BANGKOK, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Some 400
million people, a tenth of Asia Pacific's population, live on
less than $1.90 a day - the global definition of extreme poverty
- despite the region's impressive economic growth, the United
Nations and the Asian Development Bank said on Wednesday.
Taking into account wider indicators of poverty such as
health, education and living standards for the same period from
2010 to 2013, the number of poor was far higher at 931 million,
or one in four, said a report released at a forum in Bangkok.
In addition, around 11.7 million people were subject to
forced labour in the region in 2012, the highest in the world,
while nearly a billion worked in poorly paid jobs with no social
protection, the report added.
"We are still not at a stage where we can claim that our
successful economic and social gains are irreversible," Shamshad
Akhtar, executive secretary of the U.N. regional office in Asia,
told the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.
Corruption, lack of human rights protection and rising
inequality pose systemic barriers for the region in building an
inclusive and prosperous future, the report said.
Climate change, meanwhile, is adding to the uncertainties
faced by Asia Pacific, which contains nine out of 15 countries
listed as most vulnerable to natural hazards, the report added.
In 2015 alone, the region experienced 155 disasters that
caused more than 6,700 deaths and nearly $32.6 billion in
economic damages, it said.
Asia Pacific has made significant gains in reducing poverty
this century. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of people living
in extreme poverty was nearly three times higher.
But making progress has become more challenging with slower
job creation, a decline in arable land per capita, and loss of
natural resources such as forests and fish stocks.
The report also outlines what Asia Pacific needs to do to
achieve the U.N.-led Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 17 global goals, agreed in 2015, aim to resolve the
world's social, economic and environmental problems by 2030.
With more than half of Asia Pacific's population forecast to
live in cities and towns by 2018, the report focuses most of its
recommendations on improving the lives of the urban poor.
Urban development should include all social groups, boost
the well-being of migrant workers - especially women - and
invest in infrastructure that is resilient to weather extremes,
the report said.
It also urged governments to spend more on agriculture, as
the sector employs 36 percent of the region's workforce.
Just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an
executive order dismantling Obama-era climate change
regulations, the U.N.'s Akhtar implored regional governments not
to turn their backs on efforts to tackle global warming.
There is a need to "resist populist demands to revert to
protectionism and antagonistic trade and migration barriers, as
well as attempts by vested interests to withhold progress on the
Paris Agreement", she said, referring to the U.N. deal to curb
climate change hammered out in 2015.
(Reporting by Thin Lei Win, editing by Megan Rowling; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)