AsianScientist (Nov. 20, 2013) – Mental health, obesity and non-communicable diseases are growing threats and should be among development targets being negotiated at the United Nations between 2015 and 2030, according to a statement issued by experts representing nine Asian countries and Australia at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Regional Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals: Priorities and Solutions convened representatives from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia and Australia.
Another essential target: universal health coverage, says Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, who chairs the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology.
“We are moving towards a universal meeting of minds on what our world development agenda will be in the medium term through 2030. This is a key exercise in priority setting and Asia needs both a common vision and a common message in order to have real impact on this important global process,” Dr. Zakri said.
The workshop agreed that there is a lot that can be done to further sustainable development in Asia through co-operation and collaboration, citing the availability of exemplary practice and policies.
And the regional centers of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, a brainchild of Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and headed by Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University), such as one recently opened in Malaysia, can play a role in the region in identifying good practices as well.
Stressed for their critical importance to sustainable development were the roles of science, technology and innovation, of investment in R&D, of media, youth and women, and of the recently-created, multi-disciplinary science organization called Future Earth.
The experts agreed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the largely successful Millennium Development Goals, should give greater importance to integrating economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, and promote good governance. Further, there should be a SDG on cities, they said.
Next, the classic measure of economic growth (Gross National Product, or GNP) needs to be complemented by one that includes and reflects five forms of capital: natural, built, social, human as well as financial.
Other key challenges to be addressed include financing, debt relief, subsidies, technology transfer, intellectual property rights, trade reform and capacity building. The MDG education goal was set too low, the experts agreed — quality and lifelong learning to address future challenges must be included in the coming set of development goals.
Finally, an agreed measure of poverty that goes beyond income is needed, such as the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index and “a systems approach to providing food security.”
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