Honourable Co-chairs of the Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM),
Colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address the opening of the People’s Forum ahead of the Ninth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.
I thank the Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM) for organizing this unique and important gathering. This Forum has become one of the most vibrant and inclusive regional platforms for civil society organizations (CSOs) and peoples’ movements in the region to strengthen coordination on sustainable development.
The Forum ultimately gives shape to the collective voice of peoples of this region on the most critical sustainable development issues confronting them today. Moreover, the Forum helps ensure that all relevant perspectives are considered in policy formulation at the national and regional levels and that no one is left behind.
We are meeting at a critical juncture when the world is striving to finally emerge from the pandemic, which has reversed hard-won socioeconomic gains made over several decades and caused untold human suffering.
The world is also faced with increased polarization and conflict at a time when all our energies should be directed towards recovering, building solidarity and addressing development gaps and shortfalls, motivated by principles of equity, inclusion and the imperative of reaching those left furthest behind.
I would like to focus on three key messages.
We need decisive action to tackle climate change now. The people of the Asia-Pacific region are at the forefront of this existential challenge. They are disproportionately impacted by the ever-growing impacts of climate change and natural disasters, particularly those living in small island developing States and least developed countries.
Within countries, the impacts are felt most strongly by the poorest and most vulnerable groups of society, including women and girls, indigenous people, older persons and persons with disabilities.
We cannot delay our actions anymore. These actions will only be effective if they are based upon meaningful participation by the people who are worst affected by climate change and disasters.
We must invest more to protect people and the planet. At a time when countries are directing funds to build back better, we cannot allow conflicts and tensions to prevent us from allocating adequate levels of resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change, or to provide increased access to health care and social protection. These are key foundational elements to building resilience against future shocks, especially considering the extent of inequality in our region.
Last but not the least, we need solidarity, empathy and trust between and within countries. The Secretary-General’s report, Our Common Agenda, urges all of us to re-embrace global solidarity and find new ways to work together for the common good.
It also calls for the renewal of the social contract between Governments and their people and within societies to rebuild trust and champion a comprehensive vision of human rights.
The multi-stakeholder approach and joint engagement from a multitude of perspectives are the hallmarks of this Forum. They will be crucial as we strive to amplify solidarity and trust to further strengthen ties between countries and communities and echo these rich and diverse perspectives.
I am confident the Asia-Pacific People’s Forum will be able to debate these issues, and more, and the outcome of your discussions will provide much-needed guidance and support as we steer the discussions at the subsequent Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.
I wish you vibrant discussions and hope that this unique gathering of the peoples of this region will bring us closer together during these challenging times. I very much look forward to this Forum’s outcomes.
Thank you very much.