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Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific region

Several countries in the region have experienced rapid economic growth. Nevertheless, poverty is widespread and human rights are being violated in many countries. Sida works regionally with cross-border challenges regarding human rights, democracy, gender equality, environment and climate.

Sida's regional support to Asia och the Pacific 2020

Important thematic areas in Asia and the Pacific region

Progress has been made

Economic development

Many countries in the region have become – or are becoming – middle-income countries.

Declining poverty

Over the past decade, millions of individuals have lifted themselves out of poverty. In Indonesia and Vietnam, for example, the poverty rate has been reduced by half, according to the World Bank.

Increasing awareness of climate change

Awareness of climate issues and environmental problems has increased among political leaders and the public, leading to some degree of change. For example, several countries have banned plastic packaging and increased efforts to reduce marine pollution. 

Challenges remain

Millons of people still poor

More than 1.7 billion people in the region survive on less than two dollars a day.

Increasing inequality

The gap between rich and poor is widening – both within and between countries.

Democracy under threat

In several countries, the dismantling of democratic systems and structures continue, and the democratic space is shrinking, making it difficult for the civil society to operate. 

Development cooperation in Asia och the Pacific region

Asia and the Pacific is a region with extreme differences, and inequalities. Some of the world’s smallest countries are located here, and so are the two most populous: India and China. There are functioning democracies, military dictatorships, and one-party states. The region has developed rapidly economically in recent years, however, in many places it has been at the expense of the climate and environment.

Environment and climate change

Economic growth, growing population and increased migration from rural areas to cities, have led to environmental degradation and climate change in many places. This threatens biodiversity and human health, peoples livelihood and access to food. According to the Global Risk Report 2019, Asia and Oceania, especially the region’s small island nations, are particularly vulnerable, particularly to flooding. 90 percent of the people in the world who have been forced to flee due to natural disasters are from Asia or Oceania.

Climate research in the Himalayan region

The Himalayan region is severely impacted by climate change, which threatens the vulnerable ecosystems of the mountains and the people who depend on the water from the glaciers. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) develops research and disseminates knowledge about climate change and the environment in the region. The is to enable a better management of cross-border natural resources and to increase the region’s influence in the global climate negotiations.

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development website

Female influence in politics regarding climate change

Adolescent girls and women have less access to land, resources and information, compared to men in the region. This means that they are particularly affected by climate change and natural disasters. In the project EmPower UN Women and UN Environment work together to strengthen countries’ resilience in the face of climate change, for exemple, by providing women in the region with better access to resources and the possibility to support themselves. Ensuring that women’s knowledge is harnessed in political processes and climate change negotiations is another goal.

EmPower website

Green investments

The UNDP Climate Change Finance programme is working to get more countries to make climate investments. One example is that Indonesia has developed “‘green bonds” that take the environment into account, and in Cambodia, climate investments are now a part of the country’s development strategy. Fair Finance Asia is another initiative working to increase “green” investment.

Democracy and human rights

In recent years, many countries in Asia and the Pacific region have introduced laws restricting freedom of the press, expression, association, and assembly. Increased inequality, religious fundamentalism and xenophobia fosters the preconditions for populist leadership, increases polarisation in society, and results in people being discriminated against and abused on the basis of their ethnicity, gender or sexuality.

Strengthening women's rights in judicial system

Deep-rooted patriarchal structures mean that women have less financial opportunities and political influence compared to men. 70 percent of all women in the Pacific region are subjected to violence. The UN Women, the International Commission of Jurists, and OHCHR work together to ensure that women’s rights are respected in legal systems of the countries. The organisations works to, inter alia, strengthen women’s rights organisations and by ensure that countries’ legislation and the judiciary comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which prohibits discrimination against women.

About the project Women’s Access to Justice at the UN Women website

Protecting the right to food, water and land

Climate change and environmental degradation are severely affecting communities in Asia and the Pacific region. Individuals who defend human rights, land rights, and natural resources are subjected to threats and violence. EarthRights International contributes to strengthen respect for the environment, climate and human rights, and its activities include training grassroots organisations and pursuing legal cases in court where communities’ access to food, water and farmland have been restricted due to exploitation of natural resources or pollution.

EarthRights International website

Improving working conditions for migrants

Migration can have positive impacts on development, for the migrants themselves, their families and for the countries of origin and destination. However, many migrant workers are exposed to unreasonably low wages and unreasonable working conditions. The IOM’s Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST) partnership initiative in Asia works with businesses to uphold respect for human rights and labour rights of migrant workers in their operations and supply chains.

About CREST at the IOM website

Updated: 7 September 2021