Social Development


Fostering sustainable socioeconomic transformation in Asia and the Pacific

ESCAP’s work on social development is driven by the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no-one behind”. Asia and the Pacific’s impressive economic growth and remarkable achievements in poverty reduction have not succeeded in closing gaps in income between the rich and poor, nor unequal access to basic services, including education and health care. These gaps disproportionately affect women and the most vulnerable members of society. They also hamper inclusive growth, stymie social cohesion, and contribute to unsustainable production and consumption patterns. In short, these social development gaps undermine efforts to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The Social Development Division presents evidence-based policy analysis on poverty and inequality reduction, promotes social protection and decent job creation, fosters gender equality and women’s empowerment, and aims to strengthen social inclusion of persons with disabilities, older persons, youth and migrant workers, among other vulnerable groups.

Specifically, ESCAP provides the following services with a view to advancing social development in Asia and the Pacific:

1. Policy analysis and advisory services on inclusive development

  • - Analytical work on people-centered development in Asia and the Pacific
  • - Regional sharing of good practices on social development
  • - Demand driven technical advisory services to support the implementation of the SDGs

2. Capacity development programmes on social policy

  • - Policy toolkits on social protection and youth policy
  • - Tailored capacity building programmes on gender-responsive budgeting, social protection including income security for older persons, and social inclusion

3. Normative work on building inclusive societies

  • - Development of regional norms and standards for social inclusion
  • - Regional follow-up and reviews of progress in implementing internationally agreed social development goals

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Poverty and Inequality

Despite Asia-Pacific’s impressive growth, some 400 million people remain trapped in extreme poverty at $1.90 a day with 1.2 billion people remaining in vulnerable situation ($3.20 a day). Disparities in income and wealth, as well as those related to basic services are persisting and preventing a future of shared prosperity.

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

When guaranteed through equal opportunity, choice and access to resources, women’s full participation in society and the economy multiplies the capacity of all for sustainable growth and social development. In support of the Beijing Platform for Action, ESCAP is currently focusing its efforts on enhancing women’s economic empowerment in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP is also championing the integration of gender concerns into national planning and budgetary processes as well as promoting the value of women’s transformative leadership.

Youth Empowerment

Empowering youth in order to harness their potential is key to sustainably manage the demographic transition towards an ageing society that is taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. As a part of its work on youth, ESCAP assists governments to develop comprehensive national youth policies and promotes youth participation in development, including through its interactive Youth Policy Toolbox focusing on school-to-work transitions.

International Migration

International migration is a structural feature of an interconnected Asia-Pacific region and has profound socioeconomic impacts on the composition of populations, labour forces and societies. Ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration is a key priority of the region in tune with the 2030 Agenda. ESCAP advocates for migrants’ rights and provides technical support to governments to strengthen their capacity to harness the benefits of migration.

Social Protection and Financing Social Development

Against the backdrop of persisting poverty and widening inequalities, ESCAP supports national and regional efforts by functioning as a knowledge platform for social protection strategies for policymakers and stakeholders, including through its Social Protection Toolbox, and providing technical advice and capacity-building support to strengthen relevant social protection initiatives and their financing.

Population and Development

Accounting for 60 per cent of the world’s population with countries at various stages of the demographic transition and with people at the center of sustainable development, ESCAP focuses on different aspects of the population-related SDGs. It also supports member States in implementing the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development. ESCAP also conducts regular reviews of implementation of these programmes and works with diverse stakeholders to ensure equitable development.

Disability-Inclusive Development

Asia and the Pacific is home to 690 million persons with disabilities, many of whom are marginalized and excluded from leading a fulfilling and productive life. ESCAP assists member States in implementing the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific — the world’s first regionally agreed action plan on disability-inclusive development in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. ESCAP also conducts periodic reviews of the implementation of the Incheon Strategy.

Ageing Societies

The Asian and Pacific region is experiencing population ageing at an unprecedented pace, with the number of older persons expected to more than double by 2050. ESCAP supports member States in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) through periodic reviews that aim to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance government capacity to design and implement policy measures that empower older persons, and promote and protect their rights.

Social Inclusion

As set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which endeavours to “reach the furthest behind first”, protecting and promoting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups is fundamental towards realizing an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable Asia-Pacific. In this regard, ESCAP focuses its efforts on women and girls, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and migrants. In addition, ESCAP also supports its member States in addressing the needs of key populations who are often at higher risk of exposure to HIV and AIDS.