71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – Policy Statement

71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – Policy Statement

escap71icDelivered at the opening of the Ministerial Segment of the 71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.

Your Excellency, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand

Your Excellency, Mr. Anote Tong, President of Kiribati

Your Excellency, Mr. Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of the Republic of Nauru

Your Excellency, Mr. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji

Your Excellency, Mr. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Your Excellency, Mr. Douglas Ete, Deputy Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands

Your Excellency, Mr. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

Your Excellency, Mr. Ly Tuch, Senior Minister of Cambodia, Acting Chair of the 70th session of the Commission

Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

Welcome to the 71st session of the Commission.

2015 is a year of global and regional opportunity. Our joint responsibility is to foster long-term shared prosperity.

We meet this year amid a confluence of key events, among them: the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Charter; the 20th year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; and the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol.

This year, global leaders will lay the foundations of a far-reaching new sustainable development agenda. Sustainability will be further reinforced with a new agreement on climate change and new global partnerships.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Key Asia-Pacific Regional Adjustments

Our region is well-known for its resources, resilience and entrepreneurial spirit. Recurring and escalating vulnerabilities and exogenous shocks however, demand vigilance and course correction.

The hesitant global recovery, rising inequalities and environmental stress call for adjustments in traditional growth models and paths. Furthermore, our region is home to more than 1.4 billion people still living in poverty, six of the top ten emitters accounting for more than half of total greenhouse gas emissions, and growing social deficits.

Changing global and regional dynamics call for necessary adjustments to development paths. This involves emphasis on five areas:

  1. Domestic consumption and demand as future drivers of growth rather than sole dependence on export demand-driven models, led by growth in investment and trade.
  2. Pursuit of inclusive growth, which is critical to reinforce sustainability. ESCAP’s new multidimensional Inclusiveness Index offers a tool to understand and track progress on inclusiveness.
  3. Structural reforms, as delays are hurting potential growth. Economies need to improve competitiveness, innovation and productivity; fast-track infrastructure development; promote ‘next generation’ trade facilitation; and formulate and communicate Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to global climate change mitigation targets.
  4. Regional economic cooperation and integration by, among others: enhanced transboundary connectivity; action on environmental hazards; and financial and trade integration. Building on the success of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the Eurasian Economic Union, there is need for foster regional cooperation among other subregional blocs. ESCAP will be hosting the Second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific in December.
  5. Adoption of balanced and integrated development to tackle multiple forms of deprivation, including: disparities between genders, income brackets and across the urban-rural divide. This will open up economic opportunities through access to quality education, healthcare, improved sanitation, clean drinking water and reliable energy. Investing in social development is a key driver of deeper and more sustained economic growth, and therefore development.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Preparations for Post-2015 Development

Our regional report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be released this afternoon, highlights that Asia and the Pacific has achieved 13 out of the 21 targets which we track. As we transition from MDGs to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), we have intensified our regional consultations on sustainable development and financing with policymakers, civil society and the business community, as well as drawing on experience gained during MDG implementation. Besides addressing substantial unfinished business, the SDGs call for integrated approaches to development, country ownership, and good governance, supported by the global and regional partnerships in areas such as finance, technology and data, which currently leave much to be desired.

In order to better service your intergovernmental priorities in the post-2015 development agenda, we are also strengthening the analytical and capacity building work of the secretariat.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Countries with Special Needs

To promote the voice and priorities of the countries with special needs (CSN), ESCAP is promoting the SAMOA Pathway of the Third International Conference on the small island developing States (SIDS), the Vienna Programme of Action for the landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and the Siem Riep Angkor Outcome on the least developed countries (LDCs).

Just yesterday, our Special Body on LDCS, LLDCs and Pacific Island Developing Countries featured an unprecedented dialogue among six leaders of Pacific States about our follow-up on the SAMOA Pathway.

These intergovernmental priorities have been supported by ESCAP’s work on LDC graduation, LLDC economic diversification and connectivity, and our new annual Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report, launched this week.

For 2014-15, ESCAP has increased technical assistance to the CSN by more than 30 per cent: compared to the 2012-2013 biennium.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Stronger Regional Connectivity for Shared Prosperity

With your support, the secretariat is taking steps to advance holistic regional connectivity. In too many countries of the region logistics costs, for instance, exceed 20 per cent of GDP – compared to about 8 per cent in Singapore and 10 per cent in Japan.

Regional integrated intermodal and multimodal transport and logistics systems could combine the strengths of our Trans-Asian Railway and Asian Highway networks into a single integrated intermodal system, with the inclusion of dry ports and maritime transport.

The launch of a number of large-scale regional initiatives, including China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road; the Republic of Korea’s Eurasian Initiative and the Central-South Asia corridor, has also seen the emergence of investment pooling mechanisms to support regional infrastructure projects, such as the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and more recently, Japan’s allocation of $110 billion for infrastructure, as well as capital augmentation by the multilateral development banks. To take advantage of these opportunities, our economies need to strengthen enabling environments, fast-track project development pipelines; and improve legislation to encourage private sector participation and funding.

Further work on energy connectivity will also be launched to support the outcomes of intergovernmental deliberations at the first Asian and Pacific Energy Forum (APEF) in 2013, and resolution 70/9 last year. ESCAP has developed an APEF implementation support mechanism and is preparing for the second APEF, to be held in Tonga in 2018.

To close the widening digital divide in the region, our intergovernmental processes are negotiating principles and norms, and preparing a master plan for the proposed Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway to provide affordable and reliable access to broadband internet for all.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Social Justice for Sustainable Development

Within the overall framework of ‘leaving no-one behind’, the pursuit of social justice calls for equal rights and access for all people in the Asia-Pacific region.

To these ends, your intergovernmental work has established progressive regional norms to: advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; remove discriminatory legal barriers and promote universal access to health and social services, as well as equal rights – particularly for marginalized social groups.

To address rising inequalities, the secretariat will assist Governments to build comprehensive social protection systems, which promote decent work, income security and universal health care.

The recent 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action resulted in the adoption of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. To support implementation of the Declaration, we are proposing the establishment of an ESCAP resource facility on innovative financing for gender equality.

For the mid-term review in 2017 of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, the secretariat will step-up support for generating comparable disability statistics. This will also help us to monitor progress in implementation of the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real.” Disability considerations will also be mainstreamed in disaster risk reduction work. We will also be launching, later today, our new ESCAP Accessibility Centre, with the generous support of the Republic of Korea.

To better harness our regional “youth dividend”, work is also underway on the links between social exclusion and youth participation in employment, education and civic affairs.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Balancing & Integrating the Three Dimensions of Development

At your request, and to help inform these Commission deliberations, the secretariat has produced our 2015 theme study: “Balancing the Three Dimensions of Sustainable Development: From Integration to Implementation”. It advocates social justice and ecological protection as primary policy objectives and pursuit of balanced integration and policy shifts critical to the achievement of robust and inclusive growth and sustainability.

In the APFSD deliberations last week, member States highlighted five prerequisites for balanced and integrated development:

  1. Building resilience: We need to leverage the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability in an integrated manner. Governments should mainstream inclusive and green growth in their development plans and budgets, build capacities to address climate adaptation and mitigation, and offer the right incentives for the adoption of appropriate technologies. National capacities need to be harnessed to nurture resilience to withstand, adapt to and recover from the shocks of natural disasters. At the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in March, we released “Resilient Business for Resilient Nations and Communities”; an analysis of 40 years of Asia-Pacific disasters; and a policy guide on pro-poor urban climate resilience. We continue to offer support for implementation of the Sendai outcomes – the first agreed elements of the post-2015 development agenda.
  2. Investing in the environment: Challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation, pollution and overexploitation of water sources impact every part of our societies and economies – especially our most vulnerable groups. The Asia-Pacific region needs more efficient use of natural resources and strengthening of the rule of law and its enforcement, as deliberated last week at the First Forum of Ministers and Environmental Authorities of Asia Pacific. These investments will have high payoffs for a more livable future.
  3. Financing for development: In our regional consultations on financing for development, member States have recognized the need to channel the large and growing pool of regional savings into sustainable investments. Our estimates indicate it could cost the region $2.1 – $2.5 trillion per year to close infrastructure gaps, expand basic social protection and address climate mitigation and adaptation. Financial markets need to invest in development through inclusive and efficient resource distribution, and must be prepared to deploy risk and long-term funds, with budgets offering the needed risk management support for private investment. Partnerships are being explored to establish an Asia-Pacific Tax Forum, which will offer regional capacity building for enhancing domestic resource mobilization and international tax cooperation. Member States have also called for higher allocations and effective deployment of official development assistance (ODA) flows to our CSN, and its exploitation for building capacities in domestic resource mobilization, the development of capital markets, and to leverage other funding.
  4. Promoting science, technology and innovation (STI): Meaningful progress on many of the 17 proposed SDGs will only be possible with the development and application of new and improved technologies. ESCAP will be working to strengthen STI capacities, particularly in the CSN, through improvement of National Innovation Systems, supporting regional cooperation in new and emerging technologies, and sharing best practices. The Commission’s regional cooperation in ICT and space technologies has helped our most vulnerable communities to manage natural disasters, but for the benefits of STI to be fully harnessed, a regional roadmap will be developed to align national STI strategies for achievement of the SDGs.
  5. Effective data, follow-up and review: Follow-up and review of SDG implementation has been an integral part of the global negotiations. The likely mandate and role for the regional commissions will be to support member States to develop baseline information and to ensure coherence and consistency in implementation. This will require increased investment in relevant, measurable, accurate, complete, timely and internationally-comparable data and statistics, as well as the strengthening of national statistical systems. ESCAP’s Committee on Statistics, with coordinated support from a range of partners, is playing a critical role in promoting regional capabilities to provide, by 2020, an agreed basic range of statistics, particular in the CSN. Regional action for civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) is a central part of these efforts. Contextualization and localization of the SDGs to fit national circumstances, and big data and data analytics, will be game changers.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

In conclusion, seven decades ago, 51 countries agreed to pursue “Social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”. The Charter of the United Nations remains as important today as it was in 1945.

Now – as then – success demands action. Finance will drive sustainable development.

As we take the first steps in the next phase of our shared development journey, the people of Asia and the Pacific are poised to lead – in economic growth, in social innovation and in environmental stewardship.

We look to you – the leaders of our region – to seize the opportunities of sustainable development and to ensure that 2015 also marks the real start of the Asia-Pacific Century.

I thank you again and look greatly forward to our deliberations this week.