Asia-Pacific countries chart the way for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda

Asia and the Pacific today turned a new page in the institutional history of sustainable development, opening the first in a series of annual meetings that will feed regional priorities and perspectives to a high-level global United Nations forum that will monitor and guide the post-2015 development agenda.

The inaugural Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) was convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and co-hosted by the Royal Thai Government,bringing together ministers and senior officials from 30 countries, representatives of regional and subregional organizations, United Nations organizations and civil society and private sector organizations to chart the way for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) for the Asia-Pacific region.

“Defining the sustainable development priorities is both a sobering responsibility, and an unmatched opportunity to change lives, livelihoods and lifestyles, for a more inclusive and sustainable future,” Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, acknowledged in her welcoming address.

The three-day APFSD, held this year under the theme ‘Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’ will serve as the platform for identifying regional perspectives on priority sustainable development challenges and defining how to build an effective regional process to ensure that the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) responds to the needs of people in Asia and the Pacific.

“MDGs drove considerable social progress but targets fell somewhat short of expectations,” explained Dr. Akhtar. “The world pursued unsustainable consumption and production paths and consequently, MDGs and sustainable development were on different tracks.

“Convergence of the MDGs and SDGs into a single coherent post 2015 development framework is the key to building a sustainable and inclusive development path for the future.”

The HLPF was created in 2012 at the Rio+20 summit to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development and give high-level political support to global efforts to promote equitable economic growth while at the same time preserving the environment.

Praising the Asia-Pacific region as a leader in achieving the MDGs, Ms. Akhtar emphasised that: “The remaining challenges are enormous and it is time for us to rise once more. We must now lead on more than just economic growth – to a more sustainable development path, which ensures shared prosperity within planetary boundaries.”

Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand expressed that there are a number of “unfinished agendas” from the MDGs that need to be carried over beyond 2015: “Closer attention should be placed on poverty eradication, inequality, disaster risk reduction and preparedness, better access to quality health care and universal health coverage, among others.

“Regional cooperation is vital to the global efforts to formulate a Post-2015 development agenda.” Mr. Sihasak said, also announcing that ASEAN Member States are working toward the ASEAN Community's Post-2015 vision, which could include the possibility of formulating so-called ASEAN Development Goals. These goals would reflect the aspiration of being a people-centered ASEAN and provide impetus to the realization of the agreed goals at the international level.

The APFSD was preceded by a three-day meeting of civil society organizations, supported by ESCAP, including the newly formed Interim Group for Asia Pacific CSO Coordination. Organizations from different sectors and countries developed common messages to be delivered to high-level representatives at the Forum on issues including means of implementation for a just and transformative development agenda, and strategies for more effective and inclusive participation in the post-2015 process. A one-day Regional Dialogue on Technology Facilitation for Sustainable Development was also held back-to-back with the Forum.

Going forward, ESCAP will host the Asia-Pacific Outreach Meeting on Sustainable Development Financing from 10 to 11 June 2014 in Jakarta. The annual Commission session will also this year focus on regional connectivity as a key component of Asia-Pacific sustainable development.