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Working Paper: Asia's Sustainable Development - A Literature Survey

Working Paper: Asia's Sustainable Development - A Literature Survey

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

As Asia develops, understanding the links between economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development becomes more critical. This survey aims to show where to look for helpful insights, best practices, and solutions for a sustainable future.

Economists have predicted that the global economy will more than double in size in the next quarter century, and by that time, our population will be well on its way to reaching 9 billion people. Basic science and analytics indicate that the environmental stress and social inequality that we see today could get a lot worse by that time, unless we alter the way we organize society and manage scarce resources.

The above challenge has largely given rise to the subject of sustainability, or how societies, organizations and humans create growth, generate wealth and develop over time, given environmental risks, constraints and social priorities. The study is especially relevant for Asia which has made huge strides in reducing poverty, only to find that the industrialization that was so useful in addressing poverty, has helped to create an entirely new set of environmental challenges.

In short, Asia needs new sets of tools and growth models in order to finish the task of ending poverty, while putting in place governance systems and policies that clean up its environment, conserve natural resources, and promote sustainable business.

Of course, Asia's developmental and environmental struggles take place amidst great change and opportunity in the global economy. On the production side, the region already plays major roles in global supply chains, and on the consumption side, the region houses the world's largest rising middle class. In both respects, the region could well become an even more dominant force, but to do this without putting in place mechanisms to address its core environmental and social issues may well be self-defeating.

Thus, although the study of sustainable development in Asia is in its infancy, the call for solutions is as loud and urgent as ever. The Fung Global Institute was founded on the belief that the search for new and better models must involve both bottom-up and top-down solutions, and draw from a wide group of stakeholders and influencers, rather than just from business and policymakers.

As a first step towards understanding the response thus far, the Fung Global Institute commissioned Chatham House to do a standard literature survey of the sustainable development space in Asia. Our questions were as follows:

  • What is the work done on Asia taking into account economic, environmental, and social dimensions as an integrated challenge?
  • Which countries appear as early leaders in this space?
  • Where are the under-served areas of study or countries?

We are pleased to present the results herein, with the caveat that the field of sustainable development is changing fast. Our hope is that the pace of change will accelerate as knowledge is shared and solutions are discovered and scaled.

Asia Global Institute

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