The Asia-Pacific RCM aims to strengthen cooperation on priority areas and specific action required by UN agencies with regional programmes in Asia and the Pacific to promote regional cooperation among and between inter-governmental, civil society and other development partners.
The RCM provides a platform for exchanging views on major strategic developments and challenges facing the region. Through this forum consensus is reached and policy coherence developed on regional priorities and regional responses to the global priorities. The RCM also serves as a tool to implement the Secretary-General's global priorities, such as climate change, gender equality, health and combating the financial crisis and poverty, at the regional level, as well as a UN mechanism to interface with regional and subregional organizations, such as ASEAN, SAARC and PIF.
The Asia-Pacific RCM constitutes two tiers:
- Periodic executive-level meetings to interpret and implement policy level consensus on opportunities for increased regional inter-governmental cooperation, and what the UN system can do in support of this process, including interaction between regional and country level development, and interaction between humanitarian, security and development issues; and
- Operational-level Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) to focus on specific operational programmatic issues that could benefit from improved regional cooperation.
The policy-coordination function of the RCM cooperates with the regional United Nations Development Group (UNDG) which ensures coherent UN approaches and policy responses to substantive and operational issues at the country level through United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs), and if applicable translates the policy recommendations arrived at through the RCM into action at the country level through the UNCTs.
World leaders in 2005 called for enhanced UN system-wide coherence, including by strengthening linkages between the normative work of the UN system and its operational activities. In 2006, the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence called for UN entities at the regional level to be reconfigured and for the UN regional setting to be reorganized around two inter-related sets of functions:
- Focusing on analytical and normative work, as well as activities of a trans-boundary nature. The Regional Commissions would act as a catalyst for these functions, using, inter alia, their convening power at both the intergovernmental and secretariat levels.
- Focusing on coordinating the servicing of the UN country teams. Being responsible for managing the Resident Coordinator system, UNDP would act as the catalyst for these functions.
During 2007 and 2008, the Secretary-General underlined the need to undertake a fundamental review of the development machinery and programming across the UN system, and emphasized the need to bring about stronger synergies among different parts of the secretariat dealing with development, as well as stronger global-regional and regional-national linkages.
Long before these calls, ECOSOC, through its resolution 1998/46, had mandated the Regional Commissions to hold regular inter-agency meetings in each region with a view to improving coordination among the work programmes of the organizations of the UN system in that region. Consequently, such meetings have been convened regularly since by the Commissions as part of the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM).
The Asia Pacific regional development context
Home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, Asia and the Pacific is a hub for international trade, investment and technology, significantly contributing to the global economy. While considerable progress was made in many countries in halving absolute poverty and achieving the MDGs, persistent challenges remain and need to be addressed in the context of the 2030 Agenda, not only in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small-island developing States, but also in middle income countries.
Most of the world’s poor and hungry still reside in the region. As benefits from economic growth continue to be distributed unevenly, inequality in incomes and opportunities continue to present a key challenge. Many workers remain vulnerable and economic insecurity has heightened due to high levels of informalities in the economies, unemployment and under employment and limited social protection in much of the region. In addition, the transition from education to employment is one of the main obstacles facing youth in much of the region.
Current economic growth strategies and evolving patterns of production and consumption have led to resource intensive growth, environmental degradation and increasing disaster risks. The Asian and Pacific region continues to be the most prone to disasters, including those resulting from climate change, with the effects of disasters knowing no boundaries.
Rapid demographic changes present additional challenges and opportunities, as some countries have to deal with higher proportions of older persons and higher dependency ratios, while other countries address issues related to a large youth bulge. The region is also far from achieving gender equality. Owing to challenges presented by prevailing social norms as well as legal frameworks, women are less likely than men to fully participate in society, own assets or participate in wage employment. Women provide a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic work. Gender-based violence continues to prevail throughout the region. The building of ‘peaceful and inclusive societies’ as put forward in goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda remains a particular challenge in the region, with the persistence of exclusion, discrimination and in some cases violent conflict based on ethnicity, gender, religion, culture and other differences.
A key lesson learnt from the experience of implementing the MDGs was the importance of actionable information and data for policy formulation and measurement of progress. Access to, and utilization of reliable data and information, particularly focused on identifying exclusions and inequalities, is a crucial gap in the region which needs to be addressed while implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Focus areas of the Thematic Working Groups (TWGs)
For the purpose of focusing the work of the RCM to address all the SDGs, their inter-linkages and taking into account the above regional context and the core functions of the TWGs, the following seven (7) TWG’s have been established.
- Statistics; focus areas: SDG monitoring and statistical capacity development
- Resource Efficient Growth; focus areas: climate change mitigation, green economy, energy, water, conservation, consumption/production
- Sustainable Societies; focus areas: demographic change (migration, youth, ageing), human rights, urbanization
- Inclusive Development (and Poverty Eradication); focus areas: inequality, poverty alleviation, food security, decent work for all, health and well-being and governance
- Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience; focus on Sendai Framework implementation, climate change adaptation.
- Gender equality and empowerment of women; focus on issues of gender equality in the 2030 Agenda through regional implementation of Beijing+20 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women.
- Education 2030+; focus on providing support for equitable quality education for all as part of the 2030 Agenda.