Your Excellency, Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address you at the “World Social Work Day 2021 for the Asia Pacific Region”.
By now, we all know that leaving no one behind is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It is also at the heart of social workers.
Your work, skills and knowledge are critical to support our vulnerable households and communities.
By doing so, you help making our societies more inclusive and resilient.
You work with people and families, often, in marginalised and excluded situations. These may be women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous people, internally displaced people, migrants and refugees.
In carrying out your work, you have to fight structural discrimination, socio-cultural stereotypes as well as institutional and legal barriers.
And you do this with insufficient financial means and often limited support from governments and the general public.
This is not a small task.
And, it is much more difficult with the COVID-19 outbreak.
As social workers, you are now also our societies’ frontline workers, with an increased risk of exposure to the virus while tirelessly carrying out your work to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Asia-Pacific region has been among the fastest-growing economies in the world.
However, inequalities in income, wealth and access to basic opportunities and services are still prevalent, leaving large number of population in deprived and in vulnerable situations.
We would be able to mitigate the socio-economic crisis better, had we invested enough in people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What we need is to place the wellbeing of our people at the centre of our global, regional and national development agendas, not see it as an afterthought.
This requires a strengthening of solidarity and social cohesion throughout our region by embracing the centrality human dignity, inclusivity, transparency, respect for diversity, equality and non-discrimination.
There is no simple one-size-fit-all solution.
By now, we are all well-aware of the central role social protection plays for our societies.
A corner stone of social protection is solidarity. Social protection is also a very strong driver of social cohesion.
I am therefore deeply appreciative to our UN ESCAP member States that, in late October last year, endorsed our region’s first-ever framework on social protection, namely the “Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific”.
The objective of the Action Plan is to promote social protection for all as a facilitator for implementing the 2030 Agenda and to establish a shared vision for our region.
The Action Plan includes some 15 national actions to be implemented by 2030, including: Setting a national baseline of the population covered by social protection schemes and to share national experiences on progress of national social protection policies.
It also includes 3 regional actions that ESCAP, together with ILO and other regional UN entities, will be responsible for. These include the development of a regional online platform to facilitate peer learning and the sharing of good practices, but also to provide technical advice and capacity-building at the national level to support countries’ implementation of the Action Plan.
I am looking forward to your support and collaboration in implementing the Action Plan and that this will have a visible impact on the way we respond not only to the immediate crisis at hand, but build a stronger and more inclusive, prosperous and resilient Asia-Pacific
I also hope that this Action Plan will be of direct value for you in your daily work.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Social solidarity is important not only within countries but also between countries.
In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deep appreciation to the Government of Thailand for their strong leadership and commitment in promoting the significance of social work in all aspects of societies.
ESCAP stands ready to work with all stakeholders in eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
With a common agenda, underpinned by a strong believe in solidarity and social cohesion, I hope and believe that together we will succeed!
I wish you a most fruitful and enriching day ahead.
Thank you very much.