Tackling inequality, greening the economy, bridging the digital divide, upholding human rights and good governance will be critical for Southeast Asia to recover from COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations said.
In the latest policy brief, UN Chief António Guterres said that South Asia was the worst hit in the coronavirus pandemic. “As in other parts of the world, the health, economic and political impact of Covid 19 has been significant across Southeast Asia – hitting the most vulnerable the hardest”, he said.
Sustainable development off track
Prior to the pandemic, the countries in South East Asia were lagging behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 deadline. In the policy brief, the UN Chief said that the region was beset by numerous challenges including high inequality, large informal sector, low social protection and regression in peace, justice and robust institutions despite some of the countries having strong economic growth.
It also said that damage to the ecosystem, loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and air quality were other issues in the region.
Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Viet Nam are the countries that come in the region.
Guterres said that Covid 19 pandemic highlighted the deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway. He also mentioned that peace and security were the new challenges.
The present situation in the region led to recession and social tensions, while several long-running conflicts have stagnated due to stalled political processes.
“All governments in the subregion have supported my appeal for a global ceasefire – and I count on all countries in Southeast Asia to translate that commitment into meaningful change on the ground”, the UN Chief said.
Though the pandemic reached much earlier in Southeast Asia earlier than in the rest of the globe, the countries had acted swiftly in containing the spread of the diseases, he said. There was also cooperation among the countries in the region.
Critical areas for response
The UIN Chief underlined four critical areas to ensure recovery from the pandemic and to have a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future for Southeast Asia.
Tackling inequality in income, health care and social protection was the first thing that had to be done to bring a sustainable growth. Then there was the need to bridge the digital divide so that no one is left behind in an ever-more-connected world. The thirds one is green economy and last of all is upholding human rights, protecting civic space and promoting transparency.
The UN Chief also highlighted the need for gender equality. “This will mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women, and is also one of the surest avenues to sustainable, rapid, and inclusive recovery for all,” he said.