Challenges in Asia and the Pacific


Natural environment at Chilika lake, India. Photo: Bhabani Prosad Mondal/UNDP Picture This

One of the region’s greatest challenges is sustaining economic growth and progress on human development while achieving environmental sustainability. The region is home to 53 percent of the world's population and some of the world's fastest-growing economies. From the snows of the high Himalayas to the depths of the Mariana trench, from forest to tundra, alpine meadows to mangroves, it also contains spectacular ecosystems and rich natural assets. But current patterns of development risk depleting natural resources and damaging these vital ecosystems and the services on which we all rely: data show that water scarcity is increasing; tropical forests are shrinking; and climate change is worsening these threats. Lack of access to sustainable, clean energy services and chemical pollution that degrades land, water and air quality also poses a challenge to sustainable human development in the region.

The risk of natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change as well as economic shocks, adds to existing vulnerabilities. Rising sea levels threaten the very existence of small islands states; the melting of Himalayan glaciers will pose a serious challenge for many countries; and increasing incidence of droughts and floods harm smallholders’ crops and livelihoods. Some of the region's most vulnerable communities — whether mountain dwellers, island communities, smallholder farmers or the urban poor — stand to face the severest consequences of climate change and environmental degradation.

The combined pressures of economic growth, rapid industrialization and urbanization, climate change, pollution and increasing demand for natural resources make more inclusive and green economic development imperative for the region.

How we address these challenges

UNDP strengthens national capacity to address these challenges in Asia and the Pacific at the local, national and regional levels. We support countries to preserve and sustainably use natural assets for achieving sustainable development outcomes, prepare and implement climate resilient development strategies and shift to lower-carbon pathways.

We deliver our work through UNDP country offices supported by a regional team of technical experts and advisers by:

  • Providing policy and technical advice to governments and support countries to access and employ environmental finance (from funds including the Global Environment Facility, Special Climate Change Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund and Bilateral Donors).
  • Developing and implement programmes and projects
  • Disseminating and build on best practices
  • Sharing knowledge and encourage innovation for development.

Our work is responsive to national priorities and is based on UNDP’s mandate to build national capacity for human development under the following themes: