ASEAN moves towards poverty eradication and localizing global goals

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The 2017 ASEAN-China-UNDP Report on Financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ASEAN revealed that an estimated 36 million people in Southeast Asia are living below the poverty line, and 90% of them are in the Philippines and in Indonesia. Another study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) reported that almost half of the Philippine population are at risk of becoming poor due to external shocks on labor and employment, price and demographic factors. Thus, the ASEAN community continues to address development gaps among its member states through its new roadmap towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To discuss the next steps in mainstreaming the SDGs at the regional and sub-national levels, the ASEAN Secretariat, in cooperation with China and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, held the ASEAN-China-UNDP Symposium on Localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Realising Poverty Eradication from 20 to 21 August 2018 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Also known as the Global Goals, SDGs are 17 targets which serve as calls to action “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”

According to the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN region’s percentage of the population earning below USD1.25/day ranges from 17% to 29%. ASEAN’s ageing population (those above 65 years) is expected to range from 8% to 38% from country to country by 2030.  ASEAN will also see a widely differing rate of urbanisation from 21% in Cambodia to 100% in Singapore in the near future. It is projected that by 2030, about 90 million people will have moved into ASEAN citiesplaces that are expected to drive 40% of the region’s economic growth.

kyaw2122xEmploying an "under the sun, under the tree" discussion approach where participants and members of the local communities can directly interact, the symposium also tackled  other thematic areas such as Gender Mainstreaming, Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainable Livelihood for Farmers and Entrepreneurs, and Capacity Building for Workforce and Local Officers.

The symposium brought together senior officials in charge of implementation of the SDGs from ASEAN Member States (AMS), prominent think tanks and experts from AMS and China, senior officials from the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN sectoral body, UNDP, and private sector to share experiences and best practices on localising the SDGs. It also promoted the implementation of the SDGs in ASEAN in the context of complementarities between the ASEAN Vision 2025 and the SDGs.

Sustainable Livelihood for Local Farmers and Entrepreneurs      

The Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, who served as the rapporteur in the discussion on Sustainable Livelihood for Local Farmers and Entrepreneurs, reiterated the importance of biodiversity and cited SDG 15 stating that 80% of the human diet is provided by plants, and that humans rely to biodiversity for economic growth and development. “The ASEAN region boasts of being home to almost 20% of all known global species of flora and fauna; 34% of global coral reefs; 35% of the global mangrove forests; and over 200 million hectares of forest cover. Its contribution to providing the basic needs and materials for the livelihood of local communities in the ASEAN makes it instrumental to the achievement of SDGs,” she said.

Arising from the discussions were concerns from the local participants who were entrepreneurs dependent on agriculture, fisheries, and natural resources; community leaders; council representatives; and members of the women and children sector. According to them, the challenges they face in achieving sustainability were having enough market and competition with imported products; capital investments and increasing overhead expenses; decreasing number of farm workers due to migration of the younger generation to other professions; and depletion of resources and loss of biodiversity, among others.

The participants particularly recognised the loss of forest ecosystems as adversely affecting the fishery industry through siltation. Overfishing was another identified issue; this led to depletion of healthy “natural” fish.

Despite the identified challenges, there is optimism that the future will be better for the communities, with the new developments. “There is already awareness of the issues they are facing, and they see this as the first step in addressing these challenges,” said Dr. Lim.

Some of the current initiatives of the communities and the governments in the process of achieving sustainability, as well as some of the opportunities and potential solutions identified during the dialogue include:  constant communication and consultation with members of the community to enable the leaders to act on the issues promptly, to avoid conflicts, and to facilitate the provision by national government of the infrastructure they need; tourism as an alternative livelihood; and e-commerce to possibly address the issue on middlemen and empower the farmers and fishers to influence their own pricing.

“To achieve sustainable livelihoods for communities, there should be community participation, a clear market plan, and consideration for the social and environmental aspects of development that needs to be integrated into business planning,” said Dr. Lim.

Regional efforts in improving livelihood of ASEAN communities

As an effort to help improve the livelihoods of local communities in the region while conserving its rich biodiversity, the ACB, through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH or GIZ, is implementing a project titled “Biodiversity-Based Project (BBP) as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection” in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam. The project is anchored on a value chain development approach, which basically provides support to address the biggest gaps in each step of the enterprise—from harvesting or planting of raw materials, to processing or production, and all the way to marketing. It specifically aims to: enhance biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources; improve livelihoods; and add value to biodiversity-based products along local, regional, and international value chains by increasing the recognition of biodiversity-based products in the ASEAN region.

The ACB, with support from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through the KfW Development Bank, also has its own Small Grants Programme that is currently being implemented in three ASEAN Member States: Indonesia, Myanmar, and Viet Nam. The project continues to mainstream biodiversity conservation while providing alternative livelihood opportunities to the local communities of ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHPs).

Other than conservation, the ACB Small Grants Programme also provides livelihood interventions for communities living in adjacent areas of AHPs to minimise their dependence on natural resources within the protected areas,  at  the  same  time  involving them in conservation activities.

For more information about biodiversity in the ASEAN region, log on to www.aseanbiodiversity.org.

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The ACB was established in 2005 by the ASEAN Member States as a response to biodiversity loss in the region. The Centre supports and coordinates the implementation of activities in the ASEAN leading to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, for the benefit of the region and the AMS.

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