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‘HR, good governance key to COVID-19 recovery in SEA’

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
âHR, good governance key to COVID-19 recovery in SEAâ
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said tackling inequality, bridging the digital divide and greening the economy are critical for recovery in Southeast Asia.
STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Upholding human rights and good governance will be critical for Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations said yesterday.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said tackling inequality, bridging the digital divide and greening the economy are critical for recovery in Southeast Asia.

“As in other parts of the world, the health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has been significant across Southeast Asia – hitting the most vulnerable the hardest,” Guterres said.

Southeast Asia comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.

“The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway. And it has revealed new challenges to peace and security,” Guterres said.

He said the current situation is leading to recession and social tensions, while several long-running conflicts have stagnated due to stalled political processes.

“All governments in the sub-region have supported my appeal for a global ceasefire, and I count on all countries in Southeast Asia to translate that commitment into meaningful change on the ground,” he added.

Before the pandemic, countries were lagging behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline.

Despite strong economic growth, the UN chief’s policy brief on the crisis reveals that Southeast Asia was beset by numerous challenges such as high inequality, low social protection, large informal sector and a regression in peace and justice.

Ecosystem damage, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and air quality were at “worrying” levels, the UN said.

While COVID-19 arrived in Southeast Asia earlier than in the rest of the globe, Guterres commended governments for acting swiftly to battle the pandemic.

On average, they took 17 days to declare a state of emergency or lockdown after 50 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, according to the policy brief.

“Containment measures have spared Southeast Asia the degree of suffering and upheaval seen elsewhere,” Guterres, who praised cooperation among countries, said.

COVID-19 SEA
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