The Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious and long term endeavor. BRI can serve to reinforce sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, but only if the infrastructure developed under it conforms to sustainable principles.
As we convene today, world leaders are adopting the New Urban Agenda in Quito at the Habitat III Conference. This Agenda will offer guidance on how local governments plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities and human settlements to achieve sustainable development and prosperity for all. Effectively implementing this Agenda will require leveraging regional cooperation for urban development. To this end, the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, if properly guided, can be a transformative force for regional integration and sustainable urban development in the Asia-Pacific.
Asia faces a twin challenge: firstly to build more and better infrastructure; and secondly to ensure it’s resilient, benefiting the poor while being aligned to support the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Not only is the infrastructure deficit currently high and infrastructure assets overstretched and often inefficient, but demand pressures are set to grow as the urban population alone will rise annually by 50 million, aggravating congestion, air pollution and waste management. Infrastructure deficits will grow across a range of sectors and hinder business potentials.
The Member States of the United Nations last year set out a vision for creating a safer and more peaceful world, when they adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Of the 17 related Goals, one in particular, Goal 16, focuses our efforts on enabling peaceful development. It states “without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law - we cannot hope for sustainable development”.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community Vision 2025 strategy recognizes the complementarity of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the ASEAN community-building efforts to uplift the standards of living for the people. In moving forward, the best strategy is to examine how the two agendas can reinforce each other, respecting the objectives, value propositions, distinct niches and common elements of each. Fast tracking the alignment of these agendas is critical as we have now 9 years remaining to meet the ASEAN 2025 and 14 years to realize the 2030 Agenda goals and targets.
Asia and the Pacific is forging ahead and leading global efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. ESCAP’s membership has passed a resolution to constitute and operationalize the annual Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Forum or APFSD. The enhancement of ESCAP’s conference structure with its new intergovernmental Committee mandates will harness the means of implementation – encompassing finance, trade and science, technology and innovation.
The development of a Global Compact for safe, regular and orderly migration could not be more timely, given the number of displaced people in critical need of humanitarian assistance is only increasing. In addition, migration becomes a useful mechanism for countries to fill labor and skill shortages arising from rapid demographic changes.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledged the significance of the regional dimensions to serve as a bridge in translating global aspirations and goals into national sustainable development realities. As year one of the implementation of 2030 Agenda, 2016 has been a year of soul searching, repositioning, and momentum building across regional and subregional organizations to mainstream, harmonize and prioritize sustainable development strategies as well as developing institutional coordination mechanisms and concrete action plans for SDG implementation with supportive policies and modalities.
ESCAP will focus on consensus building and catalyzing negotiations to help build the energy bridges this region needs; while harnessing research and project development, model legal and regulatory agreements for electricity trade and regional pricing mechanisms. Collective action is critical to enable a move away from fragmented approaches towards more holistic, integrated and sustainable energy development.
Regional infrastructure development across North East Asia’s corridors is vital to enhancing Eurasia and Asia-Pacific connectivity. Impetus is to be provided by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the enhancement of EEU, and an expansion of the membership and mandate of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).