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Road freight in ASEAN: New COVID-19 Response and Recovery Guidelines

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 18/02/2021 - 20:38
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G/07/2021
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States will have new tools to help them address issues related to road freight transport caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the initiatives under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework. ASEAN has approved guidelines to support the response and recovery of road freight transport among its Member States in the context of the pandemic.

The guidelines will support Member States to develop national and regional plans that focus on resilient and sustainable road freight connectivity. They will provide recommendations for responses to the pandemic crisis in the three priority areas, namely: (i) transport workers’ safety and training; (ii) preserving connectivity for efficient and resilient supply chains; and (iii) building back better through digital, resilient and decarbonized transport connectivity in immediate, medium and long-term framework to support the development of cross-border road freight transport in the region.

Specifically, the guidelines:

  • categorise policy responses to Covid-19 related to transport connectivity and resilience;
  • propose principles for the implementation of policies and measures;
  • suggest a communication mechanism for the timely exchange of relevant information, and
  • provide insights for the creation of a real-time monitoring tool to gauge the impact of policy interventions on transport connectivity, capacity and resilience.

Developed with the assistance of the International Transport Forum (ITF) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the COVID-19 Recovery Guidelines for Resilient and Sustainable International Road Freight Transport Connectivity in ASEAN were approved ad-referendum by the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting (STOM) on 11 January 2021.

In response to the Guidelines, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said:

“Transport connectivity is now as vital as ever. While we commend the great efforts made by our region to keep freight flowing across borders during the pandemic, we remain acutely aware that more must be done for Asia and the Pacific to stay competitive and fully recover from the crisis. The ASEAN Guidelines pave the way to a more connected, resilient and sustainable future and ESCAP sees this ambitious initiative as one of the milestones in the region’s pandemic response."

Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi added:

“The Guidelines support ASEAN’s efforts in improving the stability of road freight flows in the region toward longer-term resilience, preparedness, and competitiveness of ASEAN. They are also in line  with the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which serves as the region’s coordinated exit strategy from the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in restoring transport connectivity in the region.  Cooperation with ITF and ESCAP in developing the Guidelines signifies the importance of collaboration to support the region’s recovery.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of STOM, Chhieng Pich, Director-General, General Department of Logistics, Ministry of Public Works and Transport of Cambodia noted:

“The completion of the Guidelines is timely to support ASEAN Member States in establishing their regional and national road transport connectivity recovery plans from the Covid-19 pandemic’s disruption. ASEAN’s cooperation in building back better the road freight transport in the region is important and ASEAN transport sector has taken a quick decision in responding to the crisis by developing the Guidelines. ASEAN transport sector welcomes collaboration from the relevant stakeholders to accelerate implementation of the Guidelines.”

In conclusion, ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said:

“I am proud of this important contribution the ITF is making to ensure the seamless flow of road freight in South-East Asia and helping ASEAN Member States build a more resilient and at the same time more sustainable transport future. The collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat and UNESCAP on this project has been outstanding, and a shining example of how international cooperation can translate into positive impact on the lives of our citizens.”

The Guidelines are part of the initiatives under the Implementation Plan of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which was adopted at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November 2020.  The Guidelines are available online at: https://asean.org/storage/asean-covid-19-guidelines.pdf

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United Nations and SHE Investments launch a mobile bookkeeping app for women entrepreneurs

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 14:37
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G/06/2021
Origin Location
Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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Today, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and SHE Investments are pleased to announce the launch of the KOTRA- Riel bookkeeping app - the first tool designed to support Cambodian micro-entrepreneurs plan, manage cash flows and access formal financial services.

One of the greatest barriers women entrepreneurs face in growing and scaling their business is access to finance. Limited collateral, lack of financial history, and low digital literacy are key challenges facing women micro-entrepreneurs. KOTRA-Riel works to tackle these challenges by creating a simple, user-friendly experience that allows those who are not technically savvy to track business earning and expenses at the click of a button.

ESCAP and UNCDF initiated the Women Fintech MSME Innovation Fund in 2019 to support FinTechs, financial service providers, and innovators to develop, test, and scale solutions that support women entrepreneurs to succeed. Over the past two years, the Fund has provided financial and technical support to SHE Investments; a Cambodian social enterprise whose mission is to build a gender-inclusive ecosystem that enables women-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to scale and create social, economic and environmental impact.

SHE’s core activities include business incubators, accelerators, and investment-readiness programs designed for Cambodian women and introducing innovative tools to improve digital and financial inclusion and financial management, which is where KOTRA-Riel comes in.

The KOTRA Riel app is the idea of SHE’s founding team, particularly Lida Loem, who leads the delivery of SHE’s incubator and accelerator programs. “The women we work with are always complaining about not knowing how to effectively manage their money,” says Ms. Loem. “There are digital tools designed for very educated people, for business-people, for English-speaking people, but not for them.” This led SHE Investments to identify a critical gap in the tools available for the hundreds of entrepreneurs supported by SHE Investments. A simple, Khmer-language application that enables women to track income, expenses, inventory, cash-flow, generate reports for financial institutions, and – perhaps most importantly – separate their household finances from business finances.

“Too many women entrepreneurs in Cambodia and the region are at a disadvantage because they simply don’t have access to the digital and financial tools and knowledge that they need to operate their businesses effectively,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi. “We are proud to have supported SHE Investments in developing this bookkeeping solution that is tailored to the needs of local women entrepreneurs. We hope this initiative can inspire and be used by the countless women entrepreneurs that are looking to build their digital and financial skills to access formal finance and in the end to just grow their businesses.”

UNCDF SHIFT Programme Manger Rajeev Kumar Gupta added, “The KOTRA- Riel app will help women MSMEs in Cambodia to reduce their reliance on fixed asset collateral. KOTRA-Riel is an innovative solution that uses business transaction data as an alternative to fixed collateral to make credit assessments. Given the COVID-19 impact on the overall Cambodian economy, this app can be instrumental for the recovery of MSMEs by providing them easier financing opportunities.”

The development of the KOTRA-Riel app was supported by the ESCAP Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship initiative, funded by the Government of Canada and the UNCDF SHIFT ASEAN programme. The app will be rolled out across the country through face-to-face training, bridging the digital and in-person experience, which allows women entrepreneurs to enhance their financial and digital literacy. ESCAP, through its Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT), and SHE Investments will partner with training providers in disseminating and expanding the reach of the mobile app to women entrepreneurs.    

For more information on KOTRA-Riel, visit: https://www.kotrariel.com/

Note to Editors:

About the Partnership

This initiative is implemented under a regional programme initiative titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by ESCAP. For more information, visit https://www.unescap.org/projects/cwe

The Women MSME FinTech Innovation Fund is jointly implemented by ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme, in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF), under its ‘leaving no one behind in the digital era’ strategy.  The fund is financially supported by the Government of Canada, the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) and Visa Inc.

About SHE Investment

SHE Investments is a social enterprise with headquarters based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Launched by three Australian and Cambodian co-founders in 2015 with a pilot SHE Incubator Program, the first gender-focused, culturally tailored incubator for women entrepreneurs in Cambodia. Alongside the SHE Incubator program, they also design and deliver Accelerator, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, Investment Readiness and other programs and innovative tools designed to build a gender inclusive ecosystem to enable women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and create social, economic and environmental impact for their communities.

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Trade and investment ‘indispensable’ to post-COVID recovery in Asia and the Pacific, UN meeting says

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Fri, 29/01/2021 - 17:30
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G/05/2021
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Bangkok
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International trade and investment, and resilient supply chains are indispensable for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level delegates stressed this week at the Seventh Session of the Committee on Trade and Investment convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

With the pandemic coming on top of trade tensions among leading trading economies and many countries already retreating to protectionism and nationalism, the world has witnessed the worst economic performance since the Great Depression of the 1930s. ESCAP estimates that Asia and the Pacific lost $2.2 trillion in trade in 2020 based on pre-pandemic growth forecasts, with trade in services hit the hardest. Decline in foreign investment is similarly staggering.

“We need to build on and expand existing cooperation frameworks such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Framework Agreement on Facilitating Paperless Trade and the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana opening the proceedings.

“The region needs more readiness to push the frontiers of cooperation and open it up to meet the challenges of post-COVID-19 recovery,” Ms. Alisjahbana said, adding that there are already remarkable signs of trade and investment recovery, and trade resilience in the last quarter of 2020.

“At a time of turbulence and uncertainty, the rules-based trading system complemented by the regional economic architectures such as APEC and ESCAP are critical enablers – now more than ever – for economies to recover and grow delivering employment, incomes, innovation, productivity, wellbeing and sustainable development,” said Mr. Vangelis Vitalis, the Committee Chair who is Deputy Secretary of the Trade and Economic Group of New Zealand.

This year, the Committee endorsed several recommendations to address the effects of the pandemic and restore greater cooperation among countries, including commitments to resist unilateral protectionist actions, especially in the sectors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic; make concerted efforts to promote both inward and outward foreign direct investment in support of sustainable development; harmonize digital trade rules; as well as to safeguard and strengthen the rule-based multilateral trading system.

With the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific entering into force on 20 February, countries also made further progress on shaping regional and national action plans to accelerate trade digitization in support of inclusive and sustainable development.

Delegates recommended ESCAP continue enhancing a new online tool called the Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Advisor (TINA), stressing its utility in fostering higher quality and reduced costs in preparing for trade negotiations, especially in lower income countries.

The Committee was held alongside the Seventh Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week, which brought together senior government officials and key stakeholders from 25 to 29 January in a series of virtual events on digital trade facilitation, trade policy responses to the pandemic, graduation from least developed country status, and capacity-building and analytical tools developed by ESCAP.  

For more information: https://www.unescap.org/events/seventh-asia-pacific-trade-and-investment-week

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East and South Asia: Growth to recover but downside risks are high

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 13:12
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Pandemic is threatening to reverse the progress that the regions have made towards advancing sustainable development

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G/04/2021
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Bangkok
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The United Nations today warned that the devastating socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come unless smart investments in economic, societal and climate resilience ensure a robust and sustainable recovery of the global economy.

In 2020, the world economy shrank by 4.3 per cent, over two and half times more than during the global financial crisis of 2009. The modest recovery of 4.7 per cent expected in 2021 would barely offset the losses of 2020, says the latest World Economic Situation and Prospects.

GDP growth in East Asia fell sharply to 1.0 per cent in 2020, marking the region’s weakest expansion since the Asian financial crisis of the 90s. Widespread mobility restrictions significantly curtailed household spending and investment, while supply chain disruptions and weak global demand adversely affected exports. In South Asia, the pandemic severely impacted most economies in the region, dragging down average GDP by -8.9 per cent in 2020. India, in particular, suffered its largest economic decline in history, with output falling by nearly 10 per cent in 2020.

“We are facing the worst health and economic crisis in 90 years. As we mourn the growing death toll, we must remember that the choices we make now will determine our collective future,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who adressed the Davos Agenda on Monday. 

“Let’s invest in an inclusive and sustainable future driven by smart policies, impactful investments, and a strong and effective multilateral system that places people at the heart of all socio-economic efforts.”   

The report underscores that sustained recovery from the pandemic will depend not only on the size of the stimulus measures, and the quick rollout of vaccines, but also on the quality and efficacy of these measures to build resilience against future shocks.

Growth prospects in East and South Asia

Looking ahead, East Asia  is projected to recover from a low base, with growth rebounding to 6.4 per cent in 2021, before moderating to 5.2 per cent in 2022. In most economies, domestic demand will be supported by continued monetary and fiscal stimulus. These baseline projections, however, are highly contingent on the successful containment of the virus, both domestically and abroad.

The aggregate growth figures mask a large divergence in the growth prospects of the East Asian economies. China will remain  the region’s main driver of growth, with GDP growth projected to rebound to 7.2 per cent in 2021, from 2.3 per cent in 2020. China’s economic recovery, however, is expected to be uneven across sectors. While infrastructure investment is expected to rebound strongly, private consumption growth is likely to remain moderate.

“The growth prospects of other economies in the region will largely depend on the strength of the global recovery, given their reliance on income from external sources, including tourism and remittances,” says Hamid Rashid, Chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the lead author of the report. 

The bleak outlook on international travel will continue to weigh on the tourism-dependent countries, including Cambodia, Thailand, and the Pacific Island states. In the Philippines, a recovery in remittance inflows over the outlook period would help to boost domestic demand.

South Asia is also expected to expand by 6.9 per cent in 2021, but growth will remain insufficient to bring the region back to its 2019 output level. The recovery also hinges on the containment of the pandemic and effective policy stimulus going forward.

Poverty has shot up across the region and standards of living have worsened. With poor and inaccessible public health infrastructure, policymakers were forced to implement drastic mobility restrictions to control the pandemic’s spread. While partly effective, these measures were far from sufficient and also had significant social and economic consequences. Extremely high levels of informality and minimal social safety coverage also dampened the effectiveness of government responses. These policy challenges were exacerbated by tight fiscal space and relatively high inflation.

Poor economic diversification also put several South Asian countries substantially more at risk. The Maldives suffered deeply from the global shock to tourism. The Islamic Republic of Iran had to endure the devastating consequences of a freefall in oil prices. A recovery in tourism and trade would benefit the more open South Asian economies, but uncertainties will remain large in the coming years.

“It is an imperative that policy stimulus in South Asia targets resilient recovery. Policymakers urgently need to address structural weakness, such as weaknesses in the region’s labour markets and public health infrastructure,” added Rashid.

The report says that South Asian countries will also need to diversify their economies to improve resilience and generate more local added value. 

Risks and policy challenges

With multiple waves of the pandemic threatening to trigger another round of widespread lockdowns, downside risks to the growth outlook of the the East and South Asia regions remain high. In East Asia, renewed financial market turbulence would not only amplify weakness in the real economy, but also exacerbate existing financial vulnerabilities, including high corporate and household debt.

In South Asia, many economies face prohibitive fiscal restraints. Effective domestic revenue mobilization can make up some of the shortfalls, but concessions from international lenders will also be needed. Preemptive fiscal austerity could have disastrous consequences for the countries in the region.

 

About the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2021

The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2021 is a report produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in partnership with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the five UN regional commissions. The UN World Tourism Organization also contributed to the report. For more information, please visit: www.bit.ly/wespreport

Media contacts:

Devi Palanivelu, UN Department of Global Communications, palanivelu@un.org

Helen Rosengren, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, rosengrenh@un.org

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Meet TINA 3.0 – the United Nations’ new advisor for trade negotiators in Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 15:26
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G/03/2021
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today launched the latest update of its Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Adviser (TINA), an online tool designed to assist trade policymakers and researchers in carrying out analytical tasks commonly conducted as part of trade negotiations.

TINA was developed in close consultation with current and former members of trade negotiation teams throughout the Asia-Pacific region, using state of the art methodologies and technologies. The latest update features a trade agreement text analysis module as well as partial equilibrium impact assessments for tariff liberalization, least developed country status graduation, and tariff preference loss scenarios.

Many of the intense tasks undertaken for trade liberalization negotiations require specialized analytical and data management skills and are time-consuming when performed manually. TINA automates many of such tasks, enabling countries with limited resources to benefit from the same level of preparation as those afforded to teams of larger economies.

“As we work together to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, many economies in the region need help in effectively preparing for trade negotiations and assessing the benefits of prospective trade deals,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana at the launch.

Ms. Alisjahbana further highlighted, “Member States about to graduate from the least developed countries status are in most need of international support measures, as they must negotiate new trade agreements to secure some of the trade preferences they previously received.”

Since its inception in 2018, TINA has assisted several countries in the region. For example, at the request of the Government of Bangladesh, TINA has been used to help them with the Bangladesh-India trade agreement feasibility study. Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vanuatu have also benefitted from a new key feature of TINA, which evaluates the trade impacts of least developed country status graduation and resulting partial withdrawal of preferences by major trading partners such as the European Union, the United States, China and India. This feature is significant as it identifies sectors and markets most likely to be impacted, thus drawing policymakers’ attention to accord higher prioritization to those sectors.

“One of the most promising features of TINA 3.0 is its stated ability to use the partial equilibrium model to identify the most affected sector(s) of an economy when it graduates out of the least developed country status. This software promises to help the planners and policy makers understand the overall impact on the graduating economy. It may be of great use to Bangladesh at this stage,” shared Dr. Md. Jafar Uddin, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily slowed down some negotiations, trade agreements have continued to grow - in number, scope and complexity. 184 trade agreements are currently in force involving at least one Asia-Pacific country, with another hundred either signed or under negotiation as of December 2020.

For more information on the Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Adviser: https://tina.trade/

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United Nations ESCAP partners with SEAF to launch the Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 22:26
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G/02/2021
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Bangkok
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ESCAP News
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In early 2020, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) formalized a partnership to catalyze women’s entrepreneurship through gender lens impact investing in Asia. The partnership, which received financial support from the Government of Canada, set out to unlock private growth capital for small and medium enterprises over the next four years through the development and management of private equity impact funds targeting women as business owners, leaders, employees, and consumers.

Today, ESCAP and SEAF are pleased to announce the successful launch and first close of the SEAF Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund (SWEEF). ESCAP has provided SEAF with technical assistance and grant support to complete the establishment of SWEEF. To date, the Fund has received an anchor commitment from Pædagogernes Pension (PBU), the Danish pension fund for early childhood teachers and youth educators, which will be directed toward enterprises owned, led and supporting women in Southeast Asia.

At the core of SWEEF’s investment framework is a women-centered strategy focusing on investments primarily in Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the Philippines in women entrepreneurs as well as businesses operating in sectors where women comprise a large portion of the labor force, those that deliver products and services meeting the unique and unmet wants and needs of women and girls, and those where the leadership demonstrates a strong commitment to gender equality and wider diversity. Local teams manage the Fund, the majority of which consist of women investment professionals who not only manage the investments to deliver financial returns but also to provide critical local gender context to ensure transformative and long-term impacts for women.

“We are proud to support the development of gender lens investing in Asia, and enable women owned and run businesses to innovate, compete and grow. We have learnt that meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs requires us to innovate and go beyond the usual lending modalities towards promoting mentorship, business development support services and access to growth capital and that is exactly what our partnership with SEAF offers,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi.

Jennifer Buckley, Senior Managing Director at SEAF, said: “We are pleased to announce the first close of SWEEF, which is an important milestone for SEAF’s gender lens investing initiatives in Southeast Asia, particularly at this time where women are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We would like to thank our partners ESCAP and PBU for supporting this landmark program. The fund will benefit from ESCAP’s extensive knowledge, resources and networks across Southeast Asia through its Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme. We are heartened by the support and flexibility PBU has provided SEAF to reach this milestone, given the global travel restrictions faced in 2020.”

Note to Editors:

About ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme

This initiative is implemented under a regional programme initiative titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ funded by the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, and implemented by ESCAP. The programme aims to support the growth of women entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region through addressing the challenges faced at three levels: enabling policy environment, access to finance and use of ICT for entrepreneurship. For more information, visit https://www.unescap.org/projects/cwe

About SEAF

SEAF is a global investment management group headquartered in Washington, DC, that provides growth capital and business assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging and transition markets underserved by traditional sources of capital. Through its network of offices around the world, SEAF invests in entrepreneurs to seek to build successful businesses, with the goal of realizing both attractive returns for its investors and a measurable development impact in local communities. SEAF, with committed capital of $1.2 billion, has 30 years of experience with 40 funds in over 30 countries. SEAF also supports 9 Centers for Entrepreneurship and Development (CEED) around the world (www.ceed-global.org), providing training, mentoring, professional networks and global access to entrepreneur-run businesses. For more about SEAF, see www.seaf.com

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United Nations launches a Women Enterprise Recovery Fund

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 22:45
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G/01/2021
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Bangkok
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), with support from the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), the Government of Canada, and Visa Inc. have launched a ‘Women Enterprise Recovery Fund: Promoting and Upscaling Digital Solutions for Enhancing Women Enterprise Growth and Resilience’.  

“Through this Fund, we will support innovative business solutions that address the constraints faced by women enterprises in South and South-East Asia. These solutions are especially crucial today as we know women enterprises have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19. Now is the opportunity to innovate and find solutions that recover better and build resilience. UNCDF is grateful to ESCAP, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Canada, the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) and Visa Inc. for their collaboration and support to advance women enterprises through this Innovation Fund mechanism,” said UNCDF Deputy Executive Secretary Xavier Michon.

Applicants to the Fund can be based anywhere globally, but the project implementation and solution must target women enterprises in one or more of the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal or Viet Nam. Eligible applicants who can apply for the Fund include regulated financial institutions, FinTechs, technology institutions, among others.

“The Fund will provide up to US$ 50,000 in co-funding to innovative solutions, along with technical assistance provided through our extensive partner networks. We are pleased to be partnered with UNCDF, FMO, the Government of Canada and Visa Inc. on this exciting initiative, which will bring to market innovative financial and business solutions for women entrepreneurs who have been impacted by the pandemic,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi.

“FMO is exceptionally pleased to partner with UNCDF and ESCAP to launch the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund. We believe collaboration with private-sector innovators in the design and implementation of digital solutions is fundamental to help women enterprises that have been economically impacted by COVID-19. We are confident the fund will create a catalytic effect in the MSMEs ecosystems across Asia, showcasing viable digital solutions and sustainable business models to respond to the needs of formal and informal women-led enterprises,” said Andrew Shaw, FMO Capacity Development Manager.

To find out more and/or submit your application please visit: https://uncdf.live/WERF.

Note to Editors:

About the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund

The Women Enterprise Recovery Fund is supported by the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), the Government of Canada, and Visa Inc. The Fund is jointly implemented by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme, in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), under its ‘leaving no one  behind in the digital era’ strategy.  The Fund is hosted by UNCDF’s Innovation Fund Facility platform, through its ASEAN programme, which is supported by the Australian Government.

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The GSG and the United Nations ESCAP join forces to push for stronger impact-investment led recovery in Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 13:00
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G/56/2020
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The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) has teamed up with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on a new digital policy resource which encourages greater adoption of impact investing in Asia and the Pacific. The research outlines how governments can fuel an impact-led recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to create fairer and more sustainable economic systems.

The digital policy resource entitled “Towards an Enabling Policy Environment for Impact Investment in Asia and the Pacific” provides practical information for policymakers and other stakeholders. The analysis and recommendations draw on international best practice and examples of impact investment policies already in use across the region, including impact-led business incubators and green finance initiatives, to demonstrate how governments in Asia and the Pacific, and around the world, can stimulate impact investment.

The study will be unveiled in a webinar on 3 December 2020, 15:00 ICT (08:00 GMT) jointly hosted by the GSG and ESCAP. Register here.

The Asia and Pacific region requires additional annual investment of $1.5 trillion to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, a figure equivalent to about 5% of their combined GDP. The private sector, which manages $51 trillion in assets across the region, is stepping in to help bridge this funding gap. This study helps policymakers create structures that enable investors to unlock capital for impact investment and maximise its potential.

“COVID-19 has underlined the importance of action-driven policies that focus on social and environmental impacts. We have an opportunity to rebuild economies that are more equal and resilient to future shocks and impact investing should be one of their foundations,” said Cliff Prior, GSG’s CEO. “It is clear that we need more, smarter and outcomes-focused capital to solve some of the most challenging societal issues we face.”

The GSG and ESCAP policy guidebook analyses impact-focused programmes currently being developed in the Asia-Pacific region and identifies how governments can address the need for impact investment as market facilitators, participants or regulators. In these roles, governments can strengthen the demand for impact investment, increase the supply of capital and support market operators.

Solutions to facilitate impact investment include:

  • Development of dedicated units within national governments, such as the National Advisory Board for Impact Investment in Bangladesh, established in 2018, to set the strategic direction for developing the impact investment ecosystem in the country.
  • Creation of impact-led business incubators and accelerators, following the example of the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), which contributed to a 32% increase in the number of social enterprises established in the first two years following its creation in 2015.

The study also shows how governments can foster a just recovery through impact-driven funds and programmes, including Indonesia’s Green Bond initiative, which supports projects that help mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity. The research outlines how national authorities can develop regulation that embeds impact considerations in investment decisions, such as Cambodia’s Sustainable Finance Initiative, which sets finance safeguards and risk management standards for social and environmental impacts created by the private sector.

“More than ever, we need to showcase best practices and concrete actions that governments can take to utilise the potential of new investment - investment that can drive the Asia-Pacific’s economic recovery towards social and environment sustainability, boosting the entire impact investment ecosystem towards Sustainable Development Goals” noted Mia Mikic, Director of Trade, Investment and Innovation Division, ESCAP.

Notes to editors

About GSG

The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG – www.gsgii.org) is an independent global steering group promoting sustainable development and advancing education in impact investment. The GSG was established in 2015 as the successor to, and incorporating the work of, the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established under the UK’s presidency of the G8.

The GSG’s National and Regional Advisory Boards (NABs & RABs) currently cover 33 countries. It has established strategic partnerships with leading global organisations such as UNDP and the Impact Management Project. It is an organisation of over 500 senior people, chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, which brings together leaders from the worlds of finance, business, government, social organisations, and philanthropy.

The GSG, a British charity, aims to bring solutions to social and environmental challenges by spreading the use of impact approaches in making philanthropic, business and investment decisions.

About ESCAP

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) serves as the United Nations regional hub promoting cooperation among member States in the Asia-Pacific region towards inclusive and sustainable development.

The largest regional intergovernmental platform with 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members, ESCAP is a strong regional think-tank offering countries sound analytical products and insight into the evolving economic, social and environmental dynamics of the region.

The Commission’s strategic focus is to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which it does by reinforcing and deepening regional cooperation and integration to advance connectivity, financial cooperation and market integration.

Research and analysis coupled with ESCAP policy advisory services, capacity-building and technical assistance to governments support the sustainable and inclusive development ambitions of its members.

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The GSG and the United Nations ESCAP join forces to push for stronger impact-investment led recovery in Asia and the Pacific
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United Nations kicks off Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in Nadi

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 12:38
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G/63/2020
Origin Location
Nadi, Fiji
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ESCAP News
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), today kicked off the 2020 Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development & Capacity Building Workshop for Pacific SIDS. 

The Forum, convened since 2017, is a platform to voice and advocate for Pacific regional issues and to build capacity for reviewing and implementing the SDGs. Outcomes from the Forum will shape discussions at the 2021 High Level Political Forum, through the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD).

At the opening, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Ms. Armida Alisjahbana remarked, “The COVID-19 crisis is having a profoundly adverse impact on the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, adding greatly to the ongoing existential crisis of climate-related disasters in the Pacific. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has largely spared the Pacific people due to the swift implementation of containment measures, it is causing significant damage to the Pacific island economies.”

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, stated, “Regional responses on the economic and social impacts of COVID–19 are underway that will provide policy options for our leaders. Indeed, we as a region must work together to accelerate progress in several goals such as quality education - Goal 4,  climate action - Goal 13, life on land – Goal 15, and of course the Ocean SDG, Goal 14, life below water”.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Sanaka Samarasinha recognized that “the current twin challenges facing the planet of the COVID 19 pandemic and the climate crisis offer a unique opportunity to form a new alliance for inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery. As we look at providing much-needed support to economies in the region we must be mindful not to simply revert to the old normal of inequality, injustice and the mindless destruction of the planet. Instead, together we can and we must step towards a safer, more sustainable and equitable path to the future.”

The Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service and Communications and Acting Minister for Transport of Fiji officially opened the Forum acknowledged that “SIDS need assistance from development partners to facilitate policy responses to the crisis and to accelerate the economic recovery with measures that ensures long term sustainability.” He further remarked “[The Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development] presents a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and best practice that will cultivate and further develop innovative solutions to address the implementation of the SDGs with the effect of COVID-19.”

Forum participants also acknowledged the achievement of the Government and people of Vanuatu on its graduation from least developed country status on 4 December 2020 as endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

The Forum and workshop were attended by almost 100 participants, both in person and virtually.  Participants comprise of member States from the Pacific region, civil society organizations and development partners. The event is being conducted over two days from 14 to 15 December at the Westin Hotel in Nadi.

 

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United Nations kicks off Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in Nadi
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Sharp declines in trade and FDI but Asia-Pacific performs better than rest of the world in 2020

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 16:55
News type
News Number
G/65/2020
Origin Location
Bangkok
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ESCAP News
Programme of Work / Areas of work
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The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with increasing trade tensions and an already slowing global economy, have paved the way for the world’s worst economic performance since the Great Depression. According to the new Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Trends briefs issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today, global international trade value is estimated to dip by 14.5 per cent in 2020.

Despite facing a sharp decline in trade, Asia and the Pacific is expected to perform better than the rest of the world during 2020. The region’s prominence in merchandise trade is expected to rise to an all-time high this year accounting for 41.8 per cent of the world’s exports and 38.2 per cent of global imports. In 2021, merchandise trade volumes are expected to rebound by 5.8 per cent and 6.2 per cent of real exports and imports respectively.

ESCAP however warns that the path towards full trade recovery remains highly uncertain. Macroeconomic conditions remain unfavourable for many Asia-Pacific economies with high unemployment rates, deflation, indebtedness and geopolitical tensions among the structural factors hindering the recovery of countries. For small economies, the path towards full economic recovery may also be challenged by the potential permanent damage done to the travel and tourism industries, which are their major sources of income and employment. These downside pressures signal a potential sluggish recovery in 2021.

“The pandemic has a devastating effect on developed and developing economies alike, threatening to bring possibly millions of people back to poverty and unemployment. These people will not only need more aid, but also more trade,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. “I urge countries in the region to work towards developing a better set of trade rules that are resilient in times of crisis and stimulate sustainable economic recovery for inclusive and greener economies.”

COVID-19 has also had an immediate and severe effect on foreign direct investment (FDI). While data is still being collected on all forms of FDI, quarterly figures from announced greenfield investments clearly demonstrate how hard the region has been hit. In the first three quarters of 2020, greenfield FDI dropped by 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. Lockdown measures, including the physical closure of businesses, manufacturing plants and construction sites, were responsible for delayed and canceled investment projects in 2020.

FDI is expected to remain below pre-crisis levels throughout 2021. The outlook beyond 2021 is highly uncertain and dependent on the duration of the crisis, the effectiveness of policy interventions to stimulate FDI and navigate the socio-economic effects of the pandemic, as well as geo-economic tensions. The recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, however, may help FDI bounce back in the recovery period, especially for smaller and least developed countries in the group.

The trade briefs also highlight that over the medium-to-longer term, two main trends will affect trade – global value chain (GVC) restructuring and the digitalization of the global economy. These trends are likely to cause significant structural shifts, both across and within economies. To address these challenges, ESCAP underscores the necessity of complementary policies on social protection and education as well as in other areas covering new issues such as data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, e-commerce and other electronic transaction tax. This will be vital to allowing Asia-Pacific economies to fully capture the benefits from inclusive and sustainable digital trade and digital FDI growth.

The four new Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Trends briefs are part of an annual series produced by ESCAP to support policymakers develop short-to-medium term plans to mitigate adverse impacts from emerging risks and uncertainties in the global and regional economies. They also aim to maximize the potential of trade and FDI to contribute to sustainable development in an uncertain and changing trade and investment environment.

Read the briefs: https://unescap.org/knowledge-products-series/APTIT

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Sharp declines in trade and FDI but Asia-Pacific performs better than rest of the world in 2020

Photo credit: Adobe Stock/J.Mel

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