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

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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 Considering the speed of the Fourth Industrial Revolution most forecasts will quickly be outdated.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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Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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Development

Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia

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As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels of poverty reduction – if they put in place the right policies. This was the overall message shared by World Bank economists today at a regional online event “Overcoming the Pandemic and Ending Poverty in Central Asia”.

In the early 2000s, Central Asian countries were among the world’s best performers in poverty reduction. Starting in 2009, however, the pace of progress began to slow and even stagnated in some of the countries. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a region already struggling to generate inclusive growth and end extreme poverty. Now in the second year of the pandemic, poverty rates in Central Asia are falling again, but with high inflation and low vaccination rates, the poor and the most vulnerable continue to suffer from food insecurity, uncertainty, and limited employment opportunities, especially for women.

“Central Asia is recovering from the first shocks of the pandemic, albeit in uneven ways,” said Will Seitz, World Bank Senior Economist in Central Asia. “Migration and remittances, key drivers of poverty reduction in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are quickly returning to 2019 levels. Labor markets are also recovering, and work disruptions are much less common. However, the region is yet to get on a stable poverty reduction path.”

Among policy priorities to reduce poverty, the World Bank is focused on three key areas: widespread vaccination, increasing employment and wages, and strengthening social assistance programs to support the most vulnerable. To support labor market recovery, the World Bank economists outlined short-term and medium-term measures, including the need to invest in green jobs and encouraging the creation and growth of firms.

It was also stressed that employment alone will not address all drivers of poverty, and strong safety nets are essential to protect the most vulnerable. Compared with other middle-income countries, Central Asian governments typically provide smaller shares of their populations with social assistance.

“Along with ensuring fair, broad access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, Central Asian countries need to urgently address vaccination hesitancy, as it threatens to slow down the recovery,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “For every million people vaccinated, global GDP recovers on average nearly $8 billion. We are expecting advanced economies with relatively high vaccination rates to demonstrate much better growth rates than developing economies with low vaccination rates.”

Among the main reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Central Asian countries are worries about vaccine contraindication and safety. While people with pre-existing health conditions in other countries are usually prioritized for vaccination, in the Central Asia region they are more likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated. Providing the public with accurate information on the safety of vaccines and encouraging people with pre-existing health conditions to be vaccinated may help address hesitancy issues.

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