The world is facing a series of multiple and interlinked crises; a perfect storm that is testing the limits of current development paradigms. As countries and cities across Asia and the Pacific struggle to recover from the socioeconomic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis continues to ravage the region. Added to that, the war in Ukraine and the growing food and energy crisis is undermining prospects for a true recovery and in turn affect the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region.
Current data from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that the Asia-Pacific region has not met expected progress for any of the goals from 2019 until 2021. Progress has slowed in 2021, including for Goal 7 (clean energy) and Goal 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure) which in 2019, were on track to be achieved. The pandemic and other crises (such as food and energy insecurities) are pushing up inflation across the world. Rising prices are driving countries, especially low-income countries, into debt distress. About 60 percent of low-income countries are in debt distress compared to 30 percent in 2015. Rising prices are widening inequality as poor and vulnerable groups of the population are finding it harder to afford basic necessities.
According to UN-Habitat, 95 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases were in the urban areas3 and cities became hotspots for COVID-19 cases worldwide. The socio-economic consequences from the pandemic and the subsequent energy and food crisis are compounding existing challenges of urbanization. Cities, across the developing and developed world, became frontline actors facing multiple interlinked crises, and city-level response has become critical for building resilience and ensuring the achievement of the SDGs.