Honourable Speakers and Members of Parliament,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to this webinar for the Asia-Pacific Region Parliaments.
We are very pleased to organize this regional webinar in collaboration with such a valuable partner as the Inter-Parliamentary Union and look forward to strengthening this partnership further.
The COVID-19 pandemic, a monumental human and socio-economic crisis, has exposed the systemic weaknesses and common challenges faced by countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Furthermore, in the past two years, the region has been hit by multiple natural disasters exacerbated by climate change.
Inadequate public health infrastructure, widespread informality in the labor sector, existing gender and digital divides and lack of comprehensive social protection systems have severely affected the region’s preparedness to tackle and recover from the pandemic.
As reported in the Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021, the region is not on track to achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals in the next seven to eight years.
On its current trajectory, the region may achieve less than 10 per cent of the Goals’ targets.
Therefore, there is an added urgency to ensure that responses to the pandemic in the region and at the national level accelerate progress toward the 2030 Agenda.
Pockets of progress continue to yield positive results that can be leveraged to regain the acceleration of Sustainable Development Goals achievement.
The most promising goals are good health and well-being (Goal 3) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9), where the region has progressed the most.
Nevertheless, we are at a critical turning point to build resilience and scale-up action.
This planetary crisis requires strong, transformational and authentic leadership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced nations to rethink their economies and their national priorities, and many also have committed to build back better, investing in building resilience.
We must lay the basis for systemic changes and create the conditions for everyone to adapt to a changing environment and live in peace.
“Supporting sustainable and inclusive recovery” is one of ESCAP’s main workstreams to support countries to cope with the pandemic.
In the COVID-19 response framework introduced in May 2020, we highlighted the need to protect the most vulnerable population groups and economic sectors, move towards universal health care and social protection systems, and increase investments in ICT infrastructure to close the digital divide.
We need to ensure that no one is left behind during the recovery process. A failure to do this will incur a high social cost.
ESCAP analysis suggests that almost 90 million people in Asia and the Pacific could have been pushed back into extreme poverty ($1.90 per day threshold) due to the pandemic.
In contrast, a sustainable and equitable recovery would result in large economic, social and environmental gains in Asia and the Pacific.
A coherent response for a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the pandemic requires a strong parliamentary engagement.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The 2030 Agenda recognizes the cardinal roles of parliamentarians in ensuring political support, translating the Sustainable Development Goals into national legislation, and holding governments accountable.
Allow me to reiterate that achieving the Goals requires strong, accountable institutions.
To this end, parliamentarians have a key role in realizing the Goals and sustainable and inclusive recovery by ensuring that governments are held accountable, and national resources are invested effectively and reach the most vulnerable.
As the political players, your voices really matter, especially when it comes to national development strategies or budget oversight.
Participation in the Voluntary National Reviews provides an opportunity for parliaments to exercise their oversight and accountability function with regard to the Sustainable Development Goals and national commitments to the 2030 Agenda.
I count on your leadership on these important issues.
Thank you all for your presence and, above all, for your actions in your respective parliaments.
ESCAP welcomes the efforts of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to provide a greater parliamentary contribution and enhanced support to the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.
I wish you a fruitful webinar, and I hope the discussions inspire stronger parliamentary action on achieving the Goals for a more sustainable, prosperous and peaceful planet.
Thank you very much.