First Townhall Meeting with ESCAP Staff Members

It is a great honour and pleasure to address you, my team, as your new Executive Secretary. Let me begin by thanking the Secretary-General for this appointment and for his trust, and all of you for welcoming me so warmly.

This is my first morning at work and I am happy to address all of you. So let me be brief as this is a time for me to listen.

Over the next few days, our senior management team will be reporting to me and I look forward to learning about their vision, strategy and work plan. Today, I just want to share with you three messages:

First, 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. We can become the region that meets the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as well as other internationally agreed development commitments.

Noeleen Heyzer Second, how successful or relevant ESCAP will be as a Commission for the 21st Century depends on all of us, each and everyone, accepting our shared responsibility to work together to take advantage of this window of opportunity. There is no guarantee that this window will remain open for long. There is therefore urgency to come together
as a community to renew our purpose and take necessary action. I know that, if we have strength of purpose, unity of vision and direction, if we work and work together, we can make a difference.

Third, to make a difference we have to understand the changing milieu or contexts within which we work – external and internal. In other words, we need to understand the economic, social and political context within which our Regional Commission functions, as well as the reforms taking place in the UN system of which the Regional Commissions are a part.

The Asian and Pacific region has some of the world’s highest growth economies, with economic powerhouses like China, Japan and India driving the global economy. It also houses countries that have invested in human and social development, demonstrating significant increases in health, social protection, education and skill formation.

At the same time, most of the world’s poor also live in this region. Income and wealth inequality is increasing very rapidly. And in many places, social grievances and exclusion along the fault line of ethnicity, religion and class continues together with systemic discrimination and violence against women and girls.

There is relatively little policy and strategic analysis of the comparative experiences of countries in relation to the numerous economic and social options in the region and their relative successes and failures. ESCAP can fill this niche and play a much stronger role in providing more comparative and critical analysis of experience across countries
and of the various policy prescriptions to determine what has been relatively successful, especially in the age of decentralization, globalization and problems without borders.

Indeed in the context of UN reform, the Secretary-General wants a renewal of the Regional Commissions. In the next few weeks, I want to engage you in a dialogue to hear how we can shape and implement an agenda for reform so that we can be truly fit to address agendas and issues of the twenty-first century that are affecting our region.

My hope is:

That we can make ESCAP a powerful regional hub for genuine sharing of development thinking, strategies and practice;
That we can focus on urgent transnational issues confronting the region, and help member States develop a common regional voice
on issues that are on the global agenda;

That we can build strong analytical and policy capacities to provide more strategic technical assistance for more effective policy-making and institutional capacity building in the context of regional and South-South cooperation.

Finally, the objectives that we set ourselves can only be achieved through the power of genuine partnerships and harnessing the energy, the ideas, the talents and the resources within the UN system, within Governments, the private sector, and society and think-tanks in the region and globally.

We must mobilize the best, the committed and the caring so that we have an alliance that can respond adequately to this time of great possibilities. We have in our power the ability to create a dynamic Commission, if we work together more effectively and strategically. But we need to know our strengths and confront our weaknesses. I will build on the reforms that Mr. Kim has put in place. I will build on the good work of each and every one of you.

But I will also ask you to identify the stumbling blocks, so that together we can turn them into building blocks. Only then can we be a force that helps bring about development, justice and peace in our dynamic region.

I thank you and I look forward to working closely with all of you.