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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

17 March 2022


Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the most profound challenges to socio-economic development in our region and beyond.

This roundtable discussion is very timely given that we are entering a phase where governments can no longer continue to take short-term pandemic measures but must be better prepared and invest for the future.

Since the onset of the pandemic, ESCAP, along with the UN family, has been working closely with Governments in our region to recover better together and support efforts to effectively and sustainably regain momentum for advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Undoubtedly, progress towards the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and intensified development challenges. The Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021 has analysis showing the region is not on track to achieve any of the 17 SDGs. Unfortunately, South-East Asia shares a similar trend.

Areas where countries in South East Asia are indicating a lack of progress are in quality of education (Goal 4), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and partnership for the goals (Goal 17). Also showing concerns of regression include goals related to clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), climate action (Goal 13), and life below water (Goal 14). 

As governments design and implement recovery packages amid the pandemic, it is increasingly important to ensure that the policy packages help build economies that are more resilient to future shocks, socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable.

To address these challenges, we  developed socio-economic responses and solution-oriented plans to address the pandemic’s impact and yield a sustainable recovery.

Key initiatives include:

  • scaling up comprehensive social protection and universal health care systems that secure vaccines for all;
  • integrating climate actions into national COVID-19 recovery strategies;
  • developing national roadmaps for SDG 7 on renewable energy;
  • accelerating digitalization in line with the 2030 Agenda; and
  • debt-for-climate swaps in the Pacific and sustainability bonds in the least developed countries in the region.

Furthermore, during the pandemic, the use of digital technology and digital platforms by governments was found to be an effective way for sharing vital updated information about the pandemic.

May I take one example in which the government of Singapore used social media, websites and chatbots to announce real-time updates on the government’s policy for combating COVID-19. Through such measures, Singaporeans were able to access Facebook Messenger and Telegram and submit timely questions to the government.

Fully leveraging the data generated from earth observation satellites verified by multiple sources on the ground will be vital for countries to monitor the implementation of SDGs and provide insights on mega-trends and global phenomena.

Such evidence-based knowledge can unveil invisible uncertainty and complexity that can protect people from risks and augment targeted policies for inclusive and sustainable development.

We are supporting capacity development in countries of South-East Asia, particularly Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam to use integrated geospatial information for mitigating disaster risk, including air pollution, monitoring drought and crop yields for food security, as well as mapping dynamically evolving situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the SDG 7 roadmaps, we have developed analytical frameworks for ASEAN cities to reach the targets for affordable and clean energy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The ongoing pandemic-induced crisis has underscored the importance of harnessing multilateral partnerships in our recovery plans and programmes.

There is priority and urgency for multilateral efforts to build forward better from the pandemic, namely for expanded fiscal space and promoting SDG-aligned financial flows; enhanced connectivity; advanced energy access and the transition to a global green economy.

We will continue to work with the governments of the member States, together with ADB, to further intensify cooperation in support of the countries’ inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery.

I hope that this forum will allow all relevant stakeholders to engage in a dialogue and share lessons learned to help provide officials with sound and innovative policy responses for a post-COVID-19 world.

Thank you very much.

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