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Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific region

In Asia-Pacific, Sida addresses cross-border challenges in human rights, democracy, gender equality, migration and climate and the environment. This is of great importance as many countries in Asia-Pacific have experienced rapid economic growth, but often at the expense of the environment, climate and human rights.

Sida's regional support in Asia-Pacific

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Progress has been made

More middle-income countries

Many countries in the region have improved their economies and have become, or are becoming, middle-income countries.

Millions have left poverty

The proportion of people living in poverty has fallen significantly in the past ten years. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit already vulnerable people hard.1

Greater awareness of issues with plastics

Greater awareness of environmental issues has led to countries banning plastic packaging and many countries stepping up efforts to tackle plastic debris in marine environments.2

Challenges remain

Climate change and natural disasters have major consequences

Pressure on natural resources, reduction of biodiversity and high levels of pollution affect the entire region. Recurrent natural disasters and slower effects of climate change in particular influence people living in poverty.3

Increased climate migration can lead to conflict

Poverty, threats, conflicts and natural disasters force people into displacement. Increased climate-related migration is considered a major risk for a future conflict.

Democracy is declining in many countries

The space is shrinking for civil society to get involved, rule of law is weakening and little progress is being made in fighting corruption. The pandemic has been used as a pretext to further curtail human rights including freedom of expression.4 Human rights, democracy, and environmental rights defenders, whistleblowers, and journalists are particularly vulnerable.

Development cooperation in Asia and the Pacific region

Asia-Pacific is a region with great differences between countries. It is home to some of the world’s smallest countries and the most populous. There are functioning democracies, military dictatorships and single-party states. In many places, rapid economic development has come at the expense of the climate and the environment.5

As the fight against the pandemic and its consequences has risen to the top of the agenda, many countries have downgraded their environmental efforts. At the same time, the shift to digital meetings has sometimes improved cooperation between countries.

Environment and climate

Economic growth, population growth and urban migration are exacerbating environmental problems in Asia-Pacific. Unexpected climate related catastrophes have increased. The effects of climate change are threatening biodiversity and human health, livelihoods and access to food.

Disposable items and personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic produce large amounts of plastic waste that harms life on land and in the oceans. Chemical pesticide use has doubled since 1990, threatening biodiversity.

The political will to address the environment and climate is limited. Among other things, countries are continuing to expand coal-fired power.6

Influencing global climate negotiations

The Himalayan region is severely affected by climate change. It is threatening the fragile mountain ecosystems and the people who depend on water from the glaciers. The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) conducts research into and disseminates knowledge about the climate and environment in the region. The aim is for people living in mountainous areas to be able to support themselves sustainably and fairly.

The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)’s website

Bringing legal action relating to the environment
The region needs better access to renewable energy. Sida supports the Asian Development Bank’s Clean Energy Financing Partnership (CEFPF) which provides access to renewable energy through more than 50 projects in over 30 countries. For example, they have invested in liquid solar cells and energy-efficient household appliances in Kiribati and Micronesia, as well as solar and wind power plants in Mongolia.

About Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility on the Asian Development Bank website

Reducing plastic in the ocean
To reduce the amount of plastic waste in the oceans, Sida supports the initiative Sea Circular – a collaboration between the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the organization Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA). Among other things, a regional action plan against marine litter has been taken, the connection between science and decision-making has become stronger and companies are influenced to reduce plastic litter. An example is the food delivery giant Gojek, which has undertaken to report the amount of plastic they release.

Sea Circular’s website

Supporting sustainable fisheries

Biodiversity is essential to sustainable development. The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership Programme (PEUMP) is working on a sustainability project that supports sustainable fisheries in the region, including through campaigns and partnerships with fishing companies.

PEUMP’s website

Working together on water issues

Oxfam’s Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) programme focuses on working together on rivers shared by several countries in Southeast Asia. Among other things, young people have participated in a training course resulting in a regional network for transboundary water issues.

Transboundary Rivers of South Asia’s website

Investing in the climate

The UNDP Climate Change Finance programme works to encourage more countries to make climate investments. Some positive results include Indonesia’s development of green bonds and Cambodia’s inclusion of climate investment in its development strategy.

About the work on green investments on the UNDP Climate Change Finance website

Sustainable investments

The financial sector plays an important part in promoting more sustainable and fair development. Sida supports Fair Finance Asia in their work to increase the share of sustainable investments. Energy and gender equality are two priority areas and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria are used as a tool to assess and make visible how banks act in the area of sustainability.

Fair Finances website

Human rights, democracy, rule of law and gender equality

Many countries in Asia-Pacific have introduced laws restricting freedom of the press, expression, association and assembly. Growing inequality, religious fundamentalism and xenophobia are creating populist leadership, increasing divisions in society and generating discrimination against people on the basis of ethnicity, gender and sexuality. It makes it more difficult for civil society and the media to hold governments accountable for their actions.

Corruption remains high in most of the countries. Judgments against people who express their views online have increased. Asia and the Pcific region is home to more than 60 million international migrants,7 most of them born in the region. The most common reason for migration is the opportunity to earn money to send home. Threats, conflicts and effects of environmentally unsustainable development also lead to increased migration. Migrants and their families run a high risk of ending up in vulnerable situations. Women and children are more vulnerable to a range of abuses, such as human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Enhancing digital safety

Environmental activists, human rights defenders and journalists are working under increased safety threats in the region. Engage Media is helping enhance the digital safety of activists and human rights defenders. The project is one of several being run in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

About the enhanced digital security project on the Engage Media website

Empowering women

Deeply rooted patriarchal structures leave women in the region with fewer economic opportunities and less political influence than men. UN Women, the International Commission of Jurists and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) work together to ensure that laws respect women’s rights. They strengthen women’s rights organisations and ensure that countries’ laws and judicial systems comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

About support for women’s rights on the UN Women website

Better working conditions for migrants

Migration can have positive effects for development, for the migrants themselves, for their families and for their countries of origin and destination. However, many migrant workers have unfairly low wages and unreasonable working conditions. The IOM’s Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking in Asia (CREST) initiative is working with private companies to protect the rights of migrant workers in Asia.

The IOM’s CREST initiative website

Updated: December 28, 2022