Statement at Prime Ministers meeting of the Shanghai Corporation Organization Sochi, Russian Federation

Your Excellencies,

Let me at the outset express my appreciation for the invitation to this platform. Fostering SCO and ESCAP partnership, will help both organizations leverage respective complementarities, competence and mandates for the benefit of our Member States. H. E Rashid Alimov and I are exploring opportunities to do so for your consideration.

Regional cooperation, the raison d’être of SCO, is a long-standing ESCAP forte. With changing global dynamics, regional cooperation needs to be pursued with renewed vigour. Recognizing the growing complexities of global dynamics, our November 2017 Ministerial Declaration for Regional Cooperation and Integration calls for renewed, collective actions and the adoption of new cooperative frameworks and solutions to defeat the resurgence of economic nationalism that is creating market uncertainties and threatening free factor mobility. Our region that powers global growth must operate at par with its potential, be inclusive and sustainable, and regain its trade momentum. Our regional integration lags our global level of integration and this comes with attendant risks. Indeed, the SCO’s intraregional trade stands at mere 8 or 9 percent, compared to well over 20 per cent among ASEAN members.

Balanced and sustainable growth and development is critical to deal with the root causes of growing vulnerability and inequalities across our region. SCO members, being ESCAP members, have mandated ESCAP to support the implementation of the Regional Road Map of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Our cross sectoral technical cooperation offers integrated approaches and solutions to exploit socio-economic and environment dimensions of sustainable development, durably deal with transboundary vulnerabilities, and offer integrated framework, tools and instruments to assess and mitigate structural and socio-economic risks which can help prevent conflicts, combat the root causes of terrorism and sustain peace in the region.

Regional cooperation and integration framework will henceforth be guided by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, expanded and deepened. Within these areas and under your guidance we can deepen our collaboration.

  1. To promote seamless connectivity, we delivered the SCO-ESCAP Transport Intergovernmental Agreement, opening more than 15,000 km of Asian Highway routes for transport operation and services. To take this a step further, multimodality can be deepened through SCO and ESCAP work to develop sustainable roads and long-haul railway and dry port networks.
  2. Energy connectivity is equally critical. Energy Ministers are coming together in April 2018 to follow up on 2013 Vladivostok Meeting. This round will discuss enhancing options for sustainable energy for all, and deliberating on energy connectivity through transformation of grids to accommodate variable energy sources including renewable and cleaner sources of energy. We should use this opportunity to develop a joint plan for SCO energy connectivity to enhance cross-border trade of electricity and gas, improve the security, affordability and sustainability of energy supplies.
  3. There is potential to deepen market integration through advice on the removal of several types of trade barriers and on enhancing trade facilitations, including through the Framework Agreement on Facilitating Cross-border Paperless Trade. This was negotiated on an ESCAP platform and is now available for your ratification and operationalisation.
  4. ESCAP membership has agreed a Master Plan for an Asia Information Superhighway. It sets out a framework to reduce the region’s digital divide with opportunities to structure the co-deployment of ICT across the transport network. SCO-ESCAP could consider launching a joint pre-feasibility study to pave the way for the development of a digital economy and inclusive information society.
  5. Disaster risk reduction and resilience is critical for SCO as the region faces all types of disasters - floods, drought and earthquakes. The ASEAN-United Nations Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management offers a potential blueprint for a strategic ESCAP engagement with SCO to promote e-resilience in infrastructure connectivity, early warning through analysis of hazard maps superimposed on infrastructure maps, extending the network of the Regional Space Applications for Sustainable Development and the Regional Drought Mechanism to monitor drought indices and manage drought impacts. ESCAP’s recently established Asia-Pacific Centre for Disaster Information Management (APDIM) will help build capacity to mitigate the most severe impacts of such phenomena.

To conclude, ESCAP is working with our member states to fast track regional cooperation and integration further by supporting implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and Eurasian Initiatives in accordance with the mandates entrusted to us. The Ministerial Conference on Transport held in Moscow last year agreed to establish an ESCAP led interregional coordination committee to coordinate Asia and Europe connectivity. I look forward to working with you to deepen our collaboration in all these areas.