Principal UN policy forum in Asia- Pacific opens with spotlight on post-2015 development agenda

Officials from the Asian and Pacific region met in Bangkok, Thailand at the United Nations Conference Centre for the 71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific under the theme of "Balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: from implementation to integration". The conference took place from 25-29 May 2015.
Photo Credit: United Nations ESCAP
Officials from the Asian and Pacific region met in Bangkok, Thailand at the United Nations Conference Centre for the 71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific under the theme of "Balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: from implementation to integration". The conference took place from 25-29 May 2015. Photo Credit: United Nations ESCAP

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) opened its 71st session in Bangkok today with its Executive Secretary identifying 2015 as a year of global and regional opportunity, and calling on the region's leaders to take action to foster long-term shared prosperity.

“This year, global leaders will lay the foundations of a far-reaching new sustainable development agenda, and sustainability will be further reinforced with a new agreement on climate change and new global partnerships,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar.

“As we take the first steps in the next phase of our shared development journey, the people of Asia and the Pacific are poised to lead in economic growth, in social innovation and in environmental stewardship. We look to the leaders of our region to seize the opportunities of sustainable development and to ensure that 2015 also marks the real start of the Asia-Pacific Century,” she said.

Dr. Akhtar highlighted that with member State support, ESCAP is taking steps to advance stronger regional connectivity for shared prosperity: “Regional integrated intermodal and multimodal transport and logistics systems could combine the strengths of our Trans-Asian Railway and Asian Highway networks into a single integrated intermodal system, with the inclusion of dry ports and maritime transport,” she said. “To close the widening digital divide in the region, our intergovernmental processes are also negotiating principles and norms, and preparing a master plan for the proposed Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway to provide affordable and reliable access to broadband internet for all,” said Dr. Akhtar.

The 71st session is being held under the theme ‘Balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: from integration to implementation,’ and places particular emphasis on balancing and integrating the economic, environmental and social aspects of development. At the request of its member States, ESCAP’s new theme study presents the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development as critical to the success of the post-2015 development agenda. The report also advocates for social justice and ecological protection in order to achieve robust, inclusive and sustainable growth.

In a written message to the 71st Commission session, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed: “The new agenda calls for a strong financing framework for sustainable development and the implementation of the post-2015 agenda that addresses systemic issues for long-term economic growth and employment. The new agenda must be strongly rooted in human rights; it must safeguard peace and security, and leave no one behind.”

Dr. Akhtar emphasized that as the region transitions from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), ESCAP has intensified its consultations on sustainable development and financing with regional policymakers, civil society and the business community, as well as drawing on experience gained during MDG implementation.

“Besides addressing substantial unfinished business, the SDGs call for integrated approaches to development, country ownership and good governance, supported by global and regional partnerships in areas such as finance, technology and data,” said Dr. Akhtar.

Against the backdrop of changing global and regional dynamics, Dr. Akhtar called for five key adjustments to be made to development paths including the need to enhance domestic consumption and demand; pursue inclusive growth; drive urgent structural reforms; strengthen regional cooperation and integration; and address multiple forms of deprivation between genders, income brackets and across the urban-rural divide.

In his inaugural address, General Prayut Chan-ocha (Ret.), Prime Minister of Thailand, emphasized that the results of climate change and natural disasters present shared challenges for member States. The Prime Minister said that all countries should help promote renewable energy and industrial development that is environmentally friendly, and that every country must be prepared to adapt to handle natural disasters.

The Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama, who was elected to Chair of the session, highlighted the positive economic growth in the region, citing structural reforms such as the liberalization of trade, investment and labour markets and the modernizing of civil service as necessary steps being taken by countries for their continued prosperity.

In opening statements from an unprecedented number of Pacific State leaders, the Presidents of Kiribati and Nauru, and the Prime Ministers of Tuvalu and the Cook Islands, expressed support for ESCAP’s intergovernmental platform and its work to advance development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), through mechanisms such as the SAMOA Pathway.

It was the largest group of Pacific Heads of State and Government on any Commission panel in recent memory.

More than 550 participants from 50 member States and Associate Members are attending the 71st Commission session this week.