Skip to main content
Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

28 October 2020

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Fourth South-east Asia Forum on Implementation of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs).

Each year the Forum highlights the progress of achieving the SDGs, or lack of it, in the South-East Asia region. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the member States in the South-East Asia regions needed acceleration across the goals and targets to successfully reach the SDGs by 2030. With this pandemic, South-East Asian region is now exposed to crisis in multiple fronts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to disrupt economic activities throughout the South-East Asian region. Tourism, retail, and export-oriented industries like manufacturing, as well as labour-intensive activities and businesses that rely heavily on international supply chains have been hardest hit since the beginning of this crisis.

As a result, the subregion is experiencing contraction in GDP growth in 2020, along with uncertainties in jobs market and business sentiments, causing widening of socio-economic inequalities and other vulnerabilities. So, this pandemic and its socio-economic impacts are further complicating the trajectory of advancing the sustainable development during the Decade of Action.


Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on South-East Asia offers forward-looking recommendations to assist member States cope with the immediate socio-economic impacts and plan a pathway out of the crisis.

The governments of South-East Asia can drive an effective recovery plans through focusing on four thematic areas – tackling inequality, bridging the digital divide, ensuring a green recovery and upholding human rights and good governance practices.

I recognise the good work of the South-East Asian member States to safeguard the hard-won development gains and protect the achievements of SDGs. The timely use of all their available expertise, along with human, financial and technical resources, are key drivers to chart a sustainable recovery from this unprecedented crisis.


Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to further highlight three focus areas for your further reflections and policy priorities.

First, we need to focus on strengthening the social protection system.  At a recently concluded Committee on Social Development, member States endorsed the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific. Providing technical advice and capacity-building support to member States is critical at the national and regional levels.

We are also working with stakeholders on innovative financing strategies to support the micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and to promote women entrepreneurs’ access to finance. These actions are critical to tackle inequality and reduce growing vulnerabilities in our societies.

Second, we need to bridge the digital divide. We are working with governments and private sectors in expanding regional collaboration to scale up broadband Internet capacities for the effective use of technological innovation.

The promotion of digital technology and investment in ICT infrastructure with a focus on e-commerce and digital finance are important drivers for improving public services to citizens and businesses.

Third, we must focus on greening the recovery.  Our policy advisory services are directed to industries that are low-carbon and resource efficient within the broader framework of the Paris Agreement.  

The establishment of an ASEAN Resources Panel can support development of an ASEAN Roadmap on Sustainable Resources Management. The national energy access, transition and alignment with decarbonisation efforts and SDG7 targets are also critical elements for greening these economies.


Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At a recent ASEAN-UN high-level meeting, ASEAN expressed interest in working with the UN to support the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its implementation plan. I very much welcome your trust in our partnership.

ESCAP stands ready to work with governments and all stakeholders in advancing SDGs implementation plans in the post-COVID-19 era.

I look forward to listening to your recommendations on the future course of actions towards attainment of the SDGs and count on your commitment to build back better in the South-East Asia region.  

Thank you for your attention.

Watch Online

Print this article


Subregional Office for South-East Asia +66 22 88 2902 [email protected]