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Equity principle under attack in the Asia-Pacific post-2015 development agenda

Posted on 27 August 2013
IBON International Update #1 from APMD Bangkok

Reportage from the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Dialogue in Bangkok
 
Civil society has engaged Asia & Pacific governments in the Asia Pacific Ministerial Dialogue (APMD) to commit to real transformative chang
e. Yet propositions that strongly articulate the need for equity have been stubbornly opposed by the United States and other advanced countries who are not even part of the region but members of UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The US, United Kingdom, France and other advanced countries were part of the core group that led to the formation of ESCAP as part of post-war reconstruction under the Marshall Plan.
 
Paul Quintos of the Campaign for People's Goals pointed out that this obsctructionism is principally to balme for the uninspired outcome of the Ministerial, which is full of vague acknowledgements of the need to help developing countries as well as lip service to poverty eradication and sustainable development. Neth Dano of the ETC Group - Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration added that this has resulted in a neutered draft, as developed countries refuse to recognize common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and other Rio principles by blocking any reference to it in the Ministerial draft. Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network (TWN) stressed that it is therefore important for civil society to assert and attempt to win over developing countries in the region as our allies, fight for formerly agreed-upon principles and isolate those that do not rightfully belong in the region.
 
Inequality and injustice are issues of urgent concern for the people of the Asia Pacific region. Robust economic growth is overhyped amidst worsening inequality, poverty, hunger and unemployment. Ministerial delegates   willingly admit that growing inequality has undermined attained growth. In line with this, the dominant underlying message given by governments and regional institutions has focused on the importance of thriving economies, sustaining economic growth and making economies more inclusive to address development challenges of poverty and inequality in the region. ADB highlighted the importance of forging new partnerships, with particular emphasis on the private sector, in meeting region’s development needs. Meanwhile, the Secretary General of ASEAN explained that regional integration through the ASEAN Community (economic, political, and socio-cultural) blueprints are crucial in charting the path towards regional sustainable development. 
 
Some Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have raised doubts about the effectiveness of economic growth as a development indicator. Bhutan challenged the use of gross domestic product (GDP) as a key development indicator and introduced instead the Gross Happiness Index. Bangladesh questioned the practice of treating economic growth as an end in itself, rather than a mere instrument towards achieving an objective.
 
India stressed the crucial task of addressing inequality of consumption of global resources and unsustainable consumption and production patterns in order to achieve sustainability. TWN, which was also a panel member in one of the roundtables, stressed that the principle of C
BDR is more important today as inequality becomes more and more pronounced; and that poverty eradication must go hand
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