CS73: Statement during the Opening of the Senior Officials Segment or 73rd Session of the Commission

Delivered during the Opening of the Senior Officials Segment or 73rd Session of the Commission in Bangkok, Thailand.

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the seventy-third session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of ESCAP and the second year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The secretariat has worked with member States to reform ESCAP and make it “fit-for-purpose” to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Together with you, we have made considerable progress in formulating strategies that seek to eradicate poverty and ensure that development balances the needs of economy, people and planet. Allow me to highlight some of the major outcomes and achievements in this regard:

The 2030 Agenda

A major outcome of the Fourth APFSD was the agreement to put the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda up for endorsement at this Commission session. The Road Map promotes the balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. It sets out a series of priority areas for regional cooperation. It also calls for enhanced technical cooperation on the thematic areas including disaster risk reduction and resilience, climate change, and connectivity as well as on the means of implementation including finance, data and statistics, partnerships and technology. We count on the Commission’s final endorsement of the Regional Road Map later this week.

ESCAP is in the process of developing a regional resource facility on SDGs. This is expected to be one of the key mechanisms to promote South-South, North-South and triangular cooperation on the 2030 Agenda in the Asia-Pacific. It will comprise of (i) cutting edge analytical reports addressing gaps in the SDGs and providing policy solutions which respond to the specific situations of countries; (ii) a compendium of good practices and policies, with an analysis of their transferable elements; (iii) a database of experts and organizations working on SDG-related issues; (iv) online capacity building tools which would allow policy makers and other stakeholders to acquire skills and knowledge on the SDGs; and (v) statistical databases on SDG targets and indicators. The resource facility will also have funds to promote face-to-face exchanges on specific issues of interest to member States.

Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration

We have also made major strides in promoting regional economic cooperation and integration (RECI).

At the Committee on ICT and STI last year, member States endorsed the Master Plan for the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway and the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Regional Cooperation Framework Document. Together these documents aim to close the growing digital divide. ESCAP was requested to analyze the region’s needs, build capacity, share best practices, and develop common standards to enable the widespread use of ICT. The Committee also agreed that an Asia-Pacific innovation forum had the potential to enhance knowledge sharing, facilitate collaboration and support an effective interface between science and policy.

Last December in Moscow, member States adopted the Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Transport Connectivity in Asia-Pacific. This agreement is a blueprint for strengthening regional cooperation in the transport sector in Asia-Pacific. It also provides new impetus for achieving the vision of seamless connectivity based on quality sustainable infrastructure and supportive policy and legal frameworks. The Ministerial Conference also strongly supported the establishment of an interregional coordination committee on transport between Asia and Europe. To this end, harmonizing technical and operational standards will be critical to ensuring seamless connectivity between the two regions and for addressing the connectivity challenges Central Asian countries face.

In January, the new Committee on energy convened for the first time. The committee confirmed the need for regional collaboration on SDG7. The Committee deliberated on the trends and issues relating to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy as well as the need for increased connectivity and sustainable clean energy solutions. The inaugural Committee session also provided guidance and direction for how the Energy Committee and ESCAP’s newly formed Energy Division should function.

On the request of our member States, this year’s theme study, Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Energy in Asia and the Pacific, provides an assessment of the factors that can support sustainable energy transformation in our region. The theme study underscores that a new architecture for regional energy governance drawing on shared knowledge and experience needs to be developed. To facilitate this, the study recommends developing a regional cooperation framework on sustainable energy to enable Governments to identify pathways towards energy system transition. These pathways include strengthening governance, improving economic instruments, strengthening partnerships, mobilizing finance and investment, capitalizing on opportunities for energy connectivity and trade, promoting science, technology and innovation, and managing trade-offs. Many of these topics will be discussed at the second Asian and Pacific Energy Forum in 2018.

Last month, these strands of connectivity, namely ICT, transport and energy, together with market integration, financial cooperation and shared vulnerabilities were discussed at the High-level Dialogue on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration. In particular, the High-Level Dialogue focused on the mutually reinforcing nature of RECI and the 2030 Agenda. Four key recommendations emerged from the dialogue:
First, to support market integration, Asia-Pacific should reduce non-tariff barriers, streamline regulatory frameworks, agree on common standards, and implement the Framework Agreement on Cross-Border Paperless Trade.

Second, seamless connectivity and integrated sustainable transport, energy and ICT infrastructure across the region must be realized.

Third, improving regional economic surveillance and crisis management capacity, deepening financial markets, and delivering innovative financing solutions to support sustainable infrastructure development will strengthen financial cooperation.

Finally, shared vulnerabilities and risks which cut across the policy spectrum must be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach to disaster risk reduction to achieve sustainable development. Regional cooperation should help countries with high risks but low capacities by providing them the opportunity to engage with other member States to find common strategies, approaches, and tools for building resilience to disasters.

Financing for Development

The Fourth High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, co-hosted by the Ministry of Finance of Sri Lanka, deepened our engagement in enhancing the role of public finance for sustainable development. Member States called for more broad-based discussion among policy makers, tax administrators, and relevant regional and subregional organizations to address tax challenges in the region. ESCAP was encouraged to leverage its intergovernmental mechanisms and existing platforms to facilitate such discussions.

Through our FFD platform, ESCAP has also been cross-fertilizing the experience of the role of the private sector in building resilient and sustainable infrastructure through public-private partnerships (PPPs) and in deepening and integrating capital markets. To this end, ESCAP was requested to support PPP capacity building programmes in our member States and lead an Asia-Pacific PPP Unit network to promote PPP country experience sharing.

The importance of greater financial inclusion for individuals and small and medium enterprises has also been emphasized on our FFD platform. Member States have noted that enhancing financial inclusion requires a well-designed financial regulatory framework which balances the objectives of increasing access to finance and maintaining financial stability. To this end, ESCAP has been requested to set up a working group to advance financial inclusion in the region.

The Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development will take the FFD agenda forward under member State guidance.

Enhancing Data and Statistics

The Committee on Statistics, which was held last December, established a way forward for regional collaboration to strengthen statistics for the SDGs by endorsing a collective vision and framework for action, which was also incorporated into the Regional Road Map at APFSD. Going forward, ESCAP’s will focus on development of statistical methods and management and business processes. This work programme will increase the use of innovative data collection, enhance the use and analysis of statistics through the application of data integration and disaggregation methods, and increase the use of data sources from the broader national data ecosystems to modernize the production of official statistics. To support this work, ESCAP, together with ADB and UNDP, has launched an SDG Partnership Data Portal, which is enriched by the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific and the ESCAP Regional Statistical Database.

Enhancing partnerships to enable effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda

ESCAP’s main priority is to support SDG implementation through effective cooperation with all stakeholders. We have revitalized our partnerships and ensured our platform enhances linkages at all levels of the development spectrum, from policymakers to on-the-ground implementing partners.

ESCAP reformed the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) to encourage a unified regional response so that the UN system delivers services in a coherent manner. This will enable the regional commission to serve as a bridge between the global level and the country level. The RCM now comprises seven Thematic Working Groups1 which offer holistic, cross-sectoral policy and analytical advice on the SDGs.

At an operational level, ESCAP has further developed our partnerships to enhance coordination and cooperation. For example, the new SDGs Partnership between ESCAP, ADB and UNDP pools resources and expertise, and provides member States with efficiency dividends. While this partnership’s origin dates back to the MDGs, its recent re-launch has the potential to enhance impact. ESCAP has also furthered its engagement with subregional organizations including, ASEAN, SAARC, ECO, SCO and PIF.

Administrative reforms

To ensure we assist member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda, the secretariat must be effective and efficient. To this end, we have launched several key administrative measures including Umoja and IPSAS to manage the allocation of resources and provide comprehensive and timely management information. We have also proactively participated in the Secretary-General’s management reforms, including the Global Service Delivery Model, the Gender Strategy and the ICT strategy.

In 2016, member States approved the Seismic and Retrofit and Lifecycle replacement project to ensure compliance with seismic and other fire and life-safety codes for the premises. Long-term benefits of the project include sustainability, energy efficiency, life-cycle costing, space usage, and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Strategic priorities, resolutions and decisions

A substantial and important week lies ahead of us.

The nine resolutions sponsored this year capture the need for coordinated action on RECI and the SDGs. A series of resolutions focus on strengthening the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, energy and transport connectivity, and highlight national and regional initiatives in this regard. Other resolutions address the challenges that continue to confront the landlocked developing countries as well as our member States in the Pacific. A final resolution seeks to ensure that we work together to overcome our vulnerabilities to natural disasters. This urgent priority for our region was most recently underscored by the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Donna in Vanuatu and other nearby areas.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 70th anniversary of our Commission provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance and successes of ESCAP, but also serves to remind us of the challenges ahead.

Progress on our inclusive multi-sectoral intergovernmental platform has been substantive, serving to support regional economic prosperity and to lift the living standards of our people. With concerted reforms and restructuring, we stand ready to further support you in eradicating poverty and inequalities through coordinated and integrated SDG implementation.

I look forward to the debates ahead and I thank you.