ESCAP calls for transformational change for a more inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific future

Asia-Pacific nations, driving the global recovery, must take the lead in ushering in shared, sustainable social and economic prosperity for their people amid growing threats of multiple shocks that can set back development gains, the United Nations said here today.

Addressing the annual regional development policymaking forum convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer said Asia and the Pacific cannot continue traveling on the same development path and needs a transformational change towards a more equitable, resilient and sustainable future.

“This change towards inclusive and sustainable development will not prove easy. Great transitions demand even greater collective leadership. That is why we are here today, as leaders of Asia and the Pacific, to discuss, to decide, and to assume a more active role in the stewardship of our region, our people and our planet.”

Recognizing the turning point in the development journey, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed in his opening statement, delivered by Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson: “(the region) is moving together towards new, more inclusive, and more sustainable approaches to growth, security, justice and equality.”

The 69th ESCAP Session has as its theme Building Resilience to Natural Disasters and Major Economic Crises and discussions will focus on the multiple challenges to inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth in the region, in particular, economic shocks and increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters.

Addressing the Session, the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, H.E. U Thein Sein underlined the need for the poorest Asia-Pacific countries to adapt to the increasing threat of natural disasters and economic shocks. “Further economic shocks are possible. The only certainty is that the (global economic) uncertainty will continue... and the poor and most vulnerable will suffer the most,” he said.

Inaugurating the 69th ESCAP Session, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, H.E. Plodprasop Suraswadi said his country “strongly believes that creating regional linkages and integration can play a critical role in promoting sustained economic growth that will be a solid basis for us to enhance resilience and preparedness against unforeseen crises.”

In his statement to the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Security, Timor-Leste, H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao who was elected as Chair of the 69th Commission Session, highlighted the challenges faced by least developed countries (LDCs) as well as fragile and conflict-affected nations.

“It must be recognised that development cannot be achieved when countries are fragile - we must address fragility directly,” the Timor-Leste leader said, adding that development cannot be an external or top-down driven process. “We must make sure that there is local ownership of the development process - we must make sure that there is not only ‘development for all’, but ‘development by all’.”

More than forty senior leaders from the region including heads of State and Government, Vice-Presidents, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and former Ministers are attending the Session.

The opening ceremony of the 69th ESCAP Session was followed by a Ministerial Roundtable on Sustainable Development and the Development Agenda beyond 2015 in which the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, H.E. Gordon Darcy Lilo, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lao PDR, H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, the Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, H.E. Emelia Pires and the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, India, H.E. Daggubati Purandeswari, shared national perspectives on inclusive and sustainable development as well as the global development agenda beyond the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Moderating the session, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson used his mediation background to highlight the new need for making peace with nature: “We have to be in tune not only with our people’s needs, but also of our planet.”The 69th ESCAP forum concludes on 1 May with the adoption of a number of resolutions addressing challenges and opportunities before the region including on sustainable development and resilience, empowering regional connectivity and growth, improving support for countries with special needs as well as building regional capacity and social equity.