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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

06 September 2022


Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to ESCAP and the Seventh Session of the Committee on Social Development.

This Committee is being held at a critical time. While our region is still grappling with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, new and unexpected socioeconomic challenges have emerged in parallel to ongoing global trends such as climate change, inequality, population ageing and digitalization.

These compounding and overlapping challenges risk the region’s hard-earned development gains. While they affect us all, their impact places a disproportionate burden on population groups already in vulnerable situations. Furthermore, gender discrimination puts women at a particular disadvantage.

Yet, with the right mix of national policy interventions, backed by political will and public support, we can mitigate these challenges and transform them into strengths and opportunities.

With strong regional collaboration, we can safeguard our planet and create inclusive and peaceful societies that support the wellbeing of all our people.

To shed light on these challenges and strengthen the evidence base, we recently launched the Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific, entitled The Workforce We Need.

It discusses the importance of building a resilient workforce to better respond to these ongoing and emerging global trends and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report has focused on three core building blocks for doing so: universal health care; a green and just transition towards decent employment and an extension of social protection to all.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to discussing how to build a healthy, protected and productive workforce, this Committee will address responses to some of these challenges in three additional strategic areas, namely:

  • Strengthening regional cooperation on social protection;
  • Accelerating implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing; and
  • Accelerating implementation of the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.

Through the regional Action Plan on social protection and recent ESCAP resolutions, you have affirmed your strong commitment to social protection. Yet while investments in social protection have increased over the past two decades, too few people remain uncovered.

Our region spends less than half of the global average, and almost 60 per cent of our population has no financial coverage against normal life events such as pregnancy, child-raising, sickness, disability, unemployment or simply getting old. 

The adoption of the fourth review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing demonstrated a commitment to accelerate its implementation and build a sustainable society for all ages.

You expressed support for healthy ageing, promoting and protecting the rights and dignity of older persons, recognizing older persons as development actors and for developing, strengthening and implementing comprehensive policy frameworks that address and mainstream ageing considerations.

You also requested that ESCAP build capacities to gather, synthesize and analyze age-disaggregated data and support you in formulating forward-looking policies, and we stand ready to do this.

The Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific” is the world’s first set of disability-specific development goals, which was adopted in 2012.

The High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022, to be held in Jakarta from 19 to 21 October, will provide an opportunity to review progress and achievements made in implementing the Incheon Strategy and foster consensus on new strategic directions and renew commitments to disability rights and disability-inclusive development in the region. We look forward to your active participation. 

Distinguished delegates, ladies and Gentlemen,

In emphasizing the importance of regional solidarity, trust and partnership, I take this opportunity to thank our UN partners, as well as our civil society organizations and other stakeholders, for your collaboration.

I also thank you, our members and associate members, for joining us at this Seventh Committee on Social Development.

I wish you fruitful and constructive deliberations.

Thank you.

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