Opening Statement at the 374th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives

Delivered at the 374th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives in Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished Members,

Welcome to the 374th session of the ACPR and a very happy New Year to all of you.

2017 has been a momentous year for ESCAP. Our membership has shown considerable leadership in the pursuit of sustainable development, as Asia-Pacific was the first region to adopt at the seventy-third session of the Commission a regional road map for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and to institutionalize the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development. ESCAP members have renewed their commitment to regional economic cooperation and integration, which was recognized as a means to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals by the Second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific. The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment highlighted the importance for the region to decouple economic activity and human well-being from resource use, waste and pollution, if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.

Last year we also held the first session of the Committee on Energy. This reviewed key energy priorities for the region and discussed the energy transition required to support the Sustainable Development Goals and paved the way for two thematic expert working groups to be established. For the first time, the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction deliberated on Financing for Development. This platform now takes an integrated approach to macroeconomic, fiscal and stability questions as well as poverty reduction, while examining how to leverage financing for the Sustainable Development Goals. The significance of this Committee has to be viewed in the context of what happened towards the conclusion of the MDG era due to the global crisis and instability. The Committee has helped institutionalize partnerships to encourage debate on tax policy and to establish a network of public-private partnerships and infrastructure financing.

Against the backdrop of the continued, severe impact of natural disasters, the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction agreed to establish the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network to strengthen ESCAP’s work on coherence for disaster risk reduction and resilience across the 2030 Agenda. The Trade and Investment Committee met amidst a climate of global economic uncertainties, but saw our membership reasserting the critical role of trade and investment for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and calling for targeted trade and investment liberalization policies that are more inclusive and mindful of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

ESCAP members further addressed a whole host of critical social issues. In September government representatives from the region, together with civil society and academia attended the regional Intergovernmental Meeting on the Third Review and Appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which identified priority actions for the regional implementation of the Plan of Action in 2017-2021 and provided an important input to a global review, which will begin next week in New York. In November, the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration provided a forum to identify key migration issues, challenges and priorities for the Asia-Pacific region and to arrive at a set of conclusions that served as a regional input into the global stocktaking meeting in Mexico later in the year, and ultimately inform the negotiations on the Global Compact this year. While at the end of November member States gathered in Beijing to renew their commitment to “make the right real” for people with disabilities and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Action Plan to accelerate commitments towards improving the rights of the 690 million disabled persons across the region, and beyond.

We concluded the year with the Asia-Pacific Climate Week, which saw ESCAP partner with a broad array of institutions to provide the first major event after COP 23, bringing together ministers, high-level officials and policymakers, private sector leaders and practitioners, scholars, development partners and stakeholders from more than 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, to commit to a Regional Climate Action Agenda.

Our intergovernmental deliberations were informed by more than 300 knowledge products, including a number of flagship publications such as the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017, the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017, a report on Enhancing Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific, in addition to our annual Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Report and the theme study on Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Energy in Asia and the Pacific, to name just a few. Decisions taken by our intergovernmental fora were also operationalized through more than 70 capacity building activities, including field projects and training courses. We also launched a number of rapid response facility missions to different countries with special needs.

2018 is emerging as an even more exciting and busy year for both ESCAP and the whole United Nations system.

Our first major intergovernmental gathering in our calendar of meetings for 2018 is the Fifth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, to take place from 28 to 30 March. The Forum has now established itself as an indispensable platform for countries in the region to assess progress and share experiences in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to prepare the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development. The Forum will engage member States, United Nations bodies and other international organisations, major groups and other stakeholders in highlighting regional and sub-regional perspectives on this year’s theme of the high-level political forum: “Transformations towards sustainable and resilient societies”. The Forum will also support the presentation of voluntary national reviews and will assess progress of the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific. I welcome your support to make this APFSD a platform with multi-sectoral and high-level representation, and I encourage you to contribute to the rapid response facility so that we have dedicated support for the implementation of sustainable development over and above our normal work programme.

The following week, from 3 to 5 April, the Second Asian and Pacific Energy Forum will provide a platform for reviewing and discussing progress in enhancing energy security in efforts to achieve 2030 Agenda in the region, and assessing policy options for keeping the region on track in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 and moving towards sustainable and resilient societies. The Forum’s deliberations will galvanise action on sustainable energy for all, both to discuss how to enhance access and energy transition within the regional context. The Forum is expected to result in the adoption of a ministerial declaration with action-oriented activities to guide regional cooperation for sustainable energy development. My strong appeal to you is to make this platform more action-oriented for the benefit of all members.

The first half of the year will culminate with the seventy-fourth session of the Commission in May, which will be a timely opportunity for leaders and high-level officials to exchange views with regional thought leaders including academia, experts, the private sector and businesses. This platform is being structured to evolve more thinking on development issues and policies facing our region and to showcase the region’s continued commitment to globalization and multilateralism. Hopefully this will be supported by the voice of regional leaders who are playing an instrumental role to keep the global governance regime intact and are taking it forward with new structures, new ideas and directions. This is a unique opportunity for our members to have these issues thought through in a systematic way, and to ensure that the Asia-Pacific region becomes not only the custodian of multilateralism, but also allows all to see the virtues of globalization through its commitment to multilateralism. In ESCAP every Committee is reinforcing global governance, as I see, and most of all we do so through the spirit of regional cooperation and integration. We are at the forefront of driving global growth, trade and innovation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The vision and pledge to “leave no one behind” is the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda and will provide the backdrop to the theme topic of this year’s Commission: Inequality in the era of the 2030 Agenda. The Commission will review and discuss the drivers and consequences of inequality, as well as the measures being taken to reduce inequalities. The emergence of the fourth industrial revolution driven by frontier technologies presents a fresh set of challenges and opportunities: technology can help respond but at the same time it can exacerbate existing inequalities. In recognition of the importance of this emerging topic, the Secretary-General has identified taking advantage of the fourth industrial revolution while protecting against threats as one of his priorities for 2018. The Commission will provide a unique platform for countries to deliberate on these interrelated topics.

Your support in securing high-level representatives from your country at forthcoming intergovernmental meetings, and in particular the Commission, will be critical in ensuring strong and meaningful outcomes and is greatly appreciated. Their participation will raise ESCAP’s profile and help increase ownership by member States of our platform and the exchange of experiences and cross-fertilization that it is meant to provide.

Your full engagement in and ownership of our platform is essential as the United Nations development system repositions itself to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. As you may know the Secretary-General António Guterres has presented last night to ECOSOC his second report on the reform, released on 20 December 2017, which elaborates on the vision and initial proposals outlined in the June report and proposes seven key areas of transformation, including a revamped regional approach. Regional Commissions are at the centre of the proposed new regional architecture and the report calls for strengthening the effectiveness and convening role of Regional Commissions as think tanks and providers of intellectual support for policy advice on sustainable development, for UN Country Teams to benefit more from the analytical and normative capabilities of Regional Commissions.
The approval by the General Assembly of our budget for 2018 and 2019 without further cuts is a testament to the relevance of ESCAP and the importance that our member States place on our platform and our work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members that supported our budget for the trust placed in the secretariat. I will spare no efforts in ensuring ESCAP is fit for purpose to effectively support member States in the pursuit of their development aspirations and that we fulfil the expectations you have placed upon us.

To conclude, I have valued the guidance provided by the Advisory Committee over the past year, as well as your individual and invaluable support. I count on your continued engagement and I look forward to working with you in 2018.