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[BANGKOK] Enhanced political commitment and leadership are crucial to realise the goals of sustainable development.

This was emphasised during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (21-22 May), held in Bangkok and attended by over 400 delegates from member states in the region, UN bodies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders. Their resolutions on sustainable development challenges and opportunities will serve as regional inputs for the upcoming Third High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the UN headquarters in New York City on 26 June to 8 July.

“Achieving the 17 specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), currently proposed for adoption by the international community, depends on the strong rule of law and the application of enhanced environmental law,” said Shamshad Akhtar, UN undersecretary general and executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in her opening statement.

“Goals designed to uplift people and to ensure provision of basic services cannot be realised without adequate safeguards and prudent management of our natural resources and environmental capital,” Akhtar noted.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, Donovan Storey, officer-in-charge of the Environment and Development Division at UNESCAP, stressed the importance of the meeting in the global discussion on SDGs.

“[This forum] provides a regional perspective on the focus of those goals and their implementation. So it really speaks of something which are going to be very essential for the region over the next 15 years at least,” Storey says.

During the sessions, participants emphasised the need to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development — social, environmental and economic —in national policymaking.

They also discussed the potential for a regional monitoring and accountability framework, and the form and function of the forum itself beyond 2015.

Participants noted that although the Asia-Pacific region had been progressing well in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the same level of progress has not been achieved across the region.

While economic growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty, more than 1.4 billion people still live on less than US$2 a day and 1.7 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation. Every year, nearly 3 million children die before their fifth birthday while more than 20 million women give birth without the support of a skilled attendant.

It stressed the importance of realising gender equality, empowerment of women, and the needs of indigenous and disadvantaged communities.

The discussions also highlighted the importance of high quality statistics for informing policies and programmes to achieve the SDGs, and the potential of big data technologies. The forum supported the establishment of a regional trust fund for statistical development.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.