Excellency Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand
Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good morning and welcome to the 5th South-East Asia Multi-Stakeholder Forum: Building Back Better from COVID-19 while Advancing the Full Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
Since our Forum in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has entered its second year, causing continued socio-economic hardship for all our 11 member States in South-East Asia.
I recognize several features during this phase, including
- countries continue to grapple with a surge of cases due to new variants, adding up to a total number of over 11.7 million cases to date,
- economies growth prospects have been stalled, and its opening up to travel and tourism are put on hold,
- governments have ramped up their efforts on vaccination programs which have contributed to a total of over 132.5 million people vaccinated; however, they now started to shift plans from “zero-COVID” strategies to a policy of living with the disease in the near future, and
- societies are still seeing growing impacts of climate change, as illustrated in the latest IPCC Report.
As a result of this prolonged pandemic, the vulnerable population groups are witnessing new forms of multi-dimensional poverty, social exclusion, impacting the overall progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.
To recover better, stronger and smarter, let me reiterate three policy areas that I highlighted at this Forum in 2020 regarding the social protection system, digitalization, and green recovery.
These policy areas and strategic interventions are in line with the principles of inclusion, resilience and sustainability for the post-pandemic recovery and beyond.
On the social protection system, we need to address the widening inequality gap while advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
Countries need to promote an employment-led recovery and invest in strategic industries and infrastructure.
We need to ensure continuity in fiscal and financial support for vulnerable groups and the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises until a robust recovery.
Policymakers need to focus on raising social spending for an inclusive and resilient health care system.
On accelerated and equitable digitalization strategies, there is an urgent need to bringing services related to health, education and government services under a national coordination framework.
Furthermore, member States need to work together in advancing digital connectivity, along with the focus on regional supply chain, trade and investment for advancing balanced growth.
At the same time, to create more resilient societies and economies, let us be prepared for future climate-disaster-health emergencies.
Let us work together to put preparedness at the centre of responses to future pandemics while building health system resilience, strengthening the social protection system and minimizing disaster risk.
I look forward to Thailand’s leadership in APEC 2022 to engage in a whole-of-society approach and synergise partnerships with relevant institutions to achieve the SDGs and the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 towards advancing balanced growth.
In building green and blue economies, long-term environmental sustainability must be embedded in the COVID-19 policy response as well as incorporated into peoples’ consumption behaviours and business investment processes and analyses.
We must utilize innovative financing tools, including green and SDG-linked bonds, as an instrument to address post-COVID-19 financing needs while advancing official development assistance and South-South and triangular cooperation modalities.
In this regard, I am pleased to welcome the discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a new level of economic cooperation and integration agreement that has the potential to contribute to the COVID-19 recovery efforts in the South-East Asia and beyond.
The Forum provides a timely opportunity for member States to discuss these policy areas and share lessons and insights on follow-up and preparation for the Voluntary National Reviews.
Through policy choices and priorities, member States are in a position to implement innovative strategies to recover from this ongoing crisis and ensure that no person or country is left behind.
Together with governments in South-East Asia, ESCAP has been partnering to the socio-economic recovery and the progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda.
ESCAP stands ready to support member States and stakeholders in the accelerated recovery from the pandemic and the implementation of SDGs in the South-East Asia and beyond.
I look forward to listening to your perspectives and recommendations on the themes of the Forum, which will further be discussed and shared at the 9th Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD) on 28-31 March 2022.
I wish everyone a successful deliberation.
Thank you very much.