Enhancing ESCAP's Role in Pacific Island Countries: Reforming ESCAP to Better Serve the Needs of Pacific Island Countries

Honorable Pacific Leaders,
Distinguished Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is such an honour for me to be able to personally meet each and every one of you here in Noumea. I understand that this is first meeting that the Commission has organized at this level in the Pacific.

As you know, this is my first official visit to the Pacific as Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the pacific. Since the secretariat of this regional commission is based in Bangkok, it is a rare opportunity for me to be able to meet representatives from so many countries in the Pacific at any one time. I would therefore like to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for making this consultation possible.

I would like to share with you today, my vision and strategy for ESCAP to serve the Asian and Pacific region in a more relevant and effective manner. ESCAP today is situated in a region of great diversity and change. There is therefore, a window of opportunity for ESCAP to be revitalized and positioned as a strategic and critical player in assisting our member States, the private sector and civil society partners to shape a more balanced and integrated economic and social order in the region – one that addresses poverty, inequality, our ecology and human well-being. How successful or relevant ESCAP will be as a Commission for the 21st Century depends on all of us accepting our shared responsibility to work together to take advantage of this window of opportunity. There is no guarantee that this window of opportunity will be open very long. I know that if we have the strength of purpose, unity of vision and direction, we can make a difference.

My vision is to make ESCAP a leading regional hub promoting cooperation among member states to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Asia-Pacific. This is with the objective of supporting member states with sound strategic analysis, policy options and technical cooperation to address key development challenges and to implement innovative solutions for region-wide prosperity, social progress and environmental sustainability. ESCAP would be able to offer member States a platform for policy dialogue and consensus building as well as policy options, good practices, norms and standards for achieving economic progress, and equip them with the tools and knowledge to take informed decisions on key development challenges. ESCAP would focus on urgent transnational issues confronting the region, and help member States develop a common regional voice on issues on the global agenda.

During this consultation, I would therefore like to seek your views on how the Commission could better serve your needs.

The Conference structure forms the basis for the functioning of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and is the main oversight mechanism for ensuring that the work of the Commission is owned and driven by member States. During the past years, continued reform efforts have been carried out to enhance the relevance and impact of the work of the organization in terms of concrete outcomes that benefit member States. Through the consultative process which has recently taken place in Bangkok, the Working Group of the Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives on the Conference Structure has prepared a draft resolution on restructuring the conference structure, which is attached to the note by the secretariat. The document identifies several key issues contained in the draft resolution on the revised conference structure of the Commission, highlights possible implications for our members and associate members in the Pacific and proposes measures, which could be taken to address these issues.

The draft resolution, for example, proposes that the special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries and the Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries be held during the senior officials’ segment of the Commission. This could enable countries with special needs to express their view at discussions at the highest levels.

At this meeting today, I should like to also request you to advise us on the specific areas which you consider as priorities in the Pacific so that your views are better reflected in the outcomes of intergovernmental body meetings and our technical cooperation activities. Your guidance could ensure that appropriate activities are implemented under each subprogramme and that appropriate level of staffing is allocated to the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre.

As you know, the Centre has operated primarily as a technical cooperation office since 1984. During this period, some of the best people from the region have headed this Centre and contributed to development. In order to maintain its relevance, the functions of this office should continue to evolve in line with the needs of your countries.

We are currently pursuing efforts to strengthen the Centre as part of ESCAP’s policy to ensure greater outreach to member States specifically to those special groups of countries such as Small Island Developing States.

I would like to give you my personal assurance that your views will be taken into account in the finalization of the draft resolution at this session of the Commission.

Distinguished representatives,

Before closing, I am pleased to inform you that the Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries and Advisory Council of the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre will be convened in Bangkok on 22 and 23 April 2008, immediately prior to the sixty-fourth session of the Commission. At this session of the Special Body, (1) economic and social policies to address the urbanization agenda and labour market trends; and (2) formulation of national sustainable development strategies will be considered. I would like to request representation at the highest level from your countries at these intergovernmental body meetings.

I would like to close by reiterating our strong commitment to work more closely and effectively with countries in the Pacific and their development partners, and look forward to hearing how we can deepen our collaboration with you.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of New Caledonia for hosting this consultation and the Secretary-General of the Pacific Community for allowing use of this venue. Without their assistance, it would simply not have been possible for me to meet all of you.

Thank you.