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Poverty, haze prevent ASEAN from reaching SDGs

Jakarta Post - September 20, 2016

Jakarta Extensive poverty and air pollution are among obstacles faced by ASEAN to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) one year after being adopted by world leaders.

The 17 goals were included in the "Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" document, which was endorsed by world leaders on Sept. 25, 2015.

Joseph D'Cruz, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Asia-Pacific team leader, said on Monday the challenges currently faced by ASEAN that could hinder the achievement of the SDGs, among others, were the large number of poor people in the region and the persistent air pollution challenges, including regional haze.

"A large chunk of the population is sitting just above the poverty line. For the example, when the poverty line increases from US$1.90 to $3.10, the poverty head count in ASEAN increased from 9 percent to 27 percent in 2012," he said.

D'Cruz was speaking at a symposium on the 2030 Agenda held by ASEAN Secretariat, the Chinese Mission to ASEAN and the UNDP.

The SDGs are a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. No poverty, Zero hunger, and good health and well-being are among the goals of the 2030 agenda.

Xu Bu, the Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN, fully recognized the remaining challenges and offered ASEAN to cooperate with China in overcoming the obstacles.

"China and the majority of ASEAN countries are developing countries, facing common tasks of development and sharing a similar environment of complexity." he said.

"The peoples on both sides are all yearning for a better life. Therefore, on the path toward sustainable development, China should be ASEAN's closest partner."

Xu added that in order to implement the 2030 Agenda, China had taken a series of actions, one of which was issuing in March the 13th Five-Year Plan.

Under the plan, China wants to double its average disposable income from its 2010 level, as well as ending absolute poverty by 2020. To meet the target, the country's economic growth will need to be maintained at a minimum 6.5 percent average annually over the course of the Five-Year Plan.

ASEAN deputy secretary-general for socio-cultural community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee said ASEAN should use the opportunity given by China in achieving the SDGs.

"China managed to reduce poverty significantly so much that it was able to be the first country that successfully attained the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals]. We are looking at that as a model," Arthakaivalvatee told journalists on the sideline of the symposium.

The SDGs are the successor of the MDGs, which ranged from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. The MDGs ended in 2015.

Achieving sustainable development is an issue that attracts global attention as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened its 71st session with "The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform our World" as its theme on Sept. 13.

This year's UNGA will be held in New York from Monday to Sept. 29. The UNGA hosted a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants on Monday. General debate sessions are scheduled for Sept. 20 to 26.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla is representing Indonesia to the UNGA where he will launch Indonesia's campaign to become a non-permanent UNSC member in 2017 and 2018. (vny)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/09/20/poverty-haze-prevent-asean-reaching-sdgs.html.

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