United Nations marks foundation day calling for Asia-Pacific economic, social and environmental resilience

The United Nations Asia-Pacific bodies headquartered in Bangkok marked the 67th anniversary of the world organization’s founding on 24 October, emphasizing the need to make regional development economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and resilient to recurring natural disasters.

The top United Nations official in the region, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer and the Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs joined the Foreign Minister of Thailand, H.E. Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul for the annual commemoration of United Nations Day which focused on the need to disaster-proof progress towards inclusive and sustainable growth in a region recovering from a series of unprecedented natural catastrophes last year.

“For people across Asia and the Pacific, 2011 will be remembered as a year of disasters. The Great East Japan Earthquake, the South-East Asian floods, the earthquake in New Zealand and flooding in China affected the lives of millions and cost a staggering $294 billion – the highest annual losses ever recorded, representing 80% of global losses due to disasters in 2011,” said Dr. Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Releasing the 2012 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report published by ESCAP and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Dr. Heyzer pointed out that rapid, unchecked urbanization, increasing population and the maximization of economic growth are linked to the “increasing exposure of our people and economic assets, and the inability of the most vulnerable groups to cope with disasters.”

Delivering the ESCAP Distinguished Persons lecture on United Nations Day, renowned development economist Professor Sachs emphasized the need for good governance to strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development as pledged by world leaders at the landmark June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Speaking on the theme “Sustainable Development Solutions for Asia”, Professor Sachs stressed that in a world with more than 1 billion people in extreme poverty and facing constant risk of extreme disasters, it is vital to address the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development together. “We cannot achieve one without achieving the other.”

Dr. Heyzer too underlined the need for economic growth strategies to “evolve” as “it is clear that conventional growth strategies are increasingly ill-adapted to a new economic reality of growing resource constraints, rising inequalities, jobless growth and persistent environmental vulnerability.”

ESCAP, as the premier intergovernmental platform in the region is helping bring together Asia-Pacific governments, the private sector and civil society to make the region's development more sustainable, Dr. Heyzer said.