ESCAP 70th Commission Session Welcoming Address

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the United Nations ESCAP, delivering her opening address at the first phase of the 70th Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Photo Credit: UN ESCAP/Martin Dessart

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

Welcome to the first phase of the 70th session of the Commission. This is my first Commission session, and I look forward to engaging regularly with you, in order to ensure that the secretariat serves our member States to the best of our ability.

Following consultations with members and associate members, and taking into consideration the extraordinary situation in Bangkok, this year’s Commission session is being held in two phases. The second phase will be convened from 4 to 8 August 2014, and we are counting on more conducive conditions for the fully-fledged session of the Commission.

This is actually the second time in the Commission’s history that the annual session has been held in two phases. It is my fervent hope that this is also the last time that we have to divide the Commission session in this way.

The first phase of the seventieth session will focus on the ESCAP’s strategic framework for the biennium 2016-2017.This framework lays out the vision and priorities for ESCAP’s work, and offers a multi-dimensional strategy for assisting countries. The intention is to deepen our engagement on regional integration and cooperation, and to further promote sustainable development within ESCAP’s core mandate.

Two Key Resolutions

In addition to issues related to management of ESCAP’s programme of work, two important resolutions have been presented to you for consideration:

  1. The government of Bangladesh has presented a resolution calling for the Commission to endorse the declaration of the Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration. The resolution calls for the establishment of four expert groups on (i) the formation of an integrated market; (ii) development of seamless connectivity across the region; (iii) enhancing financial cooperation; and (iv) increasing economic and technical cooperation to address shared vulnerabilities and risks. These working groups will review current regional initiatives, identify gaps and recommend concrete actions in the four focus areas. Their findings will be presented to the preparatory meetings of the second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific, in 2015.
  2. The second resolution, presented by the government of the Philippines, will initiate work to conceptualize and begin to develop a basic range of disaster-related statistics. This, in turn, will help countries to make more evidence-based policy decisions, and help to standardize data collection, as part of their strategies for dealing with natural disasters. Apart from the benefits to our own region, this is also groundbreaking work with great potential to benefit other regions as well. The resolution calls for establishing an expert group, comprising statisticians and disaster risk reduction experts, who will report their findings to the Committee on Statistics later this year; to the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015; and to the Commission in 2016. The resolution also asks the secretariat to inform the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will be held in March 2015.

Phase II of the 70th Session

The second phase of the 70th session will deliberate on, among other issues, the Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Pacific Island Developing Countries; and the subsidiary structures of the Commission, including the work of the regional institutions. It will also discuss the findings of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, 2014, and the theme study “Regional connectivity for shared prosperity.” The annual report on ESCAP’s technical cooperation, resource mobilization and partnerships work will also be presented. In addition, we expect member States to present resolutions on various issues. Thus far, we have received an indication that as many as 10 additional resolutions will be presented to the second phase of the 70th session.

My colleagues in the secretariat and I look forward to benefiting from your well-considered views on the issues raised in this session of the Commission. It is my fervent hope that, together, we will further enhance ESCAP as an intergovernmental platform that can meet the increasing and diverse needs of our members.

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.