CS73: Senior Officials Segment - Agenda item 4: Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific

Delivered during deliberation of Agenda item 4 of the Senior Officials Segment of the 73rd Commission Session in Bangkok, Thailand.

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia-Pacific requires strong political commitment and action at the country level, coupled with coordinated actions at the regional and global levels. With Resolution 72/6, member States showed their commitment to the 2030 Agenda and requested the Secretariat to support the implementation of this bold agenda in four main areas. Allow me to now outline the outcomes of ESCAP’s work in these four areas:

First, ESCAP is advising countries on the integration and balancing of the three dimensions of sustainable development by helping them align their national strategies with the 2030 Agenda. Furthermore, we have intensified our interactions with subregional organizations to foster sustainable development. For example, our partnership with ASEAN promotes complementarity between the 2030 Agenda and the ASEAN Vision 2025. In addition to these efforts, we are also working to ensure the consistency of national policies and actions with global strategies such as the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries, the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries and the Samoa Pathway for Small Island Developing States.

Second, at the Fourth Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development member States agreed to put the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda up for endorsement at this Commission session. The Road Map lays out priority areas, implementation arrangements and a process for tracking SDG progress. It will, with the support of ESCAP, facilitate regional level cooperation with a focus on the practical means of implementation and specific thematic areas.

Third, ESCAP has been promoting policy integration, coherence and consistency, including technical assistance for integrating the SDGs into policy and fiscal frameworks. To support this work, we have produced five subregional analytical products focused on the key policy priorities and implementation challenges for accelerated achievement of the SDGs in each subregion.

Fourth, ESCAP has provided capacity development tools and services and peer-to-peer learning opportunities to member States. We have supported data and statistics capacity building under the guidance of the Committee on Statistics, and for other means of implementation, such as finance, technology and trade. Our knowledge platforms to support member States with SDG implementation include the Asia-Pacific Knowledge Platform for Sustainable Development; the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform and a knowledge platform on disaster risk reduction and resilience.

Allow me to highlight two events that have substantively characterized the regional discourse on sustainable development in the past year: (a) The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) and (b) Financing for Development (FFD).

(a) Fourth APFSD

The APFSD is now firmly established as an annual, inclusive intergovernmental forum that provides our regional voice to the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF). The theme of the most recent Fourth Session was “Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a changing Asia-Pacific”. This theme was in line with the theme of the upcoming HLPF.

This year’s Forum included several high level plenary discussions, dedicated sessions on voluntary national reviews, gender and localizing the SDGs, and roundtable sessions focusing on in-depth reviews of the cluster of goals that will be discussed at this years’ HLPF (Goal 1 Poverty; Goal 2 Zero hunger; Goal 3 Healthy lives; Goal 5 Gender; Goal 9 Infrastructure, industrialization and innovation; and Goal 14 Oceans, seas and marine resources). From these discussions a clear picture of the progress and challenges of SDG implementation in Asia-Pacific emerged, enabling us now to focus our future action.

The roundtables were organized in close collaboration with the UN system using the Regional Coordination Mechanism and its Thematic Working Groups. Through the Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership, ESCAP, ADB and UNDP jointly worked to advance the 2030 Agenda and delivered three knowledge products to guide SDG implementation. These examples demonstrate how ESCAP is working to strengthen inter-agency cooperation and collaboration in support of the APFSD and the SDG agenda.

Most importantly, the Fourth Session of the APFSD laid the foundation for future regional cooperation through adopting The Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Form and Function of the APFSD. As I have already discussed the former, allow me to now focus on the Form and Function of the APFSD. Through adopting this document, member States institutionalized this inclusive, intergovernmental forum into the ESCAP conference structure. APFSD is now the first institutionalized regional intergovernmental platform integrating a wide range of interdisciplinary topics and expertise to advance sustainable development. This will ensure continued broad-based discussions on approaches and trends in regional sustainable development as well as cross-fertilization of knowledge and experience sharing. It will also enable ESCAP to provide member States with comprehensive technical support and cooperation, which will be valuable for follow up and review.

The increasing importance of the APFSD reinforces ESCAP’s intention to leverage its intergovernmental platforms effectively for the 2030 Agenda and to ensure re-alignment of the work programmes of our nine Committees towards SDG implementation.

(b) Financing for development

The 2030 Agenda identifies finance as a key means of implementation, and calls for strengthening partnerships for this purpose. Similarly, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda encourages the United Nations regional commissions, in cooperation with regional banks and organizations, to mobilize expertise and existing mechanisms in support of the financing agenda.

ESCAP responded early to the importance of financing for sustainable development and to the needs of its member States. Guided by member States, we have focused our financing for development work on three thematic areas: domestic public resource mobilization and rethinking public finance for sustainable development, engaging the private sector for infrastructure development; and promoting financial inclusion.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the salient features of three key activities and achievements we have had in the past year.

First, in April 2017, we organized the 4th High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance of Sri Lanka. The Dialogue promoted in-depth policy discussions on issues related to public finance, infrastructure investment and financial inclusion. Building on our three previous FFD consultations, this Dialogue moved from general discussions to more concrete and action-oriented knowledge sharing and policy debates.

Let me briefly share some of the main messages that emerged from this year’s Dialogue:

  • Public expenditure and tax policies are crucial for the effective pursuit of sustainable development. ESCAP should play a role in facilitating cooperation for knowledge exchange and policy coordination on public expenditure and tax policy.
  • Public-private-partnerships (PPPs) are essential to closing the region’s infrastructure financing gaps. ESCAP’s capacity building efforts have been important to PPP development in member States.
  • Deepening financial inclusion and SME financing for sustainable and inclusive development in the region is critical, and technological progresses, like FinTech, provide new opportunities to achieve this.

Second, in December 2016, we established an Eminent Expert Group on Tax Policy and Public Expenditure Management for Sustainable Development as an independent advisory board. This group will provide policy guidance and contribute expertise to ESCAP’s work on public finance related issues. The Tax Expert Group comprises 18 experienced policy makers and renowned experts from both within and outside of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Tax Expert Group’s first meeting highlighted the need to rethink and recalibrate public finance policies in Asia-Pacific to meet the new demands of the 2030 Agenda and address the region’s unique challenges, such as finance for sustainable urban development. The experts advocated for an Asia-Pacific approach and vision, emphasizing closer regional cooperation to address the tax challenges beyond national borders, including through more effective use of existing regional cooperation platforms and mechanisms. ESCAP to date has introduced 5 analytical products on the topics prioritized by member States, each of which can be downloaded from our website.

Third, we have strengthened our capacity development efforts to build upon our policy and technical assistance to member States in PPPs for infrastructure investment. We have done this through delivering a series of workshops on infrastructure financing strategies for sustainable development and by preparing two targeted research papers on “PPP Policy, Legal and Institutional Frameworks in Asia-Pacific” and “PPP for Cross-Border Infrastructure Development”. We also launched a value-for-money toolkit in June 2016 to support member States in screening PPP projects.

Furthermore, we have expanded our partnership network for better knowledge dissemination. We joined 11 other international organizations in the PPP Knowledge Lab to provide comprehensive online resources with easy access to data and the latest knowledge products. We have also established cooperation with national institutions, including the China PPP Centre, which has adopted ESCAP’s online PPP training programme as part of their training package.

ESCAP resolution 71/1 in 2015 reconstituted the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Development as the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development. This was a timely change and will support member States in effectively implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in our region.

With this mandate and the encouragement provided by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, our regional commission has significantly enhanced its expertise and support for member States on financing for development related issues. ESCAP’s regional dialogue series, its analytical knowledge products and its capacity development activities are increasingly being recognized and used by member States and partner institutions.

I would like to thank you for supporting our work and I count on your continuing guidance to push constructive efforts forward.

I thank you.