10 July 2017: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched a report that presents baseline data for the region’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and identifies key development gaps that need to be addressed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ESCAP launched the report at a side event co-hosted by Fiji and Pakistan, which took place on the sidelines of the 2017 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The ‘Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2016: SDG Baseline Report’ presents the SDG baseline at regional and sub-regional levels for selected SDG targets, representing the first regional measurement methodology for establishing a baseline for the SDGs. The report aims to highlight regional gaps and challenges in achieving the SDGs and inform intergovernmental and inter-agency decision-making to support SDG implementation in the Asia-Pacific.

Speaking at the report launch, ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar, said the region is making progress on SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and SDG 14 (life below water). She cautioned however, that the region is “seeing slow progress” on ending hunger, achieving food security and delivering agricultural sustainability, as called for in SDG 2 (zero hunger), as well as slow progress on SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and SDG 5 (gender equality). Deputy Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN, Luke Daunivalu, praised ESCAP’s strong commitment to SDG 14, noting this Goal is one in which data is still insufficient to monitor progress on a regional basis. Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, highlighted the region’s intergovernmental road map to implement the 2030 Agenda, saying the region will review implementation progress on an annual basis to identify areas where cooperation priorities may need to be adjusted over time.

The report launch also highlighted negative trends on SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), with participants observing these trends must be reversed to achieve the SDGs. The report further highlights SDG 15 (life on land) as a Goal on which the region needs to reverse negative trends, particularly on biodiversity loss and declining areas of natural forests.

The SDG Baseline Report assesses regional progress on each Goal since 2000, when the region began implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and identifies areas where the region needs to accelerate its efforts to achieve the SDGs by the 2030 deadline. A dashboard illustrates gaps between a business as usual scenario and the pace of progress necessary to achieve the Goals.

On data and statistics, the report stresses the contribution of regional improvements in the availability and quality of development statistics in assessing the Goals. The report explains, for example, that the baseline report used 50 indicators from the global SDG monitoring framework and supplementary sources, compared with 2000 and 2005 when regional estimates could only be produced for less than half of these indicators. Still, the report cautions that a transformation in statistical systems is necessary for SDG follow-up and review, recalling agreement at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development on the importance of integrating statistical planning into development planning. The report observes that “ill-informed policies could be much more expensive than investment in data and statistics.” The report identifies several areas where there is insufficient data to measure SDG progress on a regional basis, emphasizing the importance of disaggregated data to ensure no one is left behind.

The report concludes that Asia-Pacific has not completed “half of the work it could or committed to do” since 2000 on several SDGs.

The report finds that the region has not completed “half of the work it could or committed to do” since 2000 on several SDGs. Within this context, the report recommends, inter alia: stronger high-level political commitment and synergies by high-level policymakers in the region; right-based and people-centered planning; and effective financing for development (FfD).

The 2017 session of HLPF is taking place at UN Headquarters in New York, the US, from 10-19 July. [ESCAP Press Release] [ESCAP Report Webpage] [UN Press Release] [IISD RS Coverage of HLPF] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Road Map]