APFSD4: Opening Remarks

Delivered at the Opening of the Fourth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in Bangkok, Thailand.

Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the fourth session of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD).

In line with this year’s High Level Political Forum theme, APFSD will focus on “Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a changing Asia-Pacific”. Our region, to its credit, has had a fair degree of success in reducing poverty. However, the deep rooted and multi-dimensional causes of poverty have prevented more distinct and sizeable achievements.

Furthermore, we are still not at a stage where we can claim that our successful economic and social gains are irreversible. As we prepare a frontal attack on extreme poverty, the intractable nature, the phenomenal numbers and the types of vulnerabilities the poor face, require regional action and the promotion of sustainable prosperity. This can be done by adopting the new development context, which replaces age-old silo-based sector development approaches with more holistic and integrated solutions. Progress will be sustainable if member States integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development and leverage synergies among sectors, as called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Underlying the notion of sustainable development is a comprehensive recognition of what ails the economy, ecology and societies; what the needs and requirements are; what type of social contract between the State and people can be nurtured and supported by effective governance and coordination mechanisms; and most of all, how member States can institutionalize the protection of rights and interests of people upfront in the delivery of services.

The Asia-Pacific region is well on its way towards embarking on the Sustainable Development Agenda, but progress has been uneven. This progress will depend on the quality of national strategies adopted, the pace and sequencing of actions taken, and harnessing the SDGs through effectively addressing the interlinked dimensions of poverty. Given that ESCAP has a broader vision and mandate for the region, early strategic approaches have been conceptualized to ensure that national perspectives and progress are evaluated holistically across our region. One such approach has been to ensure that ESCAP leverages its intergovernmental platforms effectively. Not only have ESCAP’s intergovernmental committees embraced the SDGs and aligned our work program towards SDG implementation, but the APFSD is the first regional intergovernmental platform to integrate a wide range of interdisciplinary expertise to advance sustainable development. This allows broad-based discussion on approaches and trends of regional sustainable development, enabling us to provide member States with comprehensive technical support and cooperation, which will continue to prove valuable for the follow up and review mechanisms. The APFSD is now assuming this role and offers a platform to discuss national perspectives, share good practices and discuss opportunities for regional collaboration to tackle these challenges in a changing development context.

This year’s APFSD offers space to undertake the following:

  • Conduct in-depth reviews and share national perspectives of the cluster of goals with support of the UN system, focusing on Goal 1 on Poverty; Goal 2 on Zero hunger and sustainable agriculture; Goal 3 on Healthy lives; Goal 5 on Gender equality, Goal 9 on Infrastructure, industrialization and innovation; and Goal 14 on Oceans, seas and marine resources;
  • Discuss the 12 Voluntary National Reviews and share experiences and knowledge among member States which will assist in the presentation of the VNRs at the forthcoming 2017 HLPF;
  • Conduct a focused in-depth debate on gender as a cross-cutting issue as well as on localizing the SDGs;
  • Discuss how to strengthen the delivery of the means of implementation; and which will be further supplemented by other intergovernmental meetings such as the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration for Enhancing Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific and the fourth High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in Asia.
  • Finally, discuss concrete actions for progressing the Sustainable Development Agenda through the “Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and finalizing and endorsing the “Form and Function of the APFSD”. To this end, draft documents to facilitate discussion have been developed through an extensive consultative and interactive process supported by inputs from a range of stakeholders and the Regional Coordination Mechanism.
  • Regional platforms provide a critical bridge between the global and national levels. Hence, the APFSD, as Asia and the Pacific’s dedicated platform, will be an opportunity to enrich and deepen global discussions.

Before I conclude, we must also be mindful of other regional processes which feed into the APFSD, such as ESCAP’s coordinated dialogues on financing for development and statistics, and the preparatory event for the High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14, the UN Ocean Conference, which took place in Fiji earlier this month. The greater the participation from member States in these processes, the stronger our collective response will be.

ESCAP is committed and will remain committed to supporting continuous engagement between policymakers, practitioners, the wider UN community and other stakeholders at the APFSD. Once again, ESCAP reaffirms its commitment to supporting member States in their pursuit of the 2030 Agenda.

I thank you all for your contributions.