Remarks at the 375th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives

Delivered at the 375th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives in Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished Members,

Welcome to the 375th session of the ACPR, the last formal meeting before the seventy-fourth session of the Commission.

This morning I would like to update you on my recent official missions, as well as some key activities of the secretariat, since our last meeting.

Let me start by briefing you on my recent trip to Prague, to attend, at the invitation of the ECOSOC President, the ECOSOC Preparatory Meeting for the 2018 Special Meeting “Towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all” to be held in New York, on 23 May. The meeting discussed the role of stakeholder participation, good governance and strong and inclusive institutions for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and allowed sharing policy approaches and practices to advance the 2030 Agenda. The focus was on fostering sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies at the global, regional, national and local levels.

ESCAP was the only Regional Commission in attendance and I shared some perspectives and good practices from our region to harness and mainstream local participation. I highlighted the leadership of Asia-Pacific as the first region to operationalize the 2030 Agenda at the regional level, in an inclusive and participatory manner, through the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and the adoption of the Regional Road Map for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

Prior to that I travelled to Ottawa, Canada, to deliver remarks at the opening session of the “High-level Panel and Technical Consultation on Making the Invisible Visible: Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) as a basis to Meeting the 2030 Gender Agenda”. I highlighted the challenges and opportunities that exist in our region to advance the gender equality agenda through strengthened CRVS systems and the instrumental work of ESCAP in this area.

While in Canada I met with senior representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada to discuss areas of cooperation, and in particular the development of a project to promote women’s entrepreneurship in our region. I also met with the President of the International Development Research Centre, a leading think tank, to discuss potential collaboration in the area of CRVS, data and statistics and research on SDGs 3 and 5 (health and gender).

I was also invited to deliver opening remarks at the launch of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)’s innovation Initiative, in London, alongside the President of IsDB and the Bank’s Chief Scientific Advisor. The initiative, called “Engage”, is a new digital platform which will promote technological and scientific solutions to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. I am very pleased to inform you that, at the side-lines of the event, ESCAP and the Islamic Development Bank have signed a memorandum of Understanding to work together to build a global network of scientists, technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors and to nurture and scale up high potential innovations to achieve sustainable and inclusive development. While in London I met with the heads of several global think tanks, such as the Overseas Development Institute, the Centre for Global Development, and the Climate Change Development Knowledge Network, to discuss areas of potential cooperation.

Moreover, I had the privilege to attend the Signing Ceremony of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in Myanmar, by New Mon Party and Lahu Democratic Union, and to sign the Agreement as witness, on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. While in Myanmar I held bilateral meetings with Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Union Minister of International Cooperation and the Union Minister of Electricity and Energy, and discussed ESCAP’s support to Myanmar in the areas of trade and investment policy, as well as energy access.

I also visited the Republic of Korea to attend a number of high-level events. I delivered a speech at the Pyeong Chang Forum, during the Special Session on Global Citizenship to Achieve the SDGs. I highlighted shared challenges faced by the region, such as data collection, inequality, financing for development as well as stakeholder engagement and participatory planning. I also participated as a panellist during the plenary session on climate action at the Global Engagement & Empowerment Forum on Sustainable Development, co-hosted by the Institute for Global Engagement and Empowerment of Yonsei University and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. At the side-lines of the event I met with both former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. I also met with the Vice-Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, the President of KOICA, the President of the Korea Environment Institute and the President of the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), to discuss areas of cooperation. In this connection I am pleased to report that ESCAP has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with STEPI to promote science, technology and innovation policies for sustainable development in the region.

Prior to that, I travelled to Tehran, to attend the meeting of the Governing Council of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM) and sign the host country agreement between ESCAP and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the establishment of ADPIM as a regional institution of the Commission. The agreement established the legal status of APDIM and cleared the way for APDIM to officially start operations in Tehran. As you know APDIM is the newest born of our regional institutions. It will plug information gaps to support disaster resilience for sustainable development. The visit was also an opportunity to meet with the Vice-President and Head of the Plan and Budget Organization; the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs; the Vice-President and Head of Department of Environment; the Minister of Foreign Affairs; and the Governor of the Central Bank.

I also visited Headquarters in New York to attend the ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment and discuss the perspectives of Regional Commissions and ESCAP on key elements of the response to the 2016 Resolution on the Quadriennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), including the reports of the Secretary-General on repositioning of the United Nations development system and the 2018 report of the Secretary-General on QCPR implementation.

As you know, the reform of the United Nations development system, which started in 2017, has gained momentum in 2018. ESCAP, in its role as coordinator of the Regional Commissions, was at the forefront of the effort to ensure that the important role of the Regional Commissions was recognized in the reform process in 2017. The three pillars of the work of the Regional Commissions, which are the analytical, convening and capacity development functions are recognized in the Secretary-General’s reports issued in July and December 2017 as well as statements from member States. At the same time, the Secretary-General has called for an enhancement of the think tank function of Regional Commissions to better serve the member States in our region. Regional Commissions are also expected to enhance support to the Resident Coordinators and the UN country teams. Last but not least, the reform proposal envisages one coordination mechanism at the regional level in the long term. Member States have begun to debate a resolution on the reform based upon the two reports of the Secretary-General. It is expected that the resolution will focus on immediate measures while paving the way for longer-term actions, particularly at the regional level, to be agreed in 2019.

While in New York I also represented Regional Commissions at the Global Service Delivery Model Steering Committee Meeting, sharing our perspectives and describing ESCAP’s restructuring in line with the reform and the implications of some of the actions required. Moreover, I met with the Deputy-Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to discuss about the role of Regional Commissions and aspects of regional coordination and cooperation with DESA.

Turning now to my engagements here in Bangkok, I delivered opening remarks at the “Asia-Pacific High-Level Meeting for CSW62: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. The meeting was convened by ESCAP, UN Women and FAO, in collaboration with WFP and other members of the UN Regional Coordination Mechanism’s Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women to assist the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in its deliberations at its 62nd session. The meeting agreed upon a set of forward-looking recommendations to advance gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. The outcomes of the Meeting fed into the deliberations of the CSW62, which was convened in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.

Last week many of you attended the fifth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, which attracted more than 500 participants, several Ministers and broad representation from various stakeholders. The level of participation and the richness of the debate at last week’s Forum is a testament to the increased relevance of this platform. As you know the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development was officially added to the conference structure of ESCAP last year at the seventy-third session of the Commission and is now the primary platform for the regional follow-up and review of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and a key milestone in preparation for the annual high-level political forum on sustainable development.

As you can see, 2018 is emerging as a very busy and productive year. Now we are gearing up for the Asia Pacific Energy Forum.

I would like to thank you personally for helping ensure high-level representation at these important meetings and I count on your continued support in securing high-level participation also at the Commission this coming May. I greatly valued the guidance provided by the Advisory Committee in finalizing the programme for the high-level ministerial segment of the Commission. The final timetable and guidance notes for each session of the ministerial segment were sent to all Seats of Government last month, and preparations are well under way. We have started to receive indication of the participation of a number of ministers. But we are only six weeks away from the Commission session and I would like to once again appeal for your support in securing participation of your delegations at the highest level to ensure strong and meaningful outcomes and full ownership by member States of our platform.

Thank you.