Mr. Mayank Kumar Agrawal, President of the General Conference,
Ms. Philomena Gnanapragasam, Director of the AIBD,
Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to join you at your General Conference.
The theme “AIBD Leading Media in the New Norm” presents an opportunity for us to ponder the question what, exactly, is the “new norm.”
Is this new norm referring to one where we must live forever with COVID-19 and its variants?
Or is this new norm one where humanity continues to stand idly by while the looming climate catastrophe becomes reality? I would say that the new norm does not have to be a gloomy one.
In fact, our new norm, as much as our old norm, is full of potential and possibilities.
I truly believe that the problems of our world today can be overcome if we put aside our self interests and work together.
At the heart of the organization that I head, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), is the principle of regional cooperation.
It is a platform where many of the solutions that the world needs can be shared and promoted, rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Let me give a few examples.
We all know that to fight climate change, we need to reduce our emissions. We were heartened to see major players in Asia and the Pacific recently announced their move away from foreign investments in coal alongside a greater momentum in transitioning to cleaner energy sources.
To further encourage these actions, ESCAP has been assisting countries in developing national road maps for affordable and clean renewable energy, or Sustainable Goal 7, and supporting efforts to develop greater regional and subregional energy connectivity.
With people at the centre of all we do, we have been advocating that countries spend more on social protection systems, particularly in strengthening the health sector.
As we sit in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this should provide us with the needed impetus to increase our funding in this important sector. Indeed, whereas the average expenditure across the region on health as a proportion of GDP is 6.7 per cent, many countries spend well below 5 per cent.
On the environment, we urge governments to be better stewards of our natural endowments. To this end, we have been working with partners to tackle issues ranging from air pollution to ocean debris.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to close my remarks today with a few words about the role of media in this new norm.
As I just shared with you, there are many examples of positive, progressive efforts to tackle the many ills confronting our world today.
What the media report and how it does so goes a long way towards how people think about the world they live in.
Thus, I take this opportunity to encourage the media to seek out more of these hopeful stories. To uncover all the good work that is going on around Asia and the Pacific to ensure a viable and sustainable future for us all.
Some of these stories are about governments, others are about private individuals or civil society organizations. All are equally good tales and deserve to be spotlighted.
This would give us the hope and optimism that we need, to be able to see that our future is not as bleak as it might seem.
I would hope that that is our new normal.
I thank the AIBD for this opportunity to share with you some thoughts, as well as for your leadership in stimulating dialogue and cooperation among our region's media.
I wish you all a successful Conference.
Thank you very much.