Closing Remarks at Fifth Session of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development

Delivered at UNCC in Bangkok, Thailand

Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to address the closing session of the Fifth Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, APFSD. Our intense discussions and productive work over the past three days highlight the importance of regional collaboration to overcome the challenge of becoming a more resilient and sustainable Asia-Pacific region.

This has been a productive session. I commend you for adopting the Report of the Fifth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development which will be transmitted to the 74th ESCAP Commission Session and to the High-level Political Forum, ensuring that our regional voice will be heard at the global level.

During this Fifth Session, the APFSD has served as a platform for member States to share their achievements, the challenges faced and the opportunities arising from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank Member States and all stakeholders for their contributions. You have demonstrated real commitment and enthusiasm to move forward on a common journey.

In light of the complex risks facing the region, the forum underscored that resilience building is a pre-requisite to achieve the sustainable development goals. The forum highlighted that efforts to identify and empower the vulnerable populations exposed to emerging complex risks, and promoting participation of all stakeholders in policy processes should lie at the core of resilience building efforts.

During the Forum, we discussed progress towards the implementation of SDG 17 in the region through the lens of resilience. Many of you noted the importance of inclusive and participatory multi-stakeholder and multi-level partnerships, including civil society, academia and business, in implementing and monitoring the SDGs.

The five parallel roundtables allowed in depth regional and local perspectives on reaching key goals to

  • ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;
  • deliver access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all;
  • make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable;
  • ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; and
  • protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

Discussions revealed several options to make further progress on each goal, but also emphasized the need for integrated policy making to make progress across the whole spectrum of the SDGs.

During the dialogue, country and civil society representatives, academics, business representatives and development agents from our region highlighted how to translate these global agreements into action and how to address their interlinkages. We were reminded that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are for the people and they need to be included fully in their implementation. The need to respect biodiversity for people and the Planet, and for the preservation of Indigenous knowledge and technologies was recognized as critical for enhancing the resilience of societies.

An interesting exchange took place between the countries that conducted VNRs in our region last year sharing their lessons learned since their reporting at the HLPF in 2017 and those member states that face this task this year.

This session discussed key learning outcomes and challenges faced by previous and currently reporting VNR countries. Member states speaking in the session highlighted the importance of: (i) Government ownership (both local and national government) and political leadership; (ii) Stakeholder engagement and consultation; (iii) Coordination, both within government, with stakeholders and development partners; (iv) integration with national and local planning; (v) ensuring the availability of quality, disaggregated data for SDG monitoring and follow-up; and (vi) financing the reporting process was highlighted as a challenge, in particular for least developed countries.

We presented progress on the regional road map for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific agreed on at the Fourth APFSD and endorsed by ESCAP member States at the 73rd Commission Session (resolution 73/9).

Numerous country and stakeholder statements highlighted ongoing action across all sectors, appreciated support by regional partners such as ESCAP, and highlighted remaining gaps such as inadequate statistical capacity.

An interactive session provided space for various stakeholders, to discuss challenges and opportunities for building effective partnerships in support of the implementation of the 2030 agenda.

The session emphasized that for partnerships to be transformative, issues should not be overly politicized and this is done best if partnerships are as inclusive as possible - so it is crucial to find ways to work with each other even if interests and views conflict. Also, transformative partnerships need data. To discuss differentiated views, it is vital to have evidence. Effective and transparent partnership is one which is institutionalized - all major stakeholders should have a seat at the decision making table.

The APFSD has, once again, provided an opportunity for interagency cooperation and collaboration thanks also to the presence, for the first time, of UN Resident Coordinators from our Region. In its second year of activity, through the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership, ESCAP, ADB and UNDP have again shown leadership in pooling resources and expertise to advance the 2030 Agenda. Our combined efforts between the three institutions have produced a thematic report to provide policy advice to develop resilience capacities to address these challenges.

Your APFSD deliberations this year have laid the foundation for a concerted and effective regional response to ensure that our region become more resilient and sustainable.

While the countries of Asia and the Pacific are forging ahead in this common endeavor, much work remains to be done to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda. APFSD and ESCAP will continue to support crucial dialogue among member states, to share challenges and best practices to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs .

As we close this session, my thanks go to our Co-Chairs, the Vice-Chairs and delegates from our Member States, colleagues from across the United Nations system, civil society and other stakeholder organizations, as well as to our excellent moderators, speakers and discussants. I would also like to thank our Secretariat team for their hard work.

I wish you all a safe journey home.