Excellency Mr. Alibek Kuantyrov, Minister of National Economy of Kazakhstan,
My dear friend, Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE,
Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to warmly welcome you to the 2022 SPECA Economic Forum “Greener and Safer Future”.
I would like to begin by expressing my most sincere appreciation to the Government of Kazakhstan for hosting this Forum and all SPECA participating countries, our partners as well as civil society organizations for participating in this very important Forum.
By improving the well-being of their citizens, SPECA participating countries have made significant strides in their economic and social development over the past three decades.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic, however, has reversed much of this progress as it brought economies to a standstill and pushed many people back into poverty. As a result of the pandemic as well as recent geopolitical crises, SPECA participating countries now face high inflation, fall in remittances as well as shipping and transport disruptions. The adverse impacts of climate change could furthermore have long-term repercussions on development in Central Asia.
Excellencies and distinguished participants,
All SPECA participating countries are deeply involved in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Our latest Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report, however, noted that none of the countries in our region or its subregions will attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
While recognizing the steady progress made by SPECA participating countries on targets under good health and well-being (Goal 3), industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9), peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16), the report painted a more sobering picture with regards to responsible consumption and production (Goal 12) and climate action (Goal 13).
The full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development still remains the best way to address the region’s multiple challenges.
Allow me to highlight a few areas that can help us rebuild our post-COVID-19 society so that it is better, greener, safer and more prosperous.
First, we need to work together to fight against climate change and ensure a greener future.
We have seen from the multiple reports ahead of COP27 in Egypt this week that the window for action is quickly closing, thereby leaving our countries more vulnerable.
SPECA participating countries will need to protect their diverse but fragile environment and ecosystems. They will need to accelerate the much-needed energy transition as they move away from fossil fuels and slow desertification through improved use of water resources.
Second, we need to intensify our cooperation to enhance regional connectivity. Transport, energy, trade and information and communications technology (ICT) are key to our prosperous future. We should
- foster greater deployment and use of renewable energies across borders so that we move towards towards net zero emissions and meet our Paris Agreement goals;
- make trade more efficient by accelerating accession to the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, thereby lowering trade costs, reducing transport time and increasing transparency; and
- invest further in digital infrastructure as well as skills of our citizens, by providing targeted support, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises and promoting the latest technologies in trade and transport.
Lastly, mainstreaming gender and creating inclusive policies are essential to ensure women’s equal participation in all socioeconomic activities. Women must flourish, both as decision-makers and as entrepreneurs.
Leaving no one behind remains central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and only through our joint efforts can we achieve this task.
With the SPECA Economic Forum as a venue to discuss “strategic issues of economic development and cooperation in the SPECA region, which contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development”, we look forward to hearing your experiences and recommendations.
ESCAP, together with UNECE, stands ready to work with you on your priorities.