Remarks at the 373rd Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives

Delivered at the 373rd Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives in Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished Members,

Welcome to the last ACPR of 2017.

Let me update you on ESCAP’s engagements during the 72nd session of the General Assembly and the second and fifth committees; the UN-ASEAN summit; the COP 23; and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Heads of Government Council. I will also report briefly on the intergovernmental meetings we’ve held since the last ACPR in September.

The theme of the General Assembly was 'Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet'. Among several sessions, two events stood out. One was an SG/DSG led session on the financing for development, and the other was the launching of the Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict.

ESCAP organised and participated in several high-level events.

  • The Royal Thai government and ESCAP collaborated on a side event focused on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience. This was opened by His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This session called for the replenishment of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness and expressed appreciation for ESCAP’s high quality analytical work, including the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017. Japan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations highlighted Japan’s ongoing work to mitigate the consequences of natural disasters in our region.
  • A joint Regional Economic Commissions’ event on migration was also organized by ESCAP. All regional commissions provided their perspectives on the topic. Chaired by the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary, the event was marked by the keynote address from the Prime Minister of Tuvalu and interventions by the Permanent Representative of Mexico, the Secretary General’s Representative on Global Migration, the Foreign Minister of El Salvador and the Planning Minister of Zambia. This session served to highlight the significance and variations in the regional dimension of migration which has helped inform the Global Compact for Migration organized to support the development of policies to foster safe and orderly migration.
  • The UN-ASEAN ministerial meeting held just after the General Assembly reinforced the significance of UN’s joint support for political and development pillars of the ASEAN program of action. The ESCAP-Thailand-ASEAN secretariat led report on complementarities between the 2030 Agenda and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 was recognised. This was a timely preparation for the UN-ASEAN Summit held in Manila in November during which I joined the UN Secretary-General.
  • On the side lines of the General Assembly, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) invited me to open a seminar dedicated to carbon markets. I underscored the pivotal role Asia and the Pacific will have in the future success of climate change mitigation and spoke of the ground-breaking carbon trading schemes which have been established in our region, as well as the cooperative approaches being pursued, such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation and the Joint Crediting Mechanism. I underlined the importance of compatible and robust accounting rules for these approaches.

Along with other Regional Commissions, at the UN General Assembly Second Committee in October, ESCAP’s presentation illustrated how well Asia-Pacific is placed to finance the 2030 Agenda despite its large financing requirements, provided the region promotes a robust and inclusive growth path, ensures macroeconomic stability, and channels effectively its high savings rate to finance sustainable development goals. In Asia, the high trade integration and increasing intra-regional trade and investment are catalysts for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Despite immense opportunities, the presentation underscored the need to address a range of challenges, including the need to tap effectively the tax potential of the economies, capture the large informal sector better, address the growing infrastructure and public service requirements of a rising Asian middle class, and contain the risk of financial instability and rising protectionism.

I also attended the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly and responded to questions during the budget review.

Turning to other key activities in November 2017, I joined the Secretary-General in Manila to attend the ASEAN Summit – focused on celebrating the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN. Besides broad recognition of the ASEAN UN Joint Plan of Action, the “Chairman’s Statement of the 9th ASEAN-United Nations Summit” welcomed ESCAP’s Complementarities Report – a joint endeavour taken forward by ESCAP, Thailand and the ASEAN Secretariat . The statement recognized contributions to the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity, our upcoming study on drought and poverty alleviation, and work underway on human development, social welfare, gender equality and women economic empowerment. At the Summit, the Secretary-General and five Heads of State emphasised the importance of a future focus on resilience, infrastructure and connectivity, sustainable production and consumption, poverty eradication, and sustainable management of natural resources. There was also a call for the UN to focus on transboundary and cross-sectoral issues.

ESCAP was actively involved in COP 23. With Fiji, ESCAP organised a dedicated side event on Oceans and climate change. ESCAP attended the soft launch of the Oceans Pathway. We further organised side events on Asia-Pacific Climate Action focused on making financing flows consistent with the pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

ESCAP coordinated another event to explore opportunities to scale up climate change action to implement the NDCs in the five UN regions and hear national perspectives of how Regional Commissions are responding.

ESCAP also took part in a China-UN event focused on supporting smallholders’ resilience to climate change. Finally, I should say how much I appreciated an event organised by the Russian Federation which explored options to effectively transition to a low carbon, sustainable energy future and Russia’s contribution to low-emission economies.

More recently, on invitation of the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, I participated in the 16th Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Heads of Government Council. The “Joint Communiqué” of the Heads of Government recognized the importance of effective collaboration with the United Nations in dealing with both economic and humanitarian challenges. It also welcomed the success of the high-level special event on regional transport connectivity co-organized by ESCAP and SCO at the margins of the Second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration (RECI), which many of you attended. Both sides were keen for cooperation to be stepped up on transport and energy connectivity, market integration, ICT and disaster risk reduction and resilience.

Finally, it’s important to report the last quarter of 2017 had six intergovernmental Meetings. The second RECI Ministerial adopted a declaration encouraging us to continue facilitating member States’ RECI-related efforts and to strengthen partnerships with other organizations and initiatives to promote economic integration across our region as key means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. ESCAP sees great promise in an inclusive approach to RECI, building on existing national and regional initiatives. Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, RECI has the potential to reduce rising inequalities by offering opportunities to marginalized countries and people, and by mainstreaming social and environmental considerations across a broad range of policy areas.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, organized with several other UN agencies, called for governments in the region to act through economic, social and environmental policies to safeguard the rights and interests of all migrants.

The High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Midpoint Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, generously hosted by China, adopted the Beijing Declaration and Action Plan to Accelerate the Implementation of the Incheon Strategy critical to deliver inclusive economic development.

The fifth session of the Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction emphasized the key role that space technology and applications play in disaster risk reduction and supported the further development of the Asia-Pacific Plan of Action for Space Applications (2018-2030).

The fifth session of the Committee on Trade and Investment expressed the importance of the assistance provided by ESCAP to strengthen capacities to achieve successful free trade agreements; to support trade facilitation measures including paperless trade and e-commerce; and develop and manage special economic zones promoting FDI for sustainable development.

The first Committee on Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development concluded last week. You gave your secretariat an admirably clear direction. We will continue to do all we can to pursue in an integrated manner analytical work on macroeconomic assessment, policies to reduce poverty, and strategies to finance sustainable development.

The Committees were the opportunity to launch several of our knowledge products. These included the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017, the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017, the Handbook on Policies, Promotion and Facilitation of Foreign Direct Investment for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, the Update of the 2017 Social and Economic Survey; and a joint paper with Oxfam on the tax inequality nexus.

The 2017 Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia – SPECA - Economic Forum met last week to focus on ‘Innovation for the SDGs in the SPECA region’. The SPECA Governing Council initiated the development of a regional strategy on innovation in support of the SDGs. Countries agreed to continue to strengthen SPECA as the mechanism for cooperation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Central Asia. ESCAP will of course be doing everything it can to support this, including through its subregional office for North and Central Asia. At the same time ESCAP attended the Transport Week organized by the Russian Federation last week which is critical for our region.

Next year, prior to the Commission, we will be convening the fifth APFSD in March, followed by the second Asian and Pacific Energy Forum. At the end of February, ESCAP and DESA will be co-organising a conference in Bangkok on SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy to prepare the 2018 High-level Political Forum. After this, we will be launching the Asia Business Forum.

Thank you for your ongoing collegial approach. I look forward to working with you in 2018.