Asia Pacific eyes ‘South-South’ learning to make natural wealth count for greater good

Governments and civil society groups from across Asia and the Pacific will be looking to learn from each other’s experiences in sustainably managing resources such as oil, gas and minerals, at a regional United Nations event that kicked off in Bangkok yesterday.

Organised by UNDP, in partnership with UNEP, the event brings together more than 12 Asia Pacific countries where natural resource extraction is driving economic growth, in a region that accounts for over a third of the world’s production of oil, gas and minerals.

The three-day event is intended to support a transfer of knowledge, policies and technology between developing countries that often struggle to cope with market fluctuations and the environmental and social fallout of extracting natural resources.

Speaking at the launch, UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Nicholas Rosellini pointed to the lack of knowledge and capacity within governments to protect the rights of people who are most affected by resource extraction.

“Communities living near mine sites or oil fields are suffering the worst impacts while not benefiting enough from extraction processes,’ Rosellini, the Director of UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub, said.

“Many communities are displaced either directly, or indirectly due to environmental impacts of mining, oil and gas extraction. These environmental impacts reduce the ability of men and women to earn their livelihoods and therefore can increase poverty among these communities,” he added.

“The extractives industry is a good example of the kind of multi-disciplinary development work we have to pursue if we want to achieve the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals,” he added. “Our response to the challenges posed by the industry must promote inclusive and equitable growth, support effective governance and ensure sustainable use of natural resources,” Rosellini said.

Global experiences from the past two decades strongly suggest that poverty is higher and falls more slowly in resource-dependent economies than their non-resource-dependent counterparts. In this context, peace-building and poverty reduction efforts can become meaningless in countries that rely on extractive industries that are not adequately governed.

The experience of the joint UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative, has demonstrated that the region needs greater cooperation of multiple actors to reverse the trends of unsustainable resource extraction, said Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

The PEI is a global programme that help governments straddle the twin priorities of poverty alleviation and environmental protection in their development planning.

Through the PEI, “UNEP is also working to improve quality of investments in natural resources including mineral resources, monitor and enforce compliance with environmental and social obligations and promote equitable sharing of benefits and effective use of revenues from mineral resources for investing in poverty eradication and natural capital,” Zahedi said.

Titled ‘South-South Exchange and Training Workshop on Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development,’ the event featured training on laws that relate to the extractives industry, as well as critical considerations of human rights, fiscal accountability, and gender, to ensure human development through the extraction of natural resources.

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