SDG Knowledge Weekly: Finance and Climate Actions in Asia-Pacific Region
Photo courtesy of Asian Development Bank (ADB)
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This month the Asian Development Bank released a report finding that the Asia-Pacific region’s share of global GDP exceeded 42% in 2017.

Given the region’s importance to the world’s economic and environmental well-being, this SDG Knowledge Weekly brief reviews recent reports and events on finance, sustainable development and climate action in Asia and the Pacific.

This month the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released a report finding that the Asia-Pacific region’s share of global gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded 42% in 2017. Given the region’s importance to the world’s economic and environmental well-being, this SDG Knowledge Weekly brief reviews recent reports and events on finance, sustainable development and climate action in Asia and the Pacific.

The World Economic Forum on the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – the WEF’s 2018 ASEAN summit – took place from 11-13 September in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. The Forum discussed a range of SDG-relevant topics, including trade, humanitarian issues, technology, entrepreneurship and youth. According to a Devex article, key takeaways include that health advocates are developing a regional health fund to mobilize blended finance in the fight against malaria (SDG target 3.3) and drug-resistant parasites.

A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) finds that although ASEAN banks are generally moving in the right direction on climate change, they need to better manage climate risk, particularly to ensure the region’s food and water security. The report titled, ‘Sustainable Banking in ASEAN,’ benchmarks 34 banks across six ASEAN countries on their corporate governance and integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their business, ultimately finding that sustainability is still not formally embedded in board committee mandates or governance mechanisms. The report, published in collaboration with National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organizations, serves as an update to a 2017 report by the same title.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) published a report titled, ‘Financing Sustainable Development in Viet Nam.’ The report reviews the changing development finance landscape in the country, finding that although international and domestic public and private finance has been growing in volume, the total investment-to-GDP ratio has been in decline since 2007. It also notes rapidly increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, nearly 70% of which is in the manufacturing sector. However, realizing the visions of the 2030 Agenda, the report emphasizes, will require the right mix of finance: Viet Nam must manage the synergies and interactions between sources of development finance through an “integrated national financing framework” (INFF), ensure a smooth transition from official development assistance (ODA) and create a level playing field for inclusive growth.

On finance across developing countries, 12 September marked the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA) – a blueprint for South-South cooperation. In Bangkok, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairsalso commemorated South-South Cooperation Day with a high-level gathering. Participants looked forward to the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) being organized in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March 2019.

A UN News release on the International Day for South-South Cooperation noted the launch of ‘Good Practices in South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development – Volume 2.’ The publication, authored by UNOSSC, features over 100 good practices under the 17 SDGs. The practices are derived from country and regional case studies. They outline the challenge being addressed and how the solution has been implemented in practice.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) hosted the 2018 ‘Interregional Seminar on Parliamentary Capacity Building and the Further Implementation of the SDGs’ from 10-12 September in Beijing, China. Discussions at the exchange focused on the theme, ‘Implementing the SDGs through South-South Parliamentary Cooperation,’ addressing issues of how Asian and African parliaments can share best practices and lessons learned to drive implementation of the 2030 Agenda. A news release on the seminar highlighted interlinkages between the SDGs, national legislative bodies and other programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), noting that parliaments’ “power of the purse” can provide both finance and political will to promote multi-sectoral cooperation that guarantees adequate living standards for all.

China also hosted the 2018 Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing from 3-4 September. Experts from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) offer their take on the initiatives and outcomes that will support African economies’ growth. They note that although there appears to be an emphasis on “non-interference,” China’s commitments to Africa stayed flat relative to recent years, and that the share of aid will increase (rather than finance “at commercial terms”). A post by Mariama Sow on Brookings’s Africa in Focus blog highlights recent figures on Chinese investment in Africa. Sow uses data from the American Enterprise Institute’s Chinese Investment Tracker to outline the geographies and sectors on which China’s investments focus (notably transport and energy).

On finance from China more broadly, AidData published new research that examines ‘Chinese Infrastructure Projects and the Diffusion of Economic Activity in Developing Countries.’ The working paper tackles the question of whether China’s investments and projects serve to diffuse or concentrate economic activity. Introducing and analyzing a dataset of geo-located projects in 138 countries backed by the Government of China from 2000 to 2014, the authors find that Chinese development projects – particularly those around transportation – have reduced inequality between and within sub-national localities. Although recognizing the benefits highlighted by the AidData paper, an analysis by the Center for Global Development (CGD) has found risks around debt, and that China’s lending practices “often lack appropriate disciplines to guard against over-indebtedness. For additional coverage on China’s investment, an SDG Knowledge Weekly brief on the BRI is also available.

Additional reports and releases relating to the Asia-Pacific region and on finance in general are covered by the SDG Knowledge Hub’s regular Institutional Finance Update and Adaptation Finance Update. Further reading on recent sustainable development initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region is also available on the SDG Knowledge Hub:

  1. ‘ESCAP Committee Agrees to Develop National STI Roadmaps for SDGs’ describes how Asia-Pacific countries will use information and communication technologies (ICT) to reduce inequality;
  2. ‘Cleaning up Toxic Soils in China: A Trillion-dollar Question’ reviews China’s first soil pollution law;
  3. ‘Asia-Pacific Countries Develop Guidelines to Monitor Risks of Antimicrobial Resistance in Aquaculture, Livestock and Poultry’ summarizes a series of guidelines for animal producers; and
  4. ‘China-Africa Summit Highlights Climate Change as Existential Threat, Strengthens Cooperation’ outlines FOCAC outcomes.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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