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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

02 October 2020

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for the opportunity.
Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,

A diverse array of middle-income countries in the Asia-Pacific region share multiple challenges and opportunities in their advancement towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Both the lower and upper middle-income countries in our region are not only hub or center for economic growth and digital technology, but they also present a unique set of development challenges and aspiration.

COVID-19 crisis has led to contraction in economic growth, especially in the 38 middle-income countries in the Asia-Pacific region. A sharp fall in export earnings, remittances, tourisms and FDI inflows has exacerbated poverty, inequality and other forms of socio-economic vulnerabilities. Governments are grappling to safeguards people’s health, while aiming to restart the economic activities and protecting social development gains over the past decades.

Today, we must work to build and focus on strengthening the resilience in all aspects of our societies if we want to safeguard the Sustainable Development Goals.

May I take this opportunity to highlight three policy priorities for your considerations:

First, we need to mitigate socio-economic impacts of vulnerabilities at all levels— not only at national level but also subnational and local levels. Build back better from COVID-19 crisis must focus, first, on mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the vulnerable groups, strengthening the healthcare system as well as the social protection system.

Innovative financing strategies must improve diminished fiscal space and support of micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) through the stimulus fiscal packages. Promoting women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and digital technologies in close collaboration with governments, financial institutions and the private sector must remain as one of the key policy priorities.

Second, we need to bridge the digital divide. From the ongoing experience, surviving the COVID-19 crisis is possible for businesses if they can speedily migrate to digital operations. The governments need to accelerate the investment in ICT infrastructure, in close collaboration with private sectors.

A range of policies to facilitate availability of digital technology is critical to improve public services to citizens and business continuity in areas such as e-commerce and digital finance.

Third, we must emphasize greening the recovery.  The Asia-Pacific region accounted for about 50 per cent of the annual increase in global CO2 emissions and home to majority of the 100 most polluted cities in the world, so air pollution is one of the major challenges in our region. We must act on climate mitigation, promotion of renewable energy, energy transition, embedded in countries SDG 7 roadmap.

In the post-pandemic recovery phase, the government policies must be directed to industries that are low-carbon, resource efficient and aligned with environmental and climate objectives as in the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

To facilitate these three policy priorities, ESCAP, along with the UN family in our region, is working very closely with member States and all stakeholders together.

We are closely working with many middle-income countries in our region on implementing national policies for women’s entrepreneurship or catalyzing women’s entrepreneurship, to promote their economic empowerment. With concrete initiatives, these engagements are enabling policy environments that provide increased women’s access to finance and digital technologies.

Together with member States, we are also pioneering the initiative which is the regional cooperation architecture such as Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS), this is in relation to how to mitigate air pollution which is a big problem and relates to climate change, to enhance the capacity of environmental experts, meteorologists and space scientists to monitor air quality data from space and ground networks, which is crucial in the region where most cities do not have sufficient systems for air pollution monitoring.

We must take forward the national energy access, transition, and alignment with decarbonization efforts and SDG7 implementation roadmap. With the increasing investment in technologies in areas such as solar, wind, energy storage and energy efficiency, government must work with the private sector in scaling-up the sustainable energy transition.

ESCAP as well as all UN system is working closely with member States and partner organizations in identifying and agreeing upon the steps needed to build interconnected power grids across the region and at the subregional levels to tap into more renewable energy, lower energy costs and increase energy security in our region.

Thank you very much for your attention.  

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