Sustainable Development: An Unmatched Opportunity to Change Lives, Livelihoods, and Lifestyles in Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the opening of the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in Pattaya, Thailand.

Honourable Ministers,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

Welcome to the first session of the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) in Pattaya. Let me begin by expressing our deep appreciation for the Royal Thai Government’s initiative to co-organize this event with ESCAP.

Over the next three days we count on your deliberations and inputs to define the regional priorities to feed into shaping the global development agenda for future we want, from 2015 and beyond.

Offering continuity to MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will serve to build on region’s MDG successes and ensure we adopt a holistic and integrated development agenda to eradicate poverty and inequalities, while respecting planetary boundaries.

This is both a challenging and sobering responsibility, and an unmatched opportunity to change lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles. Our present and future generations of the Asia-Pacific region want a more inclusive and sustainable future. Asia and the Pacific is well known for taking up this responsibility and for successfully changing the destiny of its people.

To help us focus our deliberations, I will use my brief opening remarks to set the scene – recalling the context and mandate of this Forum; suggesting priority tasks for our discussions; and touching on the role of ESCAP and the United Nations in support of this agenda.

Context and Mandate of the APFSD

The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) offered substantial guidance and principles for the sustainable development agenda beyond 2015. Rio+20 also laid out the architecture, modalities and the means of implementation for this agenda.

As part of this process, the Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly, along with regional forums like this one, has solicited the views and the voices of all stakeholders, to ensure strong ownership of the architecture and goals. The process is unprecedented, and all-encompassing relative to how we developed the MDGs.

The General Assembly has also mandated the United Nations Regional Commissions to share the development priorities of each of the five world regions. The perspectives which you offer will be shared with the High level Political Forum (HLPF), that will be convened during the ECOSOC session in July this year.

As the largest regional commission, representing the most populous and dynamic region of the world, ESCAP takes this task very seriously. Sustainable development is at the heart of our mandate, and represents the best chance we have to achieve more equitable and shared prosperity.

In organizing this Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, we have endeavoured to bring together member States, civil society, the private sector, UN agencies, experts and development institutions, as well as a range of other key stakeholders from across the Asia-Pacific region. We count on your deep engagement for us to best deliver on our obligations to people of the region.

Priority Tasks for the APFSD

The tasks before us are clear:

First, your articulation of the most pressing sustainable development challenges facing our region is vital for our Asia-Pacific perspectives to be fully integrated into the global agenda.

Second, your efforts to forge consensus on how best to design an effective regional process to contribute to the global HLPF are critical.

Third, you need to be comprehensive but induce flexibility in the regional deliberations.

Fourth, you need to share your thoughts on the accountability and monitoring mechanisms which will be critical to maintain future progress in implementation.

Fifth, your stewardship will be key to mobilize the means of implementation and partnerships between our existing institutions and to propose innovative development cooperative mechanisms.

These elements will be critical to promote a balanced emphasis on economic growth, social development, and better environmental stewardship.

The ESCAP secretariat, based on your feedback, has prioritized areas of action for sustainable development. I will present these later in the morning, for your guidance and feedback in this Forum.

UN Support for the Sustainable Development Agenda

Finally, let me reaffirm ESCAP’s and my own personal commitment to lead and support regional processes for sustainable development goals and the development agenda beyond 2015. I began my tenure as Executive Secretary of ESCAP in February this year, and will continue to realign the secretariat to support the sustainable development processes.

To begin with, we have responded by strengthening our engagement with businesses, the private sector, as well as experts and civil society, whom we recognize as valuable and indispensable partners on the road to sustainable development.

The Asia-Pacific Civil Society Forum on Sustainable Development, the ESCAP Business Advisory Council (EBAC), and our Regional Dialogue on Technology Facilitation, which all preceded this event, as well as the follow-up Regional Outreach Meeting on Sustainable Financing for Development, in Jakarta, will all feed into the delivery of our messages to the HLPF. Together these messages will help to ensure steadfast support, closer collaboration, and deeper partnerships -- a hallmark of the Rio+20 outcomes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we are justifiably proud of the Asia-Pacific region’s achievements, and the leadership which has driven progress on the MDGs. It is time for us rise up once more, with full force, to address the existing and emerging challenges, and to ensure shared prosperity within planetary boundaries.

Much depends on the key steps we are taking here today.

Thank you for your participation, your enthusiasm, and your commitment to sustainable development.

I look greatly forward to the next three days of working together.

I thank you.