on health and the rapid increase in poverty and inequality the region. At its 77th session, the Commission adopted resolution 77/1 “Building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific”, calling on ESCAP to promote regional cooperation on trade and investment, improve social protection systems, and enable universal, equitable and timely access to quality, safe, effective and affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, vaccines and essential health technologies for all countries. This has underscored the urgent need to realign ESCAP’s priorities and activities to better support Asia and the Pacific in the recovery process.

Capacity building focused on supporting member States in formulating and implementing policies for sustainable development, ensuring sustained progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, while building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and effectively addressing the challenge of climate change. These activities targeted the building of technical, managerial and organizational capacities in the developing countries to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, focusing on the preparation of voluntary national reviews, assessing progress towards achieving the Goals and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, calculating the investment needs related to the Goals, identifying those left behind and addressing inequality of opportunity, as well as determining the interlinkages of the Goals.

ESCAP has actively participated in the Secretariat’s discussions on a system-wide response to COVID-19. To ensure the relevance of its work, ESCAP has also published a multidisciplinary analysis on the impact of COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific and the policy response to it. Strengthening investment in social protection, expanding financial and monetary policies for small and medium enterprises, facilitating connectivity and trade, and strengthening climate action are some of the key elements of this policy response at the regional and subregional levels.

ESCAP remains committed to helping member States recover from the pandemic by strengthening regional cooperation and focusing on ensuring economic recovery, protecting people, restoring and building resilience in supply chains, and protecting and restoring ecosystems. ESCAP will expand action to address climate change and opportunities to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, strengthen resilience to natural disasters and develop a response based on science, innovation and technology, and incorporate data and statistics into the programme of work.

2. In 2020/2021, how has your organization endeavored to support Member States to build back better from COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda? Please select up to three high-impact initiatives to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs. How has your organizations cooperated with other UN system organizations in those efforts to achieve coherence and synergies?

Name Catalysing Women’s Entrepreneurship
Partners United Nations Capital Development Fund; Visa, the Netherlands Development Finance Company, the Government of Canada
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 5, 8, 10, 17
Member States benefiting from the initiative Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa, Viet Nam

ESCAP’s Catalysing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme, supported by the Government of Canada, has been instrumental in lifting the barriers to access finance for women-led MSMEs who are key to the economy yet more vulnerable to crises.

In 2021, the programme introduced financing initiatives that help women entrepreneurs access funds and take advantage of digital innovations. For example, ESCAP in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the Entrepreneurial Development Bank, and Visa launched the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund for women enterprises in South and South-East Asia. In 2021, the Fund provided fundings to 10 businesses including technology providers, Fintechs and commercial banks to pilot solutions that can help women entrepreneurs to access and adopt digital solutions and finance technologies.

The programme contributed to a more enabling environment for women-led MSMEs through strengthening inclusive SME policies. For example, in Viet Nam, in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the current SME law has been re-evaluated and a new decree with targeted provisions for women-led SMEs is being developed.

Website https://www.unescap.org/projects/cwe


Name Strengthening social protection in Asia and the Pacific
Partners International Labour Organization, the Asia-Pacific Issue-based Coalition on Inclusion and Empowerment
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 3, 10
Member States benefiting from the initiative Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa, Viet Nam

In Asia and the Pacific, over half of the population is not covered by any social protection schemes, leaving them vulnerable in times of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Attributing to the deficit is the significant under-investment in social protection in the region, which is less than half of the global average.

To bridge the gap, ESCAP, in partnership with the International Labour Organization, assisted member States in the development of the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific, endorsed at the ESCAP’s 77th Commission session. ESCAP, through the regional Issue-based Coalition on Inclusion and Empowerment, helped national stakeholders in Cambodia, Mongolia, and the Philippines to translate the commitments of the Action Plan into national actions. This was done through providing policy advice on national social protection policies and dedicated capacity building on comprehensive social protection for national stakeholders.

In conjunction with policy support, ESCAP also provided technical support to the United Nations Resident Coordinators and Country Teams to better identify the furthest behind in their country programming. This was done through tailor-made country analysis and capacity building workshops for the national United Nations development system to adopt ESCAP’s methodologies in their Common Country Analyses such as Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.

Website https://www.unescap.org/our-work/social-development/social-protection


Name Measuring the progress of the SDG implementation
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 3, 10
Member States benefiting from the initiative Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa, Viet Nam

Since 2017, ESCAP’s annual Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report and the SDG Data Gateway have been providing an authoritative assessment of the SDG implementation at the regional and sub-regional level. Mobilising expertise and inputs from multiple United Nations entities, the assessment has informed the deliberations at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and the prioritisation exercise of the regional United Nations development system.

In 2021, ESCAP has developed a new tool, the SDG National Tracker, to allow for SDG progress assessment at the national level. The Tracker enables countries to produce their own SDG progress assessment dashboards using their own data, indicators, and targets. In 2021, ESCAP supported the UNCT in Thailand to use the Tracker to produce a national SDG progress assessment and an integrated analysis to feed into the Common Country Analysis. The Tracker is being implemented in collaboration with National Statistical and Resident Coordinator’s Offices in 7 countries, Brunei Darussalam, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nauru, Philippines, Samoa, and Tonga.

Website data.unescap.org


3. Has your organization published or is it planning to publish any analytical work or guidance note or toolkits to guide and support recovery efforts from COVID-19 while advancing SDG implementation at national, regional and global levels? Please select up to three high-impact resources to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs. 

Name SDG progress assessment
Publishing entity ESCAP
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Target audience National SDG authorities, National Statistics Offices, Resident Coordinators, and UN Country Teams

ESCAP methodologies and National SDG Tracker help to measure current and expected SDG progress achievement by 2030. It can be used by government bodies responsible for the SDGs and planning, national statistics offices, and RCOs as basic inputs to the VNRs and CCAs. It is supported by the Asia Pacific SDG Gateway.

Link to access


Language English


Name Macro-economic model for sustainable development
Publishing entity ESCAP
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 8, 13, 17
Target audience National development planning agencies, Resident Coordinators, and UN Country Teams

A newly developed, structural macro-econometric model that features the interactions among economic, social and environmental variables in 46 Asia-Pacific economies. As countries build forward better from the pandemic, the model can be used to estimate the socio-economic and environmental effects, including on public debt sustainability, of different national policy scenarios. It is thus useful for national development planning agencies and UNCTs that seek to understand the broader implications of national policy scenarios.

Link to access


Language English


Name Identifying the furthest behind
Publishing entity ESCAP
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 3, 5, 8, 10
Target audience Ministries for social development, Resident Coordinators, and UN Country Teams

New methodologies for identifying those left behind and measuring the degree of inequality in a range of opportunities using Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. ESCAP can support line Ministries in developing data-driven policy analysis and supporting the RCs and UNCTs in developing Common Country Analysis (CCA) (i.e., Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Thailand, Turkmenistan) and Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) (i.e., PNG).

Link to access


Language English


4. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups to support SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery at national, regional and global levels? Please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. If your organization has established multi-stakeholder partnerships in this regard, please describe them and provide links to relevant websites, if applicable.

Name Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership
Partners ADB, UNDP & ESCAP
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Member States benefiting from the initiative Countries in the Asia Pacific including ESCAP 62 members and associate members as well as ADB 68 members
Description See above
Website https://sdgasiapacific.net/


Name Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development
Partners Over 40 different CSOs (programme)
Relevant SDGs SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16,  17
Member States benefiting from the initiative Countries in the Asia Pacific including ESCAP 62 members and associate members
Description See above
Website https://www.unescap.org/events/apfsd8

ESCAP has engaged a number of different stakeholder groups to support SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery at national, regional and global levels. Two such initiatives are highlighted here.


Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership

Building on the collaboration to address the Millennium Development Goals, ESCAP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) created the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership, a platform for delivering high-quality knowledge products and facilitating high-level policy dialogues and capacity-building of member States to effectively implement SDGs. The partnership delivered the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Data Portal which offers access to global SDG data. It also deepens linkages between evidence-based policy and implementation, drawing from respective strengths of the partners to produce and disseminate regional SDG reports.

The theme report for 2021 Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind highlights many of the evolving socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and reviews existing vulnerabilities that the pandemic has exposed. It focuses on the role of digitalization, digital financing and regional cooperation as key elements to building forward from COVID-19 for the SDGs and explores the need for enhanced cooperation among countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

ESCAP has been engaging CSOs in many of its intergovernmental forums, most recently on supporting COVID-19 recovery at the Eighth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (March 2021). The Forum had nine parallel round tables to conduct an interactive multi-stakeholder assessment of the trends, key challenges and priority actions with regard to SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16 and 17. These discussions are then fed into the high-level political forum on sustainable development.

The forum also served as a platform for CSOs to organize side events highlighting impact of the pandemic on many marginalized groups and advocated to policymakers for inclusive COVID-19 recovery policies.

5. Following the adoption of the 2019 SDG Summit declaration (GA resolution 74/4), where Member States outlined ten priority areas for accelerated action in SDG implementation, please highlight any major integrated and innovative policies or initiatives that your organization may have adopted in the following areas:


5.1 leaving no one behind; 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a call to leave no one behind. Yet in Asia and the Pacific, prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 233 million people lived in extreme poverty, below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. Another 1 billion people were trapped on incomes less than $3.20 a day (the lower middle-income poverty line). Close to 2 billion lived on less than $5.50 per day. ESCAP estimates that up to 93 million additional people may have fallen below the $3.20 per day poverty line due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inequality also persists. Gaps are particularly high in completion of secondary and higher education, reliance of clean fuels, as well as access to finance and the Internet. Income inequality is increasing in many countries and the world’s most unequal countries in wealth ownership are also found in Asia and the Pacific region.

Intersectional vulnerabilities have also intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and further disadvantaged the vulnerable groups. The pre-existing social norms continue and put even more disproportionate unpaid care and domestic work burden on women. As a result, women are more vulnerable to loss of jobs and paid working hours as well as stress and other challenges, among others, during the pandemic. Women-led businesses are severely affected by the pandemic due to high representation in the informal sector and sectors that are worst hit by the pandemic (e.g., tourism and agri-food). The pandemic has also added to the vulnerabilities of persons with disabilities in the world of work. Integrated policies and programmes, to be designed and implemented through a whole-of-government approach, are needed to address these issues.

To help governments reverse these trends, we advocate for a stronger focus on measuring inequality, particularly inequality of opportunity, such as education, clean energy, water and sanitation, nutrition and health care. ESCAP methodology centers around identifying the furthest behind, who usually experience intersecting disadvantages. The research relies on innovative analytical tools to identify those left furthest behind. The results are featured in ESCAP publications, including ESCAP flagship publication Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific, as well as other knowledge products. More information can be gathered from the following link: https://www.unescap.org/kp?f%5B0%5D=Series%3A1442.

To support particularly vulnerable groups to overcome existing and emerging challenges, ESCAP has carried out a range of analytical work, facilitated regional consultations and dialogues and developed policy recommendations on scalable solutions and innovative actions to address unpaid care and domestic work, enhance women’s entrepreneurship, and promote disability-inclusive employment in the region. Key results include: 1) a regional report on COVID-19 and the Unpaid Care Economy in Asia and the Pacific, a subregional report on Addressing Unpaid Care Work in ASEAN, and an online regional forum for policy dialogues around care economy and the economic empowerment of women and girls; 2) two regional consultations on opportunities and solutions for women entrepreneurs and One-Stop Hubs to support women’s entrepreneurship; 3) a key recurrent publication Disability at A Glance 2021: The Shaping of Disability-Inclusive Employment in Asia and the Pacific, and a regional forum on advancing disability-inclusive development.

In the trade facilitation and support sector, ESCAP introduced several innovations including turning its capacity building workshops into online training courses for maximum outreach (ESCAP-ICC-ADB training series on Accelerating Cross-border Paperless Trade-over 1000 participants; UN e-learning courses on RTA negotiation-over 400 participants).

While priority was generally given to women and LDCs to participate in ESCAP trade related events, ESCAP supported ASEAN member states to develop various strategies to promote inclusive business, involving consultations with key national government agencies, private sector actors and other partners.

As a consequence of the ESCAP technical assistance, measures taken by ASEAN member States to promote inclusive business have included:

o Integrated concept of inclusive business in national development or industry development plans

(e.g. Investment priority for the Govt in the Philippines, with corresponding incentives and two inclusive business bills filed for deliberation in the upper house and lower house)

o Institutionalization of inclusive business promotion

(Governments have identified agency leads, in case of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines, have established a steering committee for promoting inclusive business).

o Promoting inclusive business at regional level

(Through an inclusive business policy development programme, the annual ASEAN Inclusive Business Summits, and inclusive business regional webinars and e-learning courses)

5.2 mobilizing adequate and well-directed financing; 

ESCAP contributed to the launch of the First SDG Infrastructure Investment Fair in cooperation with the Infrastructure Financing and PPP Network, the Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Management Center (PIMAC) under the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and with the support of the China Public-Private Partnerships Center (CPPPC). The Fair provided an opportunity for participating member States to present their infrastructure project proposals to potential investors for financing support.

ESCAP developed Sustainable FDI Indicators to enable countries to evaluate the sustainability of inward FDI projects and their alignment with sustainable development priorities.

ESCAP launched work with Bhutan and Mongolia in 2021 to develop FDI strategies to attract and facilitate more and better FDI, particularly in national priority SDG sectors. FDI strategies to be implemented in 2022.

ESCAP provided support to governments in developing policy measures to facilitate impact investing:

  • Supported establishment of the National Advisory Board for Impact Investment that sets out the strategic direction for developing impact investment in the country.

  • ESCAP supported innovations at the intersection of technology and finance to increase access to finance and investment, enabling businesses to operate during the pandemic.

  • Supporting iFarmer in Bangladesh to create an app to establish a profit-sharing model between urban investors and rural farm entrepreneurs.

  • Supporting Aeloi Technologies in Nepal to make impact funding accountable and accessible using digital tokens, providing an assured digital link between investors and carbon offset providers.

  • Working with Khmum Technology in Cambodia to support MSMEs in building their financial statement history, for use as collateral to borrow and repay loans.

  • ESCAP and the Government of Canada initiated the Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme to address a fundamental barrier that is hindering the growth of women-led businesses, lack of access to finance. (Helped unlock more than $50 million in private capital (loans, equity, blended finance) for women-led enterprises to provide targeted support to women entrepreneurs) (Created partnerships to support a range of gender-smart investment mechanisms including a women-focused impact investment fund and the world’s first women’s livelihood bond series).

ESCAP and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) developed and launched the publication: Green and Climate Finance Options to Support the Post COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery and Climate Action. The publication was launched online during the COP-26 summit, with participants and speakers from private sector banks, investment funds, blended finance vehicles and government stakeholders. The initiative provides clear options and recommendations for both the public and private sectors to mobilize financing and develop innovative financing vehicles which support green initiatives.

ESCAP has collaborated with ADFIAP, GRI, UNEP-FI and WWF to develop a set of training courses for Southeast Asian bankers focused on sustainable finance, based on the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB). The course provides bankers with an introduction to sustainable finance and explores a spectrum of approaches to sustainable finance, explore relevant global & regional sustainable finance policies and trends, review major sustainability disclosure and reporting frameworks and standards as well as emerging sustainability taxonomies, and discuss the growing array of sustainability-related financial products coming onto the market.

ESCAP is supporting the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to undertake a feasibility study on green financing options and associated policies and mechanisms which can mobilize financing towards environmental outcomes. The study will support the future development of NBC’s sustainable and green finance objectives.

5.3 enhancing national implementation; 

ESCAP has been supporting its member States in developing national Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) roadmaps to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Using a customized energy planning tool, SDG7 national roadmaps have been developed to help policymakers to make informed policy decisions to support the achievement of the SDG 7 targets as well as emission reduction targets of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As of the end of 2021, ten roadmaps have been completed. A further evolution of the initiative has been to work with cities of the region to develop sustainable energy transition plans at the local level, using the same methodology. The roadmap development process has enabled ESCAP to support countries on their journey to reach SDG 7 but has also been an important learning experience for the participating countries and cities. The unique characteristic of this initiative is that each roadmap has been developed with a comprehensive participatory approach and governments have taken full ownership of their roadmaps. Capacity building of policymakers has been an integral part of the process which aims to ensure that they can make adjustments and monitor the progress of implementation of recommendations from the roadmap.

ESCAP supported selected pilot counties in preparing national action plan to enhance their readiness for regional integration in the digital era. Technical assistance was provided to national think tanks and national policy advisors to prepare national action plans in consultation with national multi-stakeholders.

ESCAP and partners (e.g., OECD, UNCTAD) has provided capacity building through virtual on-the-job training to national policy researchers and advisors to build national capacity for implementing policy recommendations in national action plans.

To improve road safety in line with SDG target 3.6 and 11.2, a number of national-level target initiatives had taken place including implementation of projects on speed management in the Philippines, improving driving license system in Lao PDR and strengthening the National Road Safety Commission in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

5.4 strengthening institutions for more integrated solutions; 

A new Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Development for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) for 2022 to 2026 that provides concerted action to accelerate achievement of the transport-related SDGs including to handle rising freight and passenger volumes and rapid urbanization with high motorization rates, as well as encourages accelerated use of digital technologies, deployment of smart transport systems, and transitioning towards more inclusive and low-carbon transport systems was adopted by the Asia-Pacific Transport Ministers at the 4th Ministerial Conference which featured a rethinking of transport priorities in the region towards more affordable, accessible, reliable, safe and sustainable mobility (directly addressing SDG 3, 7, 9, 11, and 13 as well as other indirect SDG targets.

In supporting SDG target 9.1 to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, ESCAP continues to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all and to facilitate the regional intergovernmental process on transport including the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports. These agreements provide a comprehensive institutional framework for transport infrastructure development, within which related policies and actions can be collectively defined and implemented. The Working Groups on Asian Highway Network, Trans-Asian Railway Network and Dry Ports were organized in 2021 which took another step towards enabling seamless intermodal transport connectivity in Asia and the Pacific by adopting a series of amendments that updated the geographical extension and status of the highway, rail and dry port networks.

5.5 bolstering local action; 

To accelerate achievement towards SDGs 11.2, ESCAP assisted member States with the assessments of sustainable urban transport and Impacts of COVID-19 on mobility. The assessments helped identifiying policy measures to improve overall sustainability of urban mobility in Asian cities, and raise awareness of transit-oriented development with focus on high density development for planning of mass transit projects were conducted in Myanmar (Yangon), Thailand (Bangkok), Indonesia (Pekanbaru, Palembang) and Nepal (Kathmandu), Sri Lanka (Colombo), and Viet Nam (Hanoi) in 2021 and Pakistan (Greater Jakarta, Islamabad and Rawalpindi), Iran (Mashhad), Philippines (Metro Manila), and Cambodia (Phnom Penh) in 2020.

5.6 reducing disaster risk and building resilience; 

ESCAP’s Risk and Resilience Portal (rrp.unescap.org) provides actionable and user-friendly information on building resilience to disasters and climate impacts - bridging the science policy gaps that currently exist due to the lack of translational science. Through the integration of data from multiple existing and validated sources, the portal is a one stop shop to ensure that the vast array of scientific information on hazards, climate change, social, economic and health data can be analyzed in a way that can be used by countries to monitor climate and disaster related SDG Targets (SDG 1.5; SDG 2.4; SDG 3d; SDG 4.7; SDG 6.6; SDG 9.1; SDG 11.5; SDG 13.1; SDG 14.2; SDG 15.3) and build efficient risk informed decisions that span across multiple sectors. In 2021, the Portal was used for the substantive discussions during the sub-regional consultations of the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD) to monitor the status of achievement of SDG Goals 14.2 and 15.3 under new IPCC 6 (Shared socio-economic pathway) scenarios. In the Pacific for example, the information in the Portal was used to show how the increase in the number tropical cyclones can impact coastal protection, especially mangrove forests and the adaptation priorities that provide the best benefit-cost ratio. Similarly, in the South and South West Asia as well as North and Central Asia consultations, the information from the Portal demonstrated the impact on coastal ecosystems with increasing floods and cyclones from climate extremes and key adaption priorities for investment to achieve SDG 14 and 15.

ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) launched an initiative where the maritime sector joined a bathymetric mapping crowd sourcing project to advance mapping of the ocean floor in the ASEAN region (to enable simulations of tsunami wave inundation along beaches and provide information on the depths of landforms below sea level to support the conservation of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).

5.7 solving challenges through international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership; 

ESCAP facilitated the entry into force of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross Border Paperless Trade in Asia-Pacific region (www.unescap.org/kp/cpta). This shows strong commitment of member States to regional cooperation in the area of trade facilitation. The implementation of the Framework Agreement would provide integrated solutions to reduce trade costs, benefiting businesses in implementing international trade transactions and regional partner countries in improving regulatory compliance.

ESCAP also partnered with the World Economic Forum and Kings College of London to develop the first ever policy toolkit on leveraging Outward Foreign Direct Investment for Home Country Sustainable Development. (Provides evidence-based policy scenarios enable source countries of FDI to develop outward FDI strategies and policies according to their own developmental needs and priorities. Link: https://artnet.unescap.org/ofdi/ )

To fully utilize digital transformation for sustainable development, the development of a regional roadmap to support regional cooperation for wider development of sustainable smart transport systems for the Asia-Pacific region is underway. With consultation with member States at subregional level on needs and priorities and expert consultations with ITS Asia-Pacific secretariat, ITS Indonesia, ITS Malaysia, ITS Thailand, ITS Korea, ITS Russia and Asian Development Bank , a total of 29 priority areas was identified for the regional development of smart transport systems. Capacity building programme on utilizing smart transport technologies to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transport sector in Asia were also conducted.

5.8 harnessing science, technology and innovation with a greater focus on digital transformation for sustainable development;

To address the digital divide and promote digital transformation, the 5th Session of the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Steering Committee (AP-IS SC-5) adopted the AP-IS Action Plan 2022-2026 on 25 November 2021. This Action Plan serves as a blueprint for regional cooperative actions centred on promoting universal digital connectivity, digital transformation and a more inclusive digital society. The Action Plan consists of three pillars with 25 actions centred on Connectivity for all; Digital technologies and applications, and Digital data. The AP-IS Action Plan 2022-2026 supports the UN Secretary General’s Common Agenda on Improving Digital Global Cooperation and the Action Lines of the World Summit on the Information Society, to connect all people to the Internet, avoid Internet fragmentation, protect data, and digital commons as a global public good. <Website: https://www.unescap.org/our-work/ict-and-disaster-risk-reduction/asia-pacific-information-superhighway-platform>

The secretariat in partnership with member States and relevant stakeholders is leveraging digital technologies as one of the innovative pathways to speed up and augment the implementation of the Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development (2018–2030). The Action Plan is a regionally-coordinated, inclusive and country-needs driven blueprint that harnesses space and geospatial applications, as well as digital innovations to support countries, particularly those with special needs, to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The Plan maps the sectoral needs and resources at national and regional levels, and promotes multi-sectoral coordination. All actions significantly contribute to 37 Targets of 14 Goals of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

<Website: https://www.unescap.org/resources/asia-pacific-plan-action-space-applications-sustainable-development-2018-2030>

ESCAP delivered a series of national capacity building workshops in CSS countries in 2021 on how to attract and promote FDI in the digital economy. Worked with investment promotion agencies and representatives from other national line agencies to develop national strategy roadmaps for attracting and promoting FDI in digital infrastructure and in digital adoption and upgrading of firms. ESCAP developed a Policy Guidebook on Attracting, Promoting and Facilitating FDI in the Digital Economy, to be released in 2022.

ESBN launched an initiative in 2021 to develop innovative strategies to enable the South Aral Sea to serve as blue infrastructure for the Central Asian region. Working with the private sector to use AI-based geomagnetic mapping to source water lying beneath the surface of the dried-up Aral basin.

ESCAP has supported government in the Asia Pacific region to develop and implement inclusive innovation policies in several innovation policy agendas including:

  • Mongolia - Integrating inclusive dimensions in Mongolia’s first ever digital strategy- “Mongolia in a Digital Age”

  • Philippines - Supporting the Government of the Philippines in developing and adopting a grassroots innovation for inclusive development framework plan

  • Myanmar - Developing the national STI policy and strategy in Myanmar- The Science, Technology and Innovation Law (No. 22/2018) enacted on 25 June 2018- a national-level policy on STI developed to support inclusive and sustainable development and enable implementation of this law

  • Cambodia - At the request of the General Secretariat of the National Science and Technology Council, Ministry of Planning, ESCAP provided advisory services to Cambodia in developing an action plan to support implementation of Cambodia’s National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation 2020–2030 for sustainable and inclusive development.

5.9 investing in data and statistics for the SDGs; and 

The secretariat, services the Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific, and in this role it supported member States and members of the United Nations Geospatial Network to implement the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) and the Global Statistical Geospatial Framework (GSGF), which provide guidance on how to integrate statistical, geospatial, and other information to inform and facilitate data-driven and evidence-based decision making for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

ESCAP developed several online databases and user-friendly online platforms to support policy makers in the areas of trade policy and trade facilitation.

  • Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Advisor (TINA.trade), Regional Integration and Value Chain Analyzer (RVA.negtiatetrade.org), United Nations Global Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation Survey results (UNTFSURVEY.org)-developed,  continuously updated, and expanded.

  • Provide intelligence tools to support policymakers, policy analysts, and practitioners in designing and implementing informed policies to ensure trade is an effective means to achieve SDGs

5.10 strengthening the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).


6. In the lead up to the 2023 HLPF to be held under the auspices of the General Assembly (or 2023 SDG Summit), please provide your organization’s recommendations on how to overcome challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs, taking into account the thematic reviews and voluntary national reviews conducted to date.


Regional follow-up and review

Regional follow-up and review can provide a natural nexus between the national and the global levels, by supporting constraints and challenges in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level. Regional follow-up and review provides a congenial space for discussion, fosters regional collaboration, can address cross-boundary issues (including targets and Goals that require transboundary approaches) and supports peer learning and capacity-building. Follow-up and review at the national level can be supported through technical assistance at the regional level to endow member States with enhanced capacity to implement, monitor and follow up on the Goals. The regional road map for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific provides a framework for such assistance as it focuses on a set of priority areas that support the effective pursuit of sustainable development by member States. The rapid response facility established by ESCAP provides quick and effective responses to countries in respect of different thematic areas and priority issues of the regional road map. Since 2017, missions related to the rapid response facility were strategically deployed to countries that have committed to delivering their voluntary national review reports at the HLPF. Through the rapid response facility, ESCAP is supporting countries with their voluntary national reviews by identifying and addressing gaps in Goal data and statistics (including visualization), and supporting integrated systems analysis to help understand interlinkages between the Goals and identify policy priorities, among others. Recognizing that data and reporting are critical for effective implementation of the Goals, ESCAP is supporting countries in addressing the need for broader and more detailed and disaggregated statistics through technical assistance activities to facilitate the production and use of integrated statistics.



In the 2030 Agenda, it is emphasized that bold and transformative steps are required to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. Transformative processes change how different forms of capital (whether natural, financial, human or physical) are created, allocated and used. The region’s accumulated policy experience provides a solid foundation for moving forward, especially where there is a strong track record of progress and policy goals are relatively straightforward. However, transformational approaches are needed to deal with complexity, in particular where a persistent failure to advance can be attributed to marginalization, elite capture, social conflict, institutional inertia or harmful sociocultural norms. Transformations require both bottom-up action and leadership from the top. Working to direct, mobilize, scale up and sustain the momentum for transformation requires competence and innovation in governance, coupled with a shift in social values and moral norms towards sustainability, inclusion, people-centred development and transparency.


People’s empowerment and inclusion

Empowering people and ensuring their inclusion can help accelerate progress towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Existing economic, social, political and environmental inequalities interact with emerging challenges, such as climate change, to create new vulnerabilities. There is a need to identify these emerging vulnerabilities and vulnerable groups at national and subnational levels through disaggregated data generation, context-specific research and constructive social dialogue. Further, the elements of the empowerment and inclusion framework, namely, rights and justice, norms and institutions, resources and capabilities, and participation and voice, can provide entry points to simultaneously address emerging vulnerabilities and underlying inequalities.

Rights-based approaches to development are effective in empowering people and ensuring their inclusion. Therefore, it is relevant to map the rights of all stakeholders that are potentially under threat due to emerging challenges, such as climate change. Participatory and locally accountable rights mapping is a useful strategy for member States and development partners to consider when designing policies and interventions. Further, ensuring that these rights are guaranteed through constitutions and legislations and ensuring people have access to legal institutions to proactively claim their rights can further accelerate development outcomes. Civic education and public awareness are critical aspects of empowerment; people need to understand their rights to be able to exercise them. Technical training for judges, lawyers and advocates on rights, raising public awareness about how to access legal services and supporting public interest law firms are essential.

Policy interventions that consider existing norms and institutions will be more effective in promoting empowerment and inclusion. Documenting local norms and institutional structures and their influence on diverse groups of stakeholders is a crucial step to harness these norms in the design of impactful policies. Some of the ways to influence social norms are through access to education and exposure to media that spread new attitudes towards norms.

It is paramount to ensure the participation and voice of all stakeholders, especially those who have often been left behind, are well reflected in all policy processes. Strengthening local organizations, such as forest and farm producer organizations, that give voice to marginalized communities and groups is important. Strengthening volunteer infrastructure can promote social inclusion by providing a wider range of opportunities for varied groups. It is important to expand civic space by creating an enabling environment for civil society organizations to operate and capacitating them with resources and skills for self-organization.

Governments should explore innovative ways of providing resources to vulnerable groups that strengthen the agency of individuals and create capacities to address the structural barriers that impede their social inclusion. In this regard, social enterprises can be an innovative means to provide resources, including finance, employment and skills, while addressing the underlying power relations and fostering social change. Where possible, Governments should adopt rights-based approaches to providing critical resources, because such approaches have a more empowering effect on vulnerable groups.


System thinking and innovation

Applying systems and design thinking helps to tackle complexity; reveal the interactions between sectors, actors and issues; and identify opportunities to strengthen coherence and prioritize leverage points. Systems thinking reveals areas in which policies and institutions can be linked and partnerships forged. Inclusive models of decision-making help to engage with the public, strengthen the science-policy interface, balance power where needed and diversify perspectives in deliberating on trade-offs and creating solutions.

Experimentation in policy enables governments to innovate and learn from failure. Policy labs feature prominently among several policy approaches identified as necessary to a more dynamic and agile form of governance. Such labs have enabled experimentation to rapidly test and scale up solutions and have helped to draw lessons from failure. Focusing on the end-user experience, applying data analytics and gathering, balancing and synthesizing information from various institutionalized resources across the academic, political, and commercial domains to inform policy are all approaches employed in the policy innovation process.



In order to harness the data revolution, efforts are needed to bring together traditional and new data sources (including big data) for better and faster data on sustainable development, developing new infrastructures for data development and sharing (such as a world statistics cloud), and supporting innovations that improve the quality and reduce the costs of producing public data. Better policy targeting through detailed and disaggregated longitudinal studies can benefit from the use of big data and analytics that track individuals through the life cycle and across generations to facilitate understanding of intergenerational links in deprivations.


ECESA Plus Member
Year of submission: 2021