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23 March 2022, 14:00 - 16:00 Indochina Time / Bangkok | Open meeting


Many countries have significantly benefited from the rapid development and production of novel COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. However, gross inequities in the availability of these health products across different countries and regions have left much of the developing world without access to these vaccines. Supply levels for these products have not matched global demand, primarily because of limited global production capacity, the continuing emergence of new variants of concern, and the demand for vaccine booster doses in developed countries. Some developed countries have also procured many more vaccines than they need to vaccinate their populations, and transportation and supply chain limitations have limited the widespread distribution of these products. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the crucial role of trade, investment, research, and development in fighting the pandemic. Open trade in vaccines and other health product inputs, strong flows of capital, and the smooth transfer of technology and know-how are needed to enhance the availability and distribution of essential health products, such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

The objective of this Regional Conversation is to highlight the significance of trade, investment, and research and development in enabling equitable and affordable access to essential health products in Asia and the Pacific and the possibilities for regional cooperation to facilitate this access.  

Some of the key questions that would be addressed at the regional conversation include the following:

  1. What regional policy options are available for strengthening connectivity and supply chains to increase access to essential health products?
  2. How can cooperation on investment, technology transfer, and fiscal measures play a role in securing access to essential health products?
  3. What logistics, planning and transport measures are needed at the ground level for rapid and equitable deployment of essential health products?
  4. What role can supply diversification play in ensuring access to health products?
  5. How can digital connectivity infrastructure play a role in ensuring deeper regional cooperation and more connected value chains for health products?
  6. What are key points of intersection between trade laws and policies and securing regional value chains for essential health products, and how can this be managed within international law?
  7. How can governments, the private sector and intergovernmental organisations each play a role in enhancing access to essential health products and securing regional value chains in these products?
  8. What are the lessons learnt from the pandemic in terms of trade, transport, investment and R&D policies and the role of regional cooperation in enabling better preparedness for future health shocks?


Read our blog which discusses the potential of regional collaboration in securing equal access to essential health products in Asia and the Pacific: Assessing Essential Health Products: Challenges but also new opportunities for regional cooperation


Flyer of this event with photo of speakers


23 Mar 2022
Opening and Welcome Remarks
  • Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP
Plenary Session

Distinguished speakers:

  • Mr. Nikolasi Apinelu, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries & Trade, Tuvalu
  • Mr. Satvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary-General, ASEAN
  • Dr. Mariângela Simão, Assistant Director-General, Access to Medicines and Health Products, World Health Organization
  • Mr. John Denton, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris
Panel discussion

Moderated by:

  • Dr. Rupa Chanda, Director, Trade, Investment and Innovation Division, ESCAP

Distinguished panelists:

  • Dr. Valerie Ulep, Senior Research Fellow, Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Philippines 


Ms. Asha Menon, VP Customs Compliance and Regulatory Affairs

Mr. Mark Rickinson, Director, Life Sciences & Healthcare

Separate line DHL Express Global
  • Ms. Suchitra Ella, Co-founder & Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech International Limited

Questions to panelists, followed by interactive discussions prompted by questions from the floor.

Closing remarks

Ms. Armida Salsiah AlisjahbanaUnder-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP

Opening Remarks

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP
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Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana was appointed Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on 13 September 2018.

Prior to joining ESCAP, Ms. Alisjahbana was Professor of Economics at Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia, a position she assumed in 2005. She joined Universitas Padjadjaran as a lecturer in 1988. Since 2016, she has served as Director for the Center for Sustainable Development Goals Studies at Universitas Padjadjaran and Vice Chair of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences.

She also serves on the Governing Board of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), and member of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (Akademi Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia - AIPI), the Forum of Statistics Community (Forum Masyarakat Statistik or Advisory Council of the Indonesian Statistics), the International Advisory Board of the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies and Council Member of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI).

From 2009 to 2014, she was Minister of National Development Planning and the Head of the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), Indonesia. She served as Co-chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation from 2012 to 2014. From 2009 to 2014, she was Alternate Governor of the World Bank and Alternate Governor of the Asian Development Bank representing the government of Indonesia. In 2016, she was a member of the High Level Independent Team of Advisors to support the ECOSOC Dialogue on the longer term positioning of the United Nations Development System in the context of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Ms. Alisjahbana has been involved in various research projects and consultancies to the United Nations University/Institute for Advanced Study in Tokyo, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the European Commission, and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Ms. Alisjahbana earned her Bachelor degree in Economics and Development Studies from Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia, a Masters degree in Economics from Northwestern University, USA and a Ph.D in Economics from University of Washington, USA. She was awarded the Mahaputra Adipradana Order (Bintang Mahaputra Adipradana) from the Republic of Indonesia, honorary brevet from the Indonesian Navy and honorary flight wing from the Indonesian Air Force.

Plenary Session

Nikolasi Apinelu
Nikolasi Apinelu
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries & Trade, Tuvalu
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Mr. Nikolasi Apinelu assumed duties as the Secretary for the Tuvalu Ministry of Fisheries and Trade in August 2021. Mr. Apinelu has almost 20 years of experience for the Tuvalu Public Service, where he held a number of senior positions, including Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Land, Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Gender Affairs and Social Welfare and Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Trade. He has had a long-standing engagement in research and policy discussions on coastal fisheries management and development, aquaculture and farming trials. As the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Trade, Secretary Apinelu is responsible for formulating policies to enactment in Parliament. He served as board chairman or member of various corporations and organizations across industries such as health, fisheries and sports. Mr. Apinelu is currently the Chairman of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Official Meeting. Secretary Apinelu holds a Master in Applied Science (Living Marine Resources) from the University of Tasmania, Australia and a Master of Fisheries Science from Kagoshima University, Japan.

Satvinder Singh
Satvinder Singh
Deputy Secretary-General, ASEAN
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Satvinder Singh is the Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community for 2021-2024. In his capacity as the Deputy Secretary-General, he provides strategic advice to the Secretary-General of ASEAN for advancing ASEAN’s economic integration agenda and leading the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Department of the ASEAN Secretariat in implementing the AEC Blueprint 2025. Before assuming this role, he was the Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Trade Connectivity & Business Services at Enterprise Singapore. With over 27 years of experience in holding a variety of local, regional and global management positions across the region, he was instrumental in strengthening Singapore’s role as Asia’s trading hub as well as driving digitalization efforts in Singapore amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Singh holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from the National University of Singapore and attended Harvard’s Business School Advanced Management Programme in 2017.

Mariângela Simão
Mariângela Simão
Assistant Director-General, Access to Medicines and Health Products, World Health Organization
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Dr. Simão joined WHO in November 2017 as part of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General's leadership team. Before assuming this role, she  worked for UNAIDS for 7 years. From 1982-2010 she  worked for the Ministry of Health in Brazil as the Director of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases, HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis department. She worked in the Brazilian public health system , at the primary health care level as well as in a managerial capacity.. As a public health professional, at the municipal, state and national levels, she played an active role in the decentralization of the national health system, acquiring extensive experience in health system strengthening. She has also served on the boards of a number of organizations and government committees related to public health and HIV. Heading the National Sexually Transmitted Diseases/HIV/AIDS Department (including Viral Hepatitis from 2009), she had the responsibility of overseeing and implementing the national Sexually Transmitted Diseases/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis policies, including universal and free of charge access to treatment, care and comprehensive prevention programs. DrSimão attended medical school in Brazil, with degrees in Paediatrics and Public Health, and an MSc in Mother and Child Health in the UK.

 @HelenClarkNZ @mariangelasimao

John Denton
Mr. John Denton
Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris
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John W.H. Denton AO is a global business leader and international advisor on policy and a legal expert on international trade and investment. He is also a Board member of the United Nations Global Compact and Co-chair of the B20 finance and infrastructure taskforce and a founding member of the Business 20 (B20), Co-Founder of the Australia–China CEO Roundtable and Patron of UNHCR in Australia. He serves on the Board of IFM Global Investors, a leading institutional investment manager. He is also the Chair of the Asia Pacific Advisory Board of Veracity, a global advisory group, and Chair of the Moeller Institute advisory board at the University of Cambridge. He additionally serves on the Boards of the UN Development Programme’s Impact Investing Steering Group and UNICEF’s global education initiative, GenU. He has joined the Advisory Board of the African Green Infrastructure Investment Bank (AfGIIB), the G7 Working Group on Impact Investment. A former diplomat, John co-led the Australian Government’s 2012 White Paper on “Australia in the Asian Century” and previously chaired the APEC Finance and Economics Working Group. Prior to joining ICC, he served for two decades as Partner and CEO of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Australia’s leading independent law firm. In 2015, John was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the business community, the arts and the rights of refugees, including as a founder of Human Rights Watch (Australia) and Teach for Australia

 @HelenClarkNZ @ICCSecGen

Panel Discussion

Valerie Ulep
Valerie Ulep
Senior Research Fellow, Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Philippines
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Val Ulep is a Senior Research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), where he leads different health economics research projects. He is also a Senior Researcher at the Ateneo School of Government and a faculty member at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. Prior to joining the PIDS, he worked at the World Bank in D.C and Delhi Offices. He was a doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Global Health Research, where he conducted economics studies on tobacco taxes. He provided technical assistance to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Health Organization, Center for Global Development, and USAID. He received awards including Nikkei Asia and Emerging Voices for Global Health. He holds a Ph.D. in Health Economics from Canada, and a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology.

Asha Menon
Asha Menon
VP Customs Compliance and Regulatory Affairs, DHL Express Global Head Office
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Asha Menon is currently the Vice President, Global Customs Compliance & Regulatory Affairs. She joined DHL Express after more than 30 years as a Customs Officer with the Royal Malaysian Customs where she worked in various capacities and locations. She has a wealth of Customs & Regulatory Affairs experience across Malaysian Customs, Diplomatic Services and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Asha was the first female Customs Attaché to the Malaysian Embassy in Brussels from 2002 until early 2009 with the responsibility for representing Malaysian Customs at the WCO, EU and all other international forums. In 2009, Asha was seconded to the Compliance and Facilitation Directorate of the WCO, where once again she was the first female Customs Officer from ASEAN to join WCO. She managed trade facilitation and security initiatives for all modes of transport, including defining policy and advocacy activities associated with Supply Chain Security, Customs to Business Partnerships, and Air Cargo and Inter-agency Relationships globally, amongst others.

Mark Rickinson
Mark Rickinson
Director, Life Sciences & Healthcare, DHL Express Global Customer Operations Group
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This year, Mark celebrates his 20th anniversary with DHL Express, having worked in a diverse series of roles encompassing Operations, Aviation, Performance Management, Operations Programs and the DHL Express Quality Control Center. Based in Singapore, he currently leads the Global Customer Operations Life Science and Healthcare Team to identify, explore and meet customer needs, develop new solutions, and ultimately drive business growth in the sector. Since 2020, Mark has been responsible for the coordination of all DHL Express CV19 vaccine distribution activities, heavily contributing to the DP DHL Group’s successful delivery of over 2billion CV19 vaccine doses worldwide.

Suchitra Ella
Suchitra Ella
Co-founder & Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech International Limited
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Ms. Ella is the joint MD of Bharat Biotech, a company based in India, which has developed more than 16 vaccines, holds over 145 patents, and has supplied more than 5 billion doses of vaccines to more than 125 countries through UNICEF, GAVI, and various foundations. She has over 25 years of experience leading the company in various roles. She has co-founded more than 10 group companies to indigenously develop and manufacture technology-based solutions, services, and products in food sciences, veterinary and human health through biotechnology and other cutting-edge technologies. She has also served on the board of many organizations and has held important positions in many committees and associations. Mrs. Ella has a background in Management and a post-graduate diploma in Patent Law. In recognition of her work, she has received several awards, including the Padma Bhushan,  India’s 3rd highest civilian award in January 2022. Recently, at the invitation of President, United Nations General Assembly, she participated in the High-Level Thematic Discussion entitled “Galvanising Momentum for Universal Vaccination’, at the UN Headquarters, New York where she voiced her ideas on Innovations and Solutions with respect to Vaccine equality.

@HelenClarkNZ @SuchitraElla

for more information, please contact

Trade, Investment and Innovation Division +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]
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