Since early 2017 I've been involved in looking for new models that will help facilitate the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Asia–Pacific.
This has tended to focus on economic drivers like trade and sustainable tourism and how they can support sustainable development, but also on the critical need for innovative partnerships between actors in the private and public sectors.
One recent piece of work has involved analysing some of the current efforts to achieve the SDGs in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and how these efforts could be accelerated to 2030.
There are currently 47 countries categorised as LDCs, described as 'low–income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development...that are...highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.'
15 of these countries can be found in the Asia–Pacific: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Yemen. All are at different levels of development and all face different challenges to achieve even part of the SDGs, however all of them already are experiencing some degree of impact from climate change.
Whilst my work on the LDCs has tended to be more focused on some of the statistics around sustainable development, I have also been looking at some case studies of specific communities' responses to the intertwined challenges posed by the SDGs and climate change. In looking at these communities, who can genuinely be said to be amongst those with the least when it comes to the world's riches, it has struck me how similar they are in their approach to the, often unfair, challenges they face.
The word dignity always springs to mind when I see and hear how they are looking to better themselves and create greater opportunities for their children. How they keep going even when they lose the very little they have in a climate change influenced natural disaster. How they seem to naturally see the best in any situation, even when that is the hardest thing to do. How they manage to find happiness in the simplicity of life, when much of the developed world is struggling with depression and youth suicide despite its' relative economic success.
This dignity amongst those with the least always makes me pause to consider my own life and how I conduct it – and, more importantly, how I can do more to help them as they face an increasingly uncertain future.