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The Swedish Embassy, in cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), is currently gearing up for a two-day workshop on the theme of “Building resilience through participation”, facilitated by The DO School in Bangkok.

The workshop is held back-to-back with the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD), organised by ESCAP from 28-30 March on the 2018 theme for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “Transformation towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies”.

Millions of people in Asia and the Pacific are living with substantial and increasing risks to their lives or livelihoods every day. Unsustainable economic development and a changing climate are having increasingly negative impacts on the environment and the human rights of the people of this region.

At the same time, a democratic deficit, shrinking civil society space, discrimination and lack of gender equality and respect for human rights, limit people’s ability to demand accountability and to participate in decision-making for resilience-building and sustainable development.

The sad fact is: Development decisions are often made without involvement of the people most affected.

Resilience and inequality
Lack of resilience – in communities, societies or regions – disproportionately affects people living in poverty, and those who are marginalized and vulnerable. They tend to live in low-value, hazard prone areas like city slums, steep slopes, floodplains and river banks. They tend to derive their livelihoods directly from risk-exposed, climate-sensitive natural resources and agriculture. And – importantly – they tend to lack a voice/representation in the decision-making processes that affect their situation.

Towards sustainability through participation
True resilience for everyone can only be achieved through participatory, inclusive processes. Decision-making which builds or influences the resilience of people, must involve the people affected. Ensuring that these decisions take into account the views of those who are affected by them increases public support, builds resilience, promotes sustainable development and helps to protect the enjoyment of human rights.

To be effective, public participation must be included in the development of policies, laws, regulations, projects and activities.

Furthermore, because the Asia-Pacific region’s challenges are often transboundary in nature, they can only be fully addressed or solved through regional and transboundary cooperation.

A pioneering voice from the Asia-Pacific region
While the Asia-Pacific region is, by many accounts, the most risk-prone part of the world, the region is at the same time in the position to be a world-leader in resilience-building and to spear-head participatory approaches for sustainable development.

So it is encouraging that countries in the region are now implementing development plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change and reach the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfill the Agenda 2030. For an efficient process and better results, openness and public participation are crucial.

By showing and discussing examples of successful initiatives of openness and participation, we hope that countries and organizations can learn from each other and that the understanding of participation as a valuable and important part of any process is spread.

20 Mar 2018