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Digitalization and Regional Cooperation Can Spur SDG Progress Despite Pandemic

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Digital transformation and renewed regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific can spur the region’s equitable, sustainable, and resilient recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and deliver progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new report.

The report, Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind, was released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The pandemic has provided us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make bold choices that put us on a path to green, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable recovery, in line with the ambition of the SDGs,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono. “Through strong and inclusive partnerships, we must work even harder to build a healthier, safer, fairer, and more prosperous Asia and the Pacific.”

The report highlights severe inequalities and vulnerabilities in the region that have amplified the impact of the pandemic, especially among the poorest, women, and socially excluded groups. It notes the risk that some parts of the region could recover faster than others, and further deepen inequality between countries.

Rapid digitalization reduced the impact of the pandemic for some people in many countries, but digital divides may perpetuate the exclusion of vulnerable groups. Policy makers and the private sector should work together to ensure that digitalization creates opportunities for all, and enables progress on the SDGs. Regional cooperation can make digital technology more affordable by enabling quality infrastructure and cross-border connectivity.

The report says regional cooperation efforts should focus also on people-centered development, sustainability, and climate change, to address environmental vulnerabilities that have compounded the pandemic’s health and socioeconomic impacts. The report was launched at the 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development. This year’s forum focused on identifying key drivers to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that align with pathways to achieve the SDGs.