UN urges Asia-Pacific nations to step up in steering the region towards shared and sustainable growth

Facing economic uncertainty abroad, resource constraints and widening social inequalities at home, Asia and the Pacific must come closer together to sustain its dynamic growth and ecological health, making prosperity more inclusive, the United Nations told leaders of the region here today.

Addressing the annual gathering of countries from around the region at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) session, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer urged them to rise to the challenge of the “transformational leadership” needed to promote growth that is not only dynamic but shared and sustainable.

“Asia has grown, our economies have flourished, and economic power has shifted to our region – but at a cost to our people and to our planet, with rising inequalities and ecosystems stretched beyond their carrying limits.”

With the continuing uncertainty in the advanced economies threatening Asia-Pacific economic dynamism, the region must seek a new path of shared and sustainable prosperity, Dr. Heyzer said. “In order to steer through the turbulence, to a new path of shared and sustainable prosperity, we must rethink and rebalance the economies and societies of our region.”

The ESCAP session has as its theme Growing Together – Economic Integration for an Inclusive and Sustainable Asia-Pacific Century to highlight the region’s immense untapped potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth by working together to build a more integrated Asia-Pacific market, seamless regional connectivity, financial cooperation and a coordinated regional response to shared social and environmental risks.

In her statement to the ESCAP forum, H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, noting the timeliness of the United Nations emphasis on regional integration, said subregional cooperation frameworks were the “building blocs” towards realizing the vision of a close knit Asia and the Pacific.

“In our view, for integration in the Asia-Pacific to succeed, we need to support the integration process of various sub-regional groupings, such as ASEAN, with regard to both economic and social issues.”

Earlier, addressing the session, Prime Minister of Samoa, H.E. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi stressed that regional cooperation was vital for small and isolated Pacific Island nations and “that the potential is substantial, particularly in areas of trade, investment and resource development where the interest of our Asian partners are on the rise.”

In his keynote address to the Commission session, Prof. Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore noted that regional economic integration creates economies of scale. Additionally, “the most important reason for supporting regional economic integration is that it creates jobs and enhances human welfare,” he said.

“It is no longer enough for Asia and the Pacific to grow the most – our future success demands of us to grow the best,” Dr. Heyzer stated in closing. “ESCAP provides the most inclusive multilateral platform for Asia and the Pacific to forge that shared future – together.”