UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday encouraged Southeast Asia to recover better from COVID-19 by addressing inequality and greening the economy.
In a statement to accompany his policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia, Guterres said four approaches will be critical in the region's plans for recovery.
The approaches include tackling inequality in income, health care and social protection; bridging the digital divide to ensure that people and communities are not left behind; greening the economy to create the jobs of the future; and upholding human rights, protecting civic space and promoting transparency.
Central to these efforts is the need to advance gender equality, address upsurges in gender-based violence, and target women in all aspects of economic recovery and stimulus plans, he noted.
This will mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women, and is also one of the surest avenues to sustainable, rapid, and inclusive recovery for all, he said.
The United Nations is strongly committed to partnering with the countries of Southeast Asia, and will continue to support efforts to get the region on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a peaceful future for all, said Guterres.
The policy brief finds that governments in Southeast Asia have acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects, and regional cooperation has been robust across multiple sectors.
Southeast Asia has reported significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths, on a per capita basis. However, 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, according to the policy brief.
The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway, it says.