Opening Statement: First Kazakhstan Forum on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Excellency, Mr. Askar Mamin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
Professor Jeffrey Sachs,
Excellencies,
Very distinguished participants,

It is a pleasure to be with you in Nur Sultan for this First Kazakhstan Forum on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In the fourth year of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, I welcome this opportunity to take stock. To assess where we must focus our effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Kazakhstan’s recent experience is directly relevant.

The priorities of the ‘Kazkahstan-2050 Strategy’ are complementary to those of 2030 Agenda. Achieving 4 percent sustainable economic growth, transforming the country into a diversified knowledge economy and improving conditions for the most vulnerable in our communities - all echo SDG ambitions. As do the priorities of achieving greater gender equality, and improved access to health care and quality education.

With these objectives in mind, the country has reformed and modernised its economy, supported human development and encouraged entrepreneurship. The business climate has become increasingly competitive. Kazakhstan’s middle class has grown considerably, and the country is in the top third of countries on the human development index. As private businesses have flourished, and human capital strengthened, considerable foreign direct investment has been attracted.

At the same time, Kazakhstan has demonstrated its commitment to the 2030 Agenda by mainstreaming SDG objectives and linking 80 percent of them to national strategic documents. The new institutional architecture established to support implementation should help further accelerate progress.

These are firm foundations on which to build. Kazakhstan has a valuable contribution to make, as we consider how to overcome the challenges still faced by North and Central Asia, and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Our assessment finds that on its current trajectory, the region will not achieve any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Significant steps have been taken towards ending poverty, ensuring access to quality education and lifelong learning (Goal 4), and delivering affordable and clean energy (Goal 7). Yet even in these areas, success can only be achieved by 2030 if progress is accelerated.

For many more Goals our progress is stagnating or heading in the wrong direction. Negative trends must be reversed if we are to provide clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), ensure decent work and economic growth (Goal 8) and support responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). Urgent action is needed to strengthen environmental protection and combat climate change (Goal 13). The mismanagement of natural resources underlies some of the most important gaps which need to be closed by 2030.

For all its achievements to date, North and Central Asia also needs to accelerate progress if it is to achieve all Sustainable Development Goals. The subregion outperforms the rest of developing Asia and the Pacific when it comes to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and providing quality education. Yet urgent action is needed to reverse negative trends to achieve gender equality (Goal 5), support decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and build sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11).

As we work to address these challenges to support sustainable development, let me highlight three areas you may wish to consider in your deliberations.

First, achieving sustainable development will require additional investment, which is strategically targeted. Our analysis concludes additional annual investment of $1.5 trillion is required to achieve the Goals by 2030 in Asia and the Pacific. This is equivalent to $1 per person per day. The region has the fiscal space to afford it. Yet mobilizing these additional resources will require a concerted effort. Reforms to increase tax revenue and private sector investment remain necessary – alongside measures to diversify our economies and empower our people.

In North and Central Asia, we estimate that providing basic universal social protection, would require an additional investment of 1.7% of GDP annually up to 2030. Universal health coverage would require another 0.5% of GDP. The greatest investment need would be for the transition towards cleaner energy and climate resilient infrastructure, which would require 1.8% of GDP annually. Considerable investments, for considerable developmental gains.

Second, deeper economic integration between North and Central Asia and the rest of the region would strengthen sustainable economic growth. Supported by improved transport infrastructure and trade facilitation measures, there is an opportunity to deliver the economic diversification necessary for more equitable distribution of wealth and to lessen the rural-urban divide. Many strategic transport infrastructure projects are underway, some with the support of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. We are keen to help ensure social and environmental sustainability remain central to their development.

If hard transport infrastructure can be complemented with trade facilitation measures to eliminate non-tariff measures and restrictive rules of origin, further trade and investment gains can be achieved. Automating trade, transit and investment procedures would also help. We estimate the electronic exchange of trade data and documents between the North and Central Asia could reduce trade costs by 25 percent. A United Nations treaty to facilitate cross border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific has recently been agreed for this purpose. Armenia and Azerbaijan are among the countries which have signed and acceded. I hope more countries from central Asia will follow to maximize the treaty’s benefits.

Third, we need stronger partnerships to strengthen the region’s means of implementing the 2030 Agenda. Only then will we have the means to finance, target and implement the necessary policy solutions to achieve sustainable development. North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation as well as multilateral financing mechanisms all have a role. ESCAP is committed to supporting the intergovernmental work needed, working with sub regional organisations such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kazakhstan and North and Central Asia have great potential to take the sustainable development agenda a step further. Our focus must be on strategically targeting our investment and deepening economic integration to diversify our economies while supporting social development. I look forward to joining forces with all of you to achieve to 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a successful forum.