UNESCAP News Services
Date: 19 May 2011
Press Release No: L/26/2011
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
19 May 2011
Senior Officials Segment
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and
Executive Secretary of the
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you all to the sixty-seventh session of the Commission, commencing with the senior officials segment today.
This is my fourth Commission session as Executive Secretary and it is a pleasure to hold this Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in our home, in Bangkok. We continue to build on our role as the regional arm of the United Nations for Asia and Pacific; and we rely on our mandate from the General Assembly promoting regional cooperation and collective action to achieve economic and social progress for the people of Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP was created so that the people of Asia Pacific can meet together, seek consensus together and advance together to build a more inclusive, sustainable future – that is the standard to which we are held.
I am grateful to all our Member States who have provided steadfast support to the work of the Commission.
To set the stage as we begin our segment, let me highlight some of the results of this past year’s work and our immediate challenges:
First, ESCAP's economic policy work and analysis over the past year has proved vital to global and regional discussions of Asia Pacific's recovery and new economic growth following the global financial crisis of 2009. ESCAP has developed a coordinated voice for the Least Developed Countries of the region, identifying debt, decreased government revenues and food and fuel price shocks on the poor as pressing concerns for Asia Pacific LDCs. Most recently, just last month, ESCAP and the Government of Mongolia brought together the Landlocked Developing Countries of Asia, delivering a coordinated voice through the Ulan Bataar Declaration, raising the specific concerns of the people of the region’s 12 landlocked countries. We have continued our work to expand direct technical support to all countries with special needs within Asia and the Pacific, with critical results in SPECA countries, and elsewhere. It is important that the present economic rebound is sustained for all our region’s countries and all our people.
Second, The recovery from the 2009 global financial crisis, and the renewed challenges of food and fuel price inflation in the past six months in many countries of the region, which have especially affected the lives of the most vulnerable people, has led to a stronger commitment to social development among governments in the ESCAP region. Across the region, as the people of Asia and the Pacific continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the crisis, ESCAP has promoted an agenda for social equity to ensure that governments invest in their people, including through social protections, as the recovery takes hold. Inclusive and sustainable development requires a social foundation.
Third, Asia is resetting itself by reinvesting in itself. Greater regional integration depends on connectivity – not just the hardware of highways, ports and railroads, but also the software of connectivity: the exchanges of people, goods and ideas between our countries. ESCAP’s work on connectivity promotes regional integration through transportation, communications and economic development and is critical toward fostering equitable economic growth. Dry Ports and public-private partnerships can open up new investment potential in the region’s hidden pockets of potential wealth and economic growth. We hope that by linking the land-locked and the least developed countries to the web of Asia’s coastal development we will foster a shared prosperity and tap further the economic potential of Asia Pacific.
Fourth, ESCAP has been a pioneer in developing green growth and other environmentally sustainable economic agendas as specific paths for development in the region. Kazakhstan has established itself as a leader in Central Asia and as a link between Europe and the Asia Pacific region in promoting Green Growth and the Green Bridge Initiative. An increasing number of Member Countries are exploring how to green their development efforts. ESCAP’s work this past year is at the very forefront of Asia-Pacific’s green future.
Fifth, Closing the development gaps and achieving the Millennium Development Goals requires evidence-based advocacy and processes. We rely on statistics to track our progress. ESCAP has led the way for critical advances in data collection for our member States. The ESCAP Vulnerability Index, featured in our regional Millennium Development Goals report, is jointly produced with the Asia Development Bank and UNDP. The Index has become a critical human development tool in tracking vulnerability. Without accurate data collection, too many people remain uncounted – and unprotected. ESCAP’s work is advancing the use of statistics to measure our human achievements and to chart our development journey forward.
Overall, in the last year we have made progress in transforming the secretariat into a powerful regional center for rigorous analysis, sharing development practices and innovative policies, and building regional and sub regional consensus, norms and standards on a range of economic, social and environmental issues.
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While we have accomplished much over the past year, new priorities and challenges require our continued effort. Asia’s economic rebound and sustained recovery presents challenges and opportunities that can only be met by collective action: our work together to create a new sustainable paradigm for inclusive economic growth within the Asia Pacific region.
This year’s Commission session will focus on a critical challenge facing us: Our ability to match the economic recovery underway in Asia and the Pacific with a renewed emphasis on the social dimension of development as well.
The region’s new economic growth, following the shock of the global financial crisis, our growing urbanization, and the continuing migration of people, within our countries and across our sub regions, require a new commitment by our governments to institute social protections to secure the benefits of economic growth for all the people of the Asia Pacific region.
Instead of approaching specific development setbacks and challenges through limited, reactive interventions, our governments are now prepared to seek and implement comprehensive, universal coverage solutions capable of strengthening coping capacities and resilience as part of their vision of inclusive development. The resumption of food and fuel price inflation in many of the region’s countries and continuing aftershocks of the global financial crisis has lent new urgency to their efforts.
ESCAP seeks to assist all member states in providing a higher level of development for their people as befitting the surge of economic growth that Asia is experiencing. We can not have an economic transformation, without also bringing about social transformation.
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Furthermore, the expected steady continuing growth in Asia and the Pacific’s economies over the next decade presents an unprecedented opportunity for governments to take on and surmount the challenges of food security, water security and poverty reduction that burden our region – a renewed emphasis on achieving the Millennium Development Goals and closing the development gap on all human development indicators.
Member States need not undertake these challenges alone. It is time to move from individual country strengths to collective regional strengths; to introduce balance back into our economic and social order; to develop common regional positions and solutions to global problems; to address the disparities in our region; to value the gifts of our earth.
We have to ask ourselves: How do we achieve the economic growth and social progress that the people of Asia and the Pacific deserve, taking into account the limits of the earth’s carrying capacity?
With these challenges and opportunities before us, Asia and the Pacific need a strong regional platform to respond to these issues. With your concerted effort, ESCAP can facilitate the collective policy leadership our region requires. As the regional arm of the United Nations, ESCAP is your platform, the commission your UN regional assembly, and we are here to support you.
At the sub regional level, the ESCAP Pacific Office supports a coordinated voice for the people and communities of our region’s small island states, enhancing their representation at critical global and regional gatherings and steadily deepening capacities for sustainable development and regional integration.
The East and North East Asia sub regional office in Incheon Republic of Korea has increased our delivery of south-south technical cooperation programmes with officials of national and local governments. The North and Central Asia sub regional office in Almaty Kazakhstan is now well on its way to becoming a hub for innovation and cooperation for the seven countries of the sub region. ESCAP seeks similar progress in this year and the future in improving our work at the sub regional level across Asia and the Pacific. These are positive steps forward in delivering the results that our vast region needs, bringing ESCAP closer to the people we serve.
That is the opportunity – and the challenge -- before us. Working together, Asia Pacific can shape the forces of the economic recovery by investing in its people, its human capital, by strengthening our social commitments and implementing social protections as a mainstay of national development. The opportunity is now for Asia Pacific to emerge as a leader: in the global economy, in the realm of social progress, and in safeguarding our global environment. Let us demonstrate that Asia Pacific’s development can be balanced – with our focus on all three pillars working together, our economic wealth shared, our social gains secured, and the gifts of the earth protected.
ESCAP is ready to support our member States. I look forward to your recommendations from this session for next week’s ministerial segment. Let’s work together for an inclusive and sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific.
I thank you.
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Headquartered in Bangkok, United Nations ESCAP is the largest of the UN's five Regional Commissions in terms of its membership, population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP works to promote sustainable and inclusive economic and social progress. More information on ESCAP is available at www.unescap.org