Strengthening ESCAP for Sustainable Development , Regional Cooperation and Asia-Pacific Connectivity

Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, delivering her opening statement at the Senior Officials segment of Phase II of the 70th Session of the Commission on 4 August 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Photo Credit: UNESCAP/Suwat Chancharoensuk

Delivered by Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations & Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, at the opening of the Senior Officials segment of Phase II of the 70th Commission Session in Bangkok, Thailand.

Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

Welcome to the second phase of the seventieth session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said recently that “[the] global future is being built in Asia, and that ours is a rising region of economic dynamism, innovation and potential.”

It is that potential that drives us and provides the impetus to harness the energies, resources and expertise of Rising Asia-Pacific. No other region is better-placed to wipe out extreme poverty, eliminate hunger, eradicate disease, or has shown greater resilience to multiple external shocks.

No other generation of leaders has borne greater responsibility for the future of our people and our planet. To our advantage, the Asia-Pacific region has vast potential, immense resources, and the know-how to ensure the destiny of its people.

My remarks this morning will first offer perspectives about ESCAP’s substantive programme, which is being sharpened to align it better with regional priorities. I will then outline the Commission’s work program for 2014, and Phase 1 of this session, followed by an overview of the resolutions and decisions before us this week.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ESCAP Strategic Development Agenda and Priorities

ESCAP needs to refine its strategic priorities within its approved work program. The significance of this emerges from advancements in the global discourse following the final submission of the Open Working Group’s proposals on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on 19 July 2014, and the forthcoming reports of the Expert Committee on Sustainable Financing, as well as the upcoming Climate Summit etc.

The emerging centrality of the sustainable development agenda, and its means of implementation, will be the subject of ongoing debates in the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and ECOSOC, which is now seeking inputs from the regional commissions. This is indicative of the central role that has been identified for the regional commissions in terms of accountability and monitoring of the sustainable development agenda.

In line with these developments, ESCAP has already held the inaugural Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), and launched the first-ever Asia Pacific Outreach Meeting for Sustainable Financing. Our member States have offered valuable guidance in both these areas. The resulting regional perspectives and priorities were provided to the HLPF, convened during the recent ECOSOC sessions in New York.

In conjunction with these developments, and in line with the preferences of our member States, ESCAP will be intensifying its support for regional connectivity. This is critical for shared and sustainable prosperity in Asia and the Pacific.

It will entail enhancing the work of the Commission on regional connectivity in areas such as transport, energy, ICT and people to people connectivity, in an integrated manner to realize effective synergies. This work will especially benefit our least developed, landlocked and small island developing economies, which were the focus of our deliberations at the preparatory meeting yesterday of the Special Body.

In parallel, given the diversity of our region, we plan to augment our development support to the subregions, each of which has identified their specific issues and challenges. We have also begun a more proactive engagement with our subregions, both at the APFSD and in preparation for the Commission session, to help better shape our support to meet their needs.

Given the experience of the global financial crisis, and the importance of sustainable and inclusive development in a region as large and diverse as ours, there is also a pressing need for ESCAP to deepen its analytical work on regional cooperation and integration.

Taking note of this in last December, ministers from across the region adopted the Bangkok Declaration at the Ministerial Meeting on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration, to further explore options and strategies in four key areas which include: (i) moving towards the formation of an integrated market; (ii) developing seamless connectivity in the areas of transport, energy and ICT; (iii) enhancing financial cooperation; and (iv) increasing economic and technical cooperation to address shared vulnerabilities and risks.

Cooperation with subregional institutions and forums will reinforce the process of regional cooperation. In the coming months, I will lead an ESCAP taskforce that will work closely with all member States to support the implementation of the Declaration, including the creation of four working groups, which will develop concrete policy options in the lead up to the second ministerial conference next year.

Greater emphasis on deepening our analytical capabilities will help ESCAP to play a stronger leadership role in the development of the new global agenda. It will also help to foster greater global integration of Asia and the Pacific, in terms of among others: intra-regional trade; cross border financing and its flows; production structures; and labour mobility.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Agenda

2014 has already seen ESCAP focus on three specific and critical themes: regional economic cooperation and integration; connectivity; and sustainable development.

We successfully held the first phase of the seventieth session in Bangkok on 23 May. The Commission adopted two resolutions which built on the outcomes of our work at the sixty-ninth session: on regional economic cooperation and integration, and on disaster-related statistics. Among other issues, the Commission also endorsed the 2016-2017 Strategic Framework, which will be taken up in New York later this year.

I would like to extend our deep appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Kazi Hossain, the Ambassador of Bangladesh and Permanent Representative to ESCAP, for successfully chairing and concluding Phase I.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Resolutions and Decisions

I now draw your attention to the full slate of issues which require your deliberation in this second phase of the Commission.

Many member States have chosen to sponsor and co-sponsor resolutions. This indicates the energy and expertise invested by you and your representatives in the 70th session.

For your consideration are 12 proposed resolutions and 23 draft decisions. Among the list of pressing and timely issues which have been brought for decision to the second phase of 70th session, are three resolutions to strengthen regional cooperation and integration, which relate to important aspects of trade and resilience to disasters.

There are five separate resolutions which advance our work on sustainable development, on aspects as diverse as agriculture, youth, and urban settlements. And there are three resolutions addressing vital aspects of regional connectivity, our theme for this session. There is also a resolution on implementation of the Programme of Action for our Least Developed Countries, which will be a focus of our meeting later today of the Special Body.

The diversity and importance of these issues is a clear indication that the countries of Asia and the Pacific are again turning to the ESCAP intergovernmental platform to address the most pressing shared challenges and to seize the shared opportunities of our region.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

To conclude, more important than the number of resolutions and decisions before us, is their scope, substance and potential to positively impact the development of our countries and the lives our people.

The secretariat looks 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 all our members.

I wish you very fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.