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Development Account Projects

Strengthened capacity of small island developing States in the Asia-Pacific region with regard to the valuation of environmental capital and the economic cost of gender inequality


A fundamental constraint in Asia-Pacific small island developing States is the lack of data for making informed and evidence-based sustainable development decisions. Policymakers remain unable to translate evidence into effective macroeconomic enablers that foster inclusive and sustainable development which integrate the economic, environmental and social pillars of development. Strengthening the evidence-base and the enabling environment for sustainable development planning and implementation is a key component of effective governance in small island developing States. Economic valuation of environmental capital and social equity underpins the capacity of policymakers (in particular those in ministries of finance and planning) to make balanced policy choices in pursuit of sustainable development.

More balanced policy choices will make it possible to put macroeconomic enablers in place and to move away from the current excessive priority attached to achieving nominal targets (such as a single digit inflation rate and a primary budget surplus to a specific public debt-to-GDP ratio). A high quality of growth in the economic, social and environmental dimensions is critical.

The project focuses on integrating two aspects of sustainable development into macroeconomic policymaking: economic valuation of natural capital and gender inequality. As critical aspects of the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development, valuation of natural capital and gender inequality will be illustrative of the value of internalizing and balancing environmental and social considerations in decision-making for sustainable development. While there are causative relationships between these two issues that are important to sustainable development, this is not the immediate focus of the current project. Rather, the project directly responds to the requests made by Member States in the Rio+20 outcome document for the provision of support for balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development.

Climate change, environmental degradation and ocean management are some of the most pressing issues currently facing small island developing States. Integrated sustainable development is reliant on better reflecting the economic value of natural capital in policy choices. Pacific small island developing States have limited data available for decision-making or monitoring the environment and the value of natural capital is not included in national accounts in the Pacific. This is a major constraint for effective environmental governance and the implementation of sustainable development policies, including green economy policies. The System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA) provides an internationally agreed framework to address this data gap. Valuing natural capital is a key aspect of green economy policies that support sustainable development.

In terms of the social pillar of development, gender inequality is the most prominent social issue in Asia-Pacific small island developing States. The 2007 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific found that Asia was losing between $42 billion and $47 billion a year because of restrictions on women’s access to employment opportunities. In the Pacific women’s limited access to economic opportunities and low representation in political and decision-making positions have posed major barriers to achieve inclusive development. Studies have indicated a high prevalence of violence against women and girls in the Pacific. Violence against women has a devastating impact not only on the victims and survivors, and their psychosocial, reproductive and physical well-being, but also on their children, communities and society at large. Moreover, it imposes an economic burden on health care and social services, as well as the justice system.

The project will focus on all Asia-Pacific small island developing States from the Pacific and Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Seas regions (excluding Singapore). The project would draw on the substantive capacity of ESCAP in macroeconomic policy, statistics, social development and environment, as well as the training strength of the Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific. It will work with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Small Island Developing States Unit to align actions with the global small island developing States processes and the 2014 conference outcome, as well as with UNEP (Asia-Pacific) in the implementation of SEEA.


To develop the capacity of Governments in the Asia-Pacific small island eveloping States to integrate economic valuations of environmental capital and gender inequality into sustainable development planning and implementation

Expected accomplishments:

  • Strengthened capacity of environment departments, national statistical systems and national planning entities in Pacific small island developing States to provide and utilize economic valuation of natural capital (System of Environmental-Economic Accounts)
  • Strengthened capacity of finance, planning and line ministries of Asia-Pacific small island developing States to undertake and utilize economic valuation of gender inequality and gender-based violence
  • Improved integration of economic valuation of natural capital, and gender inequality and gender-based violence for evidence-based policymaking for integrated sustainable development in Pacific small island developing States

Implementation status:

In progress.