Tag Archive for: sdgs

On this issue:

Development Aid With Chinese Characteristics?

Activists, CSOs bolster call to reject RCEP in Bali negotiations

APRN Pushes for Effective Development Cooperation Amidst Shrinking Spaces for CSOs

Goals vs Realities: Looking back at the Peoples’ Forum & APFSD 2019

Quo Vadis Goal 16? A people’s review of the state of peace, justice,
and inclusion in Asia Pacific

Day of the Landless Statement: Reclaim our Lands, Reclaim our Future!

New Publication: The Peoples’ Global Conference Against IMF-World Bank in Bali, Indonesia

Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN), in partnership with Asia Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM), held the panel discussion titled “Quo Vadis Goal 16?” at the Asia Pacific People’s Forum on Sustainable Development 2019 (APPFSD) on March 25 in Bangkok. Thirty five (35) participants from regional and national CSOs, people’s organizations, UN agencies and members of the media attended the said forum.

Goal 16 of building peaceful, just and inclusive societies is important as a means and an accelerator to achieve Agenda 2030. And yet, achieving the targets of Goal 16 remains difficult given the rise of repressive governments, closing civic spaces, and growing militarism.

The forum identified the systemic barriers to Goal 16 namely shrinking spaces for CSOs and limiting people’s participation in the development process, increasing militarization, and widespread attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms.

Ivan Enrile of APRN gave an overview of Goal 16 and the challenges to achieving the goal’s interlinking targets. “The transformative nature of SDG 16 makes it uniquely powerful, yet also difficult to achieve as it requires significant shifts in all its interlinked aspects,” Enrile said. “Peace should be sustainable and positive, not simply the absence of violence; accountability should be mutual; justice must be comprehensive including social, economic, environmental, cultural and political justice,” he added.

Enrile further shared the move of the Philippine government to tighten its grip on democratic participation of CSOs through a new memorandum released by the government’s Securities and Exchange Commission that would classify CSOs according to the risk they pose for being used for financing terror groups.

“Shrinking space as a real threatening trend in our region. It is going in various ways- in political restrictions, in physical arrests and killings, in disappearance, in growing treats,” adds Nurgul Dzhanaeva of Forum of women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan underscoring the increasing dangers civil society have to face to fulfill their part in achieving development goals.

Daya Sagar Shrestha of the NGO Federation of Nepal shared the same experience as their government reinstitutes restrictive laws which make it more difficult for CSOs to register, operate, and access resources.

Kartika Sari of Palangkaraya Ecological And Human Rights Studies (PROGRESS) talked about militarization of development. “In Indonesia, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) revealed that there are a total of 1,500 cases of conflict related to disputes, conflict and struggles for land and natural resources. Thirty percent (30%) of these cases involve palm oil plantations,” Sari shared.

The same attacks on rights were also noted in the labor sector. “Despite the recent upsurge in labor strikes in the Philippines, the calls to end contractualization have fallen on deaf ears. More than 30,000 workers who went on strike suffered repressive blows varying from threats, intimidation and assault. A total of 28 killings have been recorded in the labor sector from 2016 to 2018,” reports Otto de Vries of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).

To cap the discussion, Ajay Jha of CECODECON and feminist activist Sarah Zaman talked about the different ways that civil society and movements were resisting militarism, closing civic spaces, and exclusion. Zaman shed light on the experience of Pakistani women in confronting repression, threats of arrest, and misinformation. Jha meanwhile shared how Indian farmers’ organized resistance reversed court decisions that trampled on their rights.

Participants agreed to come up with a strong statement on the shrinking spaces for CSOs and advocate for a rights-based approach to development at the coming Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development. They further agreed to strengthen and widen the solidarity in pushing back against efforts to stifle the voices of the grassroots and to undermine their struggle for development justice.

The theme of the upcoming 4th Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development is “Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing Asia Pacific.” The theme speaks of the need to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. Solving the development needs in Asia Pacific will have significant global impacts as the region is home to almost 60% of the world’s population. The region is also home to the 60% of world’s hungry, and almost half of the world’s poorest. Average income levels in the region in real terms are on a downward trend as inequality within and between Asia Pacific countries continue to rise.

Implementing the SDGs in the region is a costly venture. The Economic and Social Commission of Asia Pacific (ESCAP) in 2015 released the report titled “Financing for Transformation: From agenda to action on sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.” The report identifies the region’s financing needs and potential sources of additional finances. According to the report, “it could cost the region from $2.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year to close the region’s infrastructure gaps, provide universal access to social protection, health and education, and implement climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.” Around USD 500-800 billion per year until 2030 is needed to close gaps on safety nets, old age pension, income security to all persons with disabilities, universal access to health and education and modern energy access for all. Elimination of poverty will require USD 300 billion while the unmet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will need USD 100 billion per year until 2030 in financing. In terms of infrastructure, recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates 1.5 trillion per year to meet the region’s infrastructure needs. Adjusting this cost for climate mitigation would need USD 200 billion per year. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that around USD 14.3 billion annually is requires to achieve universal energy access by 2030 for the Asia-Pacific region. According to World Bank (2010) estimates, the region will need costs for adaptation to climate change would amount to USD 25 billion annually.

Governments and multilateral bodies are in consensus that while countries can mobilize domestic resources, additional finance will have to be mobilized through private sector investments through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), specially in infrastructure. Indeed, the private sector’s role in development is being promoted disproportionately against their accountability. Civil society and grassroots movements in the region are wary of this trend because of previous and current experiences related to private sector control of operations and ownership of infrastructure important to delivering services such as water, electricity, health, education, etc wherein these vital services have become inaccessible especially to the marginalized since they have been transformed into profit-making ventures instead of public service. Grassroots communities specially farmers, indigenous, and fisherfolk are specially worried about increased private sector investments in agriculture and extractives as these can lead to resource grabs.

Aside from funding gaps, one of the systemic barriers in achieving the sustainable development, but least discussed, in the region is militarism. The ongoing conflict in West Asia, as well as territorial disputes in the South Asia and East and Southeast Asia has led Asia Pacific to become the most militarized region. While the Trump’s policy in Asia Pacific with respect to security remains yet to be seen, it is quite possible that there would be no significant changes from the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia that aims to contain China’s growing influence through deployment of military personnel and infrastructure in the region. Militarization within countries is often used to suppress dissent and pave the way for resource grabs from communities. The continuing conflict and the development of new ones in the region is preventing the success of development efforts and violating human rights. Militarism also diverts huge amounts of resources away from sustainable development spending and is even more than three times bigger than the unambitious official development assistance (ODA) commitments of developed countries, which up until this day remain unfulfilled.

Asia and Pacific countries’ collective military spending in 2015 amounted to 436 billion. Adding the military spending of West Asian Countries, Russia, and United States of America (USA), the total amount balloons to an estimated USD 1.26 trillion. While this amount is definitely just a fraction of what Asia Pacific needs to meet the SDGs, rechanneling military spending to meet sustainable development will have lasting effects. Below are a few examples of costs of meeting SDGs versus military spending.


Arms imports are on the rise too. Data on arms imports of Asia Pacific countries suggest an upward trend on spending during the past decade. In 2016, total arms imports amount to USD 22.752 billion, signifying an increase of 48% since 2007.

The cost of damage to property, agricultural lands, the displacement of entire communities, and millions of lives lost due to extensive military operations and wars are not yet included in the current calculations on the cost of rising militarism in the region. Moreover, the damage done by warfare in the development process even reverses whatever development gains have been achieved at the country-level.

Clearly, military spending can be looked upon as a source of finance that should be diverted to spending on development. Thus, the reduction and rechanneling of military spending to finance development goals can serve as an effective indicator towards achieving the SDGs. If militarism continues to be ignored as one of the systemic barriers in the achievement of sustainable development, the Agenda 2030 is bound to fail the development needs of the billions of populations affected by militarism living in Asia Pacific.

Even as the implementation of the Agenda 2030 unfolds, questions remain on its enforceability and whether or not such an ambitious development framework can provide sufficient focus on critical issues that need to be addressed in order to transform the world for the better by the year 2030. A particular issue that appears to have been left out is the question of militarism and how it operates to serve the interests of economic elites and transnational corporations at the expense of peoples rights and welfare. There is a dearth of evidence and experience from Asia Pacific peoples attesting to the impacts of this emerging threat to sustainable development which begs the question: what should be done? and for whom?

This briefer aims to shed light on the emerging threat of militarism in the Asia Pacific region and how the Agenda 2030 responds to the issue. It highlights the issue of militarism being used as a legal recourse to aide large-scale resource grabs, how militarism is affecting women and indigenous peoples and how high military spending is diverting resources away from sustainable development financing.

For more information, contact the APRN secretariat at [email protected]