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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

25 August 2021


Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the first Regional Conversation of our series for 2021. Today’s ministerial panel on disaster, climate and health resilience is being held during the seventh session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction, and I look forward to our discussion shortly.

In more ways than one, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated unprecedented challenges. Its effects have been further compounded by extreme climate events, causing severe damage to our economies and societies, and ruining the lives and livelihoods of millions. Therefore, it is important to understand and assess risk using an integrated and multi-hazard approach.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, In its efforts to achieve sustainable development, the Asia-Pacific region has witnessed extraordinary progress. Yet, despite this progress, our region was not on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, even before the onset of COVID-19.

Now, the pandemic has caused an economic slowdown across the region, significantly affecting development, exposing vulnerabilities and further exacerbating inequalities. However, it has provided us with the opportunity to abandon the business-as-usual approach and change direction.

At the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations last year the General Assembly adopted “Our Common Agenda” to respond to current and future challenges. To fulfill this vision, multilateralism and regionalism need to be adapted through four key channels.

First, in the aftermath of COVID-19, building universal resilience is a prerequisite for addressing the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic and the rising inequalities and levels of poverty. A paradigm shift in disaster risk management is needed, focusing on investments in prevention and resilience building. A multi-hazard approach is critical for integrating disaster and health emergencies with universal social protection.

Second, economic and governmental mechanisms need to place climate and nature at the centre of development. This channel will require a rethinking of growth-led development models. Solutions that enable net-zero-carbon development, address environmental degradation, pollution and threats to wildlife, and maintain the integrity of ecosystems, will need to be addressed.

Third, tapping into the potential of digital technology innovations is fundamental to accelerating inclusive, resilient and sustainable development. We need to close the digital divide as many of the region’s poorest people are at the last mile and unable to avail of early warning access systems as well as adequate health services, leaving them vulnerable on many fronts. Achieving universal, affordable and reliable connectivity by 2030 will reduce further the risk burden of the poorest.

And lastly Fourth, investments in these key components have to be backed by fiscal resources. Furthermore, with the advent of green, sustainable and innovative financing mechanisms, there is scope now more than ever to achieve resilient growth and nature-centred development.

Natural and biological disasters and shocks have no boundaries. Looking into the future, we must recognize that the need for multilateralism and regionalism is as important today as it was seventy-five years ago when the United Nations was born.  We hope that through this Regional Conversation Series, we can build forward-looking regional partnerships and mission-oriented coalitions to address pandemics, crises and other transboundary challenges, including climate change.

To this end, today’s Conversation will deliberate on a regional strategy to build back better from disaster, climate and health crises. Along with the United Nations family, ESCAP stands ready to partner with member States and all stakeholders to build a resilient Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you for your attention.

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