Introductory Statement to Agenda Item 4: Management Issues

Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar giving remarks during the first phase of the Economic and Social Commission fro Asia and the Pacific.
Photo Credit: UN ESCAP/Martin Dessart

Mr. Chairperson

Distinguished delegates,

I would like to set the scene for this session by highlighting the key priorities which will underpin ESCAP’s current and future strategic frameworks, and associated programmes of work.

Since my assumption of duties at ESCAP, the secretariat has been engaged in a process of deep reflection, particularly in assessing our strengths as well as areas requiring improvement to make ESCAP a more effective organization to serve you, our member States.

The process has benefitted immensely from the feedback provided by you to our past evaluations, including the conference structure review. These inputs have helped to shape thinking on how we can sharpen the focus of ESCAP’s work to deliver higher-impact results that are responsive to the needs of our membership.

Reinvigorating the Secretariat

Let me share with you some of my plans to reinvigorate the secretariat.

First, I intend to accord priority to enhancing the secretariat’s capacity to support our member States in evidence-based policy-making across the full range of development sectors covered by ESCAP. In particular, we will refine the focus and increase the rigour of our research and analytical work, in order to provide you with sound evidence and policy options.

Second, I would like to work closely with you to further enhance ESCAP’s unique intergovernmental platform. This will enable us to build consensus to yield an even stronger Asia-Pacific voice in global debates, as well as the adoption of regional norms, standards and agreements to accelerate the achievement of the internationally-agreed development goals.

And I would like to explore how we can catalyze innovative and bold partnerships between government and civil society, including the private sector, to support the region’s development agenda.

These initial thoughts on the direction of ESCAP’s work have been validated by the recent programme evaluation of ESCAP carried out by the United Nations Office of Inspection and Oversight Services (OIOS). My understanding is that of the findings of this report were also are based on inputs from member States.

Key Points from OIOS Evaluation

Mr. Chair, let me take this opportunity to share with you some of the key preliminary findings of the OIOS evaluation, as an expression of my commitment to transparency and external accountability. The OIOS recommendations will, once finalized, go before the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) later this year.

Four major findings of the OIOS report are relevant to our discussions today:

First, ESCAP’s research and analytical work has promoted regional cooperation and norm-setting, and facilitated intergovernmental dialogue among member States on regional cooperation, as well as policy work on development issues. ESCAP’s work was found to be most relevant when it targets areas where regional cooperation is critical for success, and which integrate social and economic issues.

Second, the report recommends the need for a stronger ESCAP corporate framework to support joint work planning. The report observes that the lack of such an overarching framework has led to inefficiencies in the implementation of research and analysis, and other ESCAP work.

Third, the report calls for improving the monitoring and evaluation of ESCAP’s research and analysis work, to strengthen our ability to assess overall effectiveness.

And fourth, the report highlights the need to strengthen shared understandings of the respective roles and responsibilities of ESCAP’s subregional offices and substantive divisions.

As part of efforts to move forward, we are now engaged in developing a strategy and an action plan to:

  1. Strengthen research, analytical and publications work;
  2. Coordinate strategic, planning with programme and budgeting; and
  3. Align the work of the subregional offices with ESCAP’s overall programme priorities.

The governance and mandates of the regional institutions, which are covered by resolution 69/1, will further increase programme synergies.

A guiding framework will be developed to enhance our results-orientation; to ensure the work of ESCAP headquarters and the subregional offices are in sync and reinforce a common strategy and work programme; and to ensure that ESCAP adopts the UN-wide emphasis on improving performance management, including implementation of the new mobility policy.

Looking Ahead – the Regional Development Agenda

With your support, we will have to align ESCAP’s substantive role to further promote the inclusive and sustainable future of our region. Strategization will be required to :

  • Build on the outcomes and momentum generated by the just-concluded Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Forum in Pattaya, to strengthen ESCAP’s role, mandated by Rio+20, in building regional cooperation to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development.
  • Formalizing, with your guidance, an ongoing regional architecture to bring the perspectives of the Asia-Pacific region to the global agenda through the annual regional meetings of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF); and ensuring effective input from our region into the shaping of the Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report which will feed into Member State deliberations on the Post-2015 UN development agenda.
  • Putting financing for development and science, technology and innovation (STI) high on our regional cooperation agenda. A key immediate step in our enhanced role in this respect will be the convening of a regional outreach event in Jakarta, on 10 -11 June, to enable the global Committee of Experts on Financing for Sustainable Development to engage with key high-level Asia-Pacific stakeholders on this critical issue. There have been calls in the recent APFSD to also establish a Committee on STI and Finance.
  • Strengthening our strategic role in addressing the impact of climate change in the region, with climate finance and appropriate technology solutions as key elements of the approach to addressing this issue.
  • Strengthening regional connectivity, in areas ranging from infrastructure, transport and trade, to people-to-people links, building on the outcomes of the Intergovernmental Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration convened by ESCAP in December 2013. As you will be aware, building shared prosperity through regional connectivity is the focus of the Theme Study we will be presenting to the second phase of the Commission session in August, as agreed by member States at the last Commission session.
  • Giving greater attention to the pressing issue of natural resource management across the region, by providing strategic analytical and policy support to member State’s efforts to balance development benefits and environmental sustainability.
  • Addressing the growing inequalities in the region, and other challenges such as the region’s unprecedented demographic transition; the youth bulge; gender equality and women’s empowerment; and promoting the social inclusion of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in society.
  • Multiplying the impact of our work by further developing strategic partnerships critical to ESCAP’s long-term impact and outreach. Building our long term partnership with ASEAN will be a particular priority in the coming year, alongside further developing our partnerships with subregional institutions, such as SAARC and others, multilateral financial institutions, the business sector, and civil society.
  • Finally, the further development of interregional cooperation will be strengthened through partnerships and shared objectives with the other UN regional commissions, to maximize our joint impact and to ensure a strong and coordinated regional voice in global policy-making processes.

To move forward, we plan to hold internal and external consultations to develop a more vibrant corporate vision and strategy, along with an action plan to ensure we comply with the OIOS recommendations in order to develop a stronger ESCAP.

Introducing Documents for Commission Discussion

Turning now to the documents before the Commission, delegates should have the following:

- E/ESCAP/70/20, Report on the evaluation activities of ESCAP during the biennium 2012-2013;
- E/ESCAP/70/29, the programme performance report for the biennium 2012-2013;
- E/ESCAP/70/21, the programme changes for the biennium 2014-2015; and
- A/69/6 (Prog. 16), the draft strategic framework 2016-2017.

As indicated earlier, a further management issues document, the Annual Report to the Commission on Technical Cooperation, Partnerships and Resource Mobilization, will be discussed under agenda item 4 (d) which will be considered in phase two of the Commission session in August this year.

Document E/ESCAP/70/20 is issued in support of resolution 66/15, on strengthening the evaluation function of ESCAP, and resolution 67/14, on cooperation between ESCAP and other United Nations and regional and subregional organizations serving Asia and the Pacific. The document has two parts:

  • Firstly, it summarizes the main findings and recommendations of seven evaluations undertaken by the secretariat during the period 2012-2013, and the steps we have taken to implement those recommendations. These exercises included the evaluation of the conference structure undertaken in 2013, which facilitated the review by the Commission of the conference structure at its 69th session, and led to the adoption of resolution 69/1, revising the conference structure, with immediate effect, in accordance with the recommendations of the evaluation. This is a clear example of an evaluation that provided evidence-based information for decision making on organizational improvements.
  • Secondly, as requested by member States, it provides an overview of the way in which the secretariat carries out its mandate, and coordinates its work with regional and subregional organizations such as ASEAN, SAARC and the Pacific Islands Forum, and describes the functioning, decision-making and results of the Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM).

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the value of the RCM, as the primary vehicle at the regional level for strengthening UN coherence in normative and policy issues, as well as promoting practical cooperation in addressing regional development issues. Two areas of major focus for the RCM in the past two years have been the articulation of regional perspectives on the post-2015 United Nations development agenda, and strengthening the partnership between the UN and ASEAN. At the same time, the various RCM thematic working groups bring together the combined resources of the UN in areas such as gender equality, migration, disaster risk reduction, and youth.

A priority of my role as the chair of the RCM in the coming year, will be to strengthen its effectiveness in facilitating substantive cooperation, and to better focus its efforts in areas where the “UN Working as One” can best add value to regional development efforts. Working together effectively on youth issues is one area to which I will be giving particular priority.

Document (E/ESCAP/70/29) contains the programme performance report for the biennium 2012-2013 for the Commission’s review.

The document, which was considered earlier this year by the ACPR, highlights ESCAP’s achievements and results, by subprogramme, for the biennium 2012-2013. The present report is central to holding ESCAP accountable to its members and associate members in terms of the efficient use of resources and the delivery of mandated results.

The Commission may wish to provide the secretariat with guidance on future implementation modalities that would improve the effectiveness of ESCAP.

Document E/ESCAP/70/21 contains the proposed changes for the programme of work for 2014-2015, and requires the Commission’s endorsement.

The proposed changes constitute a mid-term adjustment to the work programme in light of new directions proposed by the Commission at its 69th session, as well as availability of resources and the need to ensure that planned activities have maximum impact.

The proposed changes include adjustments and new activities under the following subprogrammes: Macroeconomic Policy and Inclusive Development; Environment and Development; Social Development; and Statistics.

The proposed changes will contribute to achieving the expected accomplishments that have been previously agreed by member States, and have no additional regular programme budget implications.

Member States will have a further opportunity at the August Commission session to further review programme changes made necessary by changing priorities and mandates.

Document A/69/6 (Prog. 16) contains the draft strategic framework for the biennium 2016-2017. This also requires the endorsement of the Commission, and incorporates the helpful and insightful inputs of members of the ACPR provided earlier this year.

This document sets the direction for how ESCAP will provide a comprehensive platform for consultations, deliberations and policy dialogues for shaping sustainable development; promote cooperation to address regional challenges and priorities; and offer a vehicle for bringing the priorities of Asia and the Pacific to the global agenda.

This strategic framework, covering the first biennium of the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, focuses on internationally agreed development mandates, including the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, which emphasized the role of the regional commissions in promoting the balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Also important, as we look ahead to the next biennium, is General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR). This calls for strengthened cooperation across all parts of the UN system in addressing the priorities of member States, reinforcing ESCAP’s mandate in promoting collaboration across the UN system at regional level, including through our convening of the RCM.

Amongst other highlights of this draft strategic framework is the unprecedented level of emphasis on the need to effectively address gender inequality across all subprogrammes and ESCAP operations.

The draft document before you draws on ESCAP’s mandates, expertise and comparative advantages, and strives to make optimal use of our multi-disciplinary capacities.

It highlights our vital role in providing a platform to promote South-South Cooperation and multi-sectoral approaches to addressing the interlinked opportunities and challenges facing our region. The integration of subregional offices and regional institutes within the overall programme of work of ESCAP is a cornerstone of the framework.

After the Commission’s consideration, the draft strategic framework will be reviewed on 9 June by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) and considered by the General Assembly for final approval towards the end of 2014.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I look forward to the continuing engagement and support of member States, and of all our partners and donors, as we strive together to ensure that the results we aspire to achieve will lead to a resilient Asia-Pacific founded on shared prosperity, social equity and sustainability.

My staff and I look forward to your guidance on these issues.

I thank you.