Asia-Pacific governments call for action to promote regional economic integration, trade and energy connectivity

Asia-Pacific governments have issued a call to action to strengthen regional economic integration, trade and energy connectivity as keystones of a future of shared and sustainable regional growth in the face of daunting socio-economic and environmental challenges.

A series of resolutions adopted at the conclusion of the 17-23 May annual session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) have articulated an agenda for inclusive and sustainable regional growth aiming to close development gaps among and within Asia-Pacific countries and setting economic progress on a greener path.

“Together we will now transform these resolutions into bold action and profound results to bring about the much-needed transformation to a more inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific prosperity,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer told the assembly of 49 countries.

“Asia-Pacific has led the world’s economic recovery and this week we have laid the foundation to lead its prosperity.”

The resolutions range from a call to enhance regional economic integration, enable paperless trade, facilitate intraregional transport and support inclusive and sustainable growth in least developed and geographically disadvantaged countries, to the proclamation of the period 2013-22 as a new Asian and Pacific Decade for Persons with Disabilities.

The ESCAP session also adopted a milestone resolution on promoting regional energy connectivity. “A more integrated regional power system – effectively an Asian Energy Highway – could strengthen energy security, improve efficiency, and promote a greater share of renewables and clean energy for a more sustainable future,” Dr. Heyzer said.

With the theme, “Growing together: Economic integration for an inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific century," the 68th ESCAP session provided Asia-Pacific governments a platform to review specific challenges and uncertainties that are best addressed by countries in the region acting together.

The region now has to cope with a “new normal” of global economic uncertainty combined with high and volatile commodity prices with the spike in food prices in 2010 keeping an additional 19.4 million people poor in Asia and the Pacific.

“Our discussions reflect growing regional agreement on the need to make our growth more inclusive, greener and more sustainable – closing development gaps and strengthening social protection systems as new drivers of Asia-Pacific growth,” Dr. Heyzer said.

“This is especially important as we approach the Rio+20 summit – which will be the best chance to forge global agreement on the generational change necessary to shift to more sustainable growth paths. Asia-Pacific perspectives, especially those from our Pacific island countries, will be crucial to advance the negotiations on the shape of the post-2015 development agenda.”

“The time has come to take our future into our own hands – to rebalance and reset our economies through stronger regional integration,” stated the ESCAP Chief in her closing remarks, “and move our societies towards more inclusive and sustainable development pathways so that there is shared prosperity, social equity, dignity for all our people and respect for our planet.”