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Without Regional Collaboration, South-East Asia Will Struggle in the Fourth Industrial Revolution




To successfully deal with the profound challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to improve their collaboration. This is the conclusion of a new joint report launched today by the World Economic Forum and ADB.

The report, ASEAN 4.0: What Does the Fourth Industrial Revolution Mean for Regional Economic Integration?, analyses how emerging technologies will reshape South-East Asia, and identifies actions for ASEAN leaders to prepare for the deep transformations that lie ahead. The report acknowledges the many existing national strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as Thailand 4.0 or Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative. But it argues that ASEAN must think at the regional level, not the national level.

The treatment of cross-border data flows, for example, is one of the pressing issues highlighted by the report. As data currently are prevented from flowing seamlessly across borders, new technologies such as telemedicine or the internet of things will be limited in their potential.

The report offers seven recommendations for ASEAN leaders to prepare their institutions for the coming challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  1. The ASEAN Secretariat has to become a “platform organization” that allows for the integration of input from multistakeholder groups of experts.
  2. The secretariat should delegate more activities to affiliated functional bodies.
  3. Long-term blueprints should be replaced with three-year rolling plans. Considering the speed of the Fourth Industrial Revolution most forecasts will quickly be outdated. ASEAN must be agile and allow for course correction.
  4. Ask the people: Democratize and decentralize policy formulation. This will make the ASEAN policy-making process more inclusive, and make ASEAN an organization truly owned and managed by the people for their benefit.
  5. Establish pan-ASEAN test-beds for new approaches to regulation as a way to nurture multi-country experiments in shaping new technologies.
  6. Hire staff capable of running a platform model effectively. The staff must be well versed in managing the new Fourth Industrial Revolution tools and have a strong record in this regard.
  7. Adopt a new funding model to provide more funding for the ASEAN Secretariat’s operation.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding at tremendous speed. Indeed, the pace of change is accelerating. All over the world, governments are struggling to keep up,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “The traditional ways of shaping policy, writing regulations and setting standards are too slow, too top-down and too backward-looking. What is needed is an approach that is much faster, more agile, more experimental and more iterative.”
The report was commissioned by the World Economic Forum’s ASEAN Regional Strategy Group (RSG) – made up of 26 ASEAN chief executive officers, government ministers and academics – and written by the Forum and ADB. The RSG presented the study to the 10 ASEAN heads of state during the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila.
“While there is a lot to celebrate on the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, we mustn’t rest on past achievements,” said Nazir Razak, Chairman, CIMB Group Holdings, Malaysia, and Chair of the ASEAN RSG. “This revolution will transform everything, from economic structures to social systems. Many aspects of our lives will improve. But there will also be many worrying challenges, such as how automation and artificial intelligence are replacing jobs. We have to understand these issues and have appropriate policies to address them.”
“Today, the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution appear to be contributing to rising inequality around the world. But this need not be the case,” said Stephen Groff, Vice-President of the ADB. “With prudent fiscal management and appropriate policy, opportunities for lifelong learning and incentives for skills training can be created. And this is especially true for ASEAN. ADB considers the potential impact of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies on jobs in ASEAN a critical area for exploration to support inclusive growth in years ahead.”

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UNIDO to work together with the International Solar Alliance




The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has signed an agreement to work together with the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The joint declaration was signed on the first day of the Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 19-21 March. The Forum has brought together key players within the sustainable energy sector to discuss challenges and opportunities for the sector within the wider East African Community.

The declaration was signed by Tareq Emtairah, Director of UNIDO’s Department of Energy and Upendra Tripathy, Deputy Director General of ISA.

UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations promoting and accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development. UNIDO helps countries, among other things, to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a treaty based international inter-governmental organization which was launched on 30 November 2015, with headquarters in India. The ISA has been established to collectively address common key challenges to scale up solar energy and take coordinated action to aggregate demand for finance, technologies, innovation, reseach and development,and capacity building.

At the signing ceremony, the two parties agreed to cooperate in a number of areas including developing knowledge networks to raise awareness of the benefits of solar energy in member countries; and to jointly collate and provide evidence-based advice to member countries on policies and practices to create a favourable environment for solar energy.

They further agreed to work with other parties, and to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of the global network of sustainable energy centres, which includes the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. The centres provide policy support, capacity building and technical assistance on solar energy applications and energy efficiency.

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Business leaders and policy makers engage at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit




Business leaders from ASEAN and Australia attended a series of engagements with policy makers at the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

These engagements provided them with opportunities to share insights into regional market dynamics, as well as exchange views on opportunities from the fast-growing technological advancement and enhanced economic ties between ASEAN and Australia.

Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi, who was in Sydney to participate in the Special Summit, also took time to engage these industry leaders and leading CEOs from ASEAN and Australia.

The business segment of the Special Summit saw the convening of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Conference and a CEO Forum.

At the SME Conference on 16 March, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, and his counterpart from Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, highlighted the importance of SMEs as the engine for growth, and the opportunities for SMEs to benefit from closer economic linkages between ASEAN and Australia in the digital era. On this occasion, Prime Minister Turnbull announced the launch of an initiative on digital trade standards.

Opening the CEO Forum on 17 March, Prime Minister Turnbull highlighted the importance of receiving practical feedback from businesses in progressing regional economic initiatives. He also underscored the value of sharing experiences and expertise in areas such as sustainable and smart city development. To this end, Prime Minister Turnbull launched a new AUD30 million ASEAN-Australia initiative on smart and sustainable cities. Speaking at the same forum, Indonesian President Joko Widodo highlighted the immense opportunities from economic growth and digital technology advancement in ASEAN. The one-day forum addressed key topics related to ASEAN-Australia economic partnership, including on tourism, digital transformation in services, advanced manufacturing, Industry 4.0, agri-food and energy supply chains, and infrastructure.

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Partnerships key to promoting economic empowerment for rural women in the MENA region




The economic empowerment of rural women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was the topic of a side-event organized by the governments of Italy and Tunisia, in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UN Women and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The event featured a range of high-level speakers from Italy, the MENA region, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and was moderated by Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations in New York. “Women face several barriers to their equal participation in the social, economic and political spheres, and these constraints are felt even more harshly by rural women,” he stated in his opening remarks.

Fatou Haidara, Managing Director of Corporate Management and Operations at UNIDO, highlighted the significance of industrialization in reducing poverty and increasing employment, and the positive benefits of this for women. She referred to the holistic approach adopted by UNIDO in its work in promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the MENA region, stating that both policy and capacity-building dimensions are crucial.

“We have facilitated an ecosystem of knowledge and support, successfully partnering with governments and the private sector to create the foundation for structural change that has mobilized women’s entrepreneurship throughout the region,” she said. “For UNIDO, this project is one step forward in our long-term strategy for enabling women’s economic independence, because the resulting benefits will go beyond women and girls to put us all on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda.”

The importance of integrating women into the political system was stressed by Neziha Laabidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood of the Government of Tunisia, who also highlighted the inclusion of women in Tunisia’s national, multi-sectoral strategy.

Teresa Bellanova, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Italy drew attention to Italy’s commitment to promoting women’s rights and gender equality and to supporting women entrepreneurs and capacity-building at the local level in light of the radical, recent economic and geographical changes shaping the MENA region’s reality.

The discussion also touched upon issues faced by women in the region, such as access to land rights and discriminatory socio-cultural norms. The need for partnerships to come up with integrated solutions to such issues was addressed by Mohammed Naciri, Regional Director for Arab States, UN Women.

Engagement with the financial sector, including making capital more easily accessible to rural women, was underlined as a key factor in empowering rural women by Emanuele Santi, founder and president of Afrilanthropy, which connects social start-ups in Africa to impact investors. Santi added that creating incentives – for example by giving bonuses to companies that invest in companies led by women and rural women in particular – was another key to success. Finally, he stated that the development community had to “work as an ecosystem” and blend financial support with non-financial support.

The event was held on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an annual two-week session at the United Nations in New York. The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Speaking at the opening of the CSW, UN Secretary- General, António Guterres, stated that the Commission was “leading the way” when it comes to empowering women. “When women are already taking action, we need to listen to them and to support them,” he said. “By building equality, we give women a chance to fulfil their potential. And we also build more stable societies.”

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