Asia-Pacific governments discuss regional social protection and development priorities

Top government officials from 60 Asia-Pacific countries meet today to discuss a social protection and economic growth blueprint for the region where high food and oil prices have pushed millions more into poverty.

“Although the dynamic Asia-Pacific developing economies are helping stabilize global recovery from the financial crisis, new challenges threaten to slow and reverse regional progress towards international development goals,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary at the opening of the 67th Commission Session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

“Across the region, as the people of Asia and the Pacific continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the crisis, ESCAP has promoted an agenda for social equity to ensure that governments invest in their people through social protection as the recovery takes hold,” Dr. Heyzer told the Senior Officials’ Meeting at the start of the annual Commission Session. “Inclusive and sustainable development requires a social foundation.”

In the aftermath of the food, fuel and financial crises, this year’s Session takes aim at social protection as an investment in social and economic development and a means of addressing poverty and inequality.

“Our ability to match the economic recovery underway in Asia and the Pacific must be matched with a renewed emphasis on the social dimension of development as well,” said Dr. Heyzer.

The annual Session comprises two parts: the Senior Officials Segment from 19 to 21 May in preparation for the Ministerial Segment, which will be held from 23 to 25 May. A highlight of the ministerial segment on May 23 will be a panel discussion on the theme of the 67th session: “Beyond the Crises: Long term perspectives on social protection and development in Asia and the Pacific.”

The 67th Commission session of ESCAP is being held at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok from 19 to 25 May.