UN Secretary-General's Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia
30 July 2020
The policy brief examines the impact to date of COVID-19 on the eleven countries of South-East Asia:
Governments have acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects. Regional cooperation has been robust across multiple sectors.
South-East Asia has reported significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths, on a per-capita basis, than most other global regions.
The health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway.
Four areas are critical for a recovery that leads to a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive future:
Tackling inequality. Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Short- and long-term measures must meet the needs of vulnerable groups: including people in the informal economy, women and girls, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
Bridging the digital divide. People and communities must not be left behind as services and support are increasingly based on digital awareness, literacy and access.
Greening the economy. South-East Asian nations could embed long-term sustainability and inclusivity in their COVID-19 response and recovery packages, including scaling up investments in decarbonizing economies.
Upholding human rights and good governance practices. Building back better includes respecting and fulfilling fundamental human rights and protecting civic space.
All governments in the subregion have supported the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire. It is important to translate that commitment into meaningful change by ensuring COVID-19 responses address conflict situations.
The UN is strongly committed to the region and is supporting governments at the country level. We are providing essential medical supplies; offering technical and financial support for social protection programmes; assessing the socio-economic impacts of the virus and developing mitigation strategies; supporting refugees and returning migrants; helping governments carry out COVID-19 risk communication; and helping address the surge in violence against women and children during the pandemic.
 Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Viet Nam