ACPR 355: Executive Secretary's Remarks

Delivered during the 355th Session of the Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives (ACPR) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Mr. Chair,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Members of the ACPR,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

I want to thank all delegations for their proactive participation and contribution to the seventieth Commission session. The Secretariat is now positioning itself to further advance the development agenda both on sustainable development and our normal regional work program.

Before I venture into details, it is important to recognize the substantive outcomes of the Commission session and the critical follow-up actions and activities. I would like to begin by thanking my secretariat colleagues who worked so hard to get such good results. I will also report to you on a range of other activities in which ESCAP has recently played a key role.

The Secretary of the Commission will present a full report on the seventieth session later in the meeting.

70th Commission Session – Phase II (4-8 August 2014)

The 70th Commission session was successful on a number of counts, especially as related to exceptional attendance, open participation, solid dialogue and the passage of 14 critical resolutions.

The resolutions provide a strong mandate for ESCAP’s role in supporting and accelerating:

  • Regional economic cooperation and integration;
  • Regional connectivity; and
  • Sustainable development.

With your guidance and support, the secretariat will translate these decisions into concrete actions.

Taking forward our deliberations on regional sustainable development, our initial approach will be to undertake a theme study that will investigate integrated approaches to sustainable development to ensure consistency of economic, social and environmental policies; identify tools and mechanisms for nurturing sustainability; sharing of good practices across the region; and the development of effective institutions to implement sustainable development.

In addition, we will be seeking your support for positioning the region for effective and smooth implementation of the futuristic sustainable development goals (SDGs) following their global adoption, and facilitating monitoring and accountability for implementation. As part of this process, the secretariat will be organizing the second Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) back-to-back with the seventy-first session of the Commission, next year.

In parallel, in line with the recommendations of the Commission session, we will be enhancing and augmenting ESCAP’s capabilities and capacities to facilitate the means of implementation for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, particularly in the areas of science, technology and innovation (STI), financing for sustainable development, as well as developing a regional monitoring and accountability system for the post-2015 development agenda. This will require synchronization between the national, regional and global levels.

In anticipation of the adoption of the sustainable development agenda, the secretariat will be working to develop institutional frameworks at subregional and regional levels to build on the dialogue during our regional consultation on monitoring and accountability for the post-2015 development agenda – the first of its kind by the United Nations regional commissions. The secretariat has already begun to outline the contours of a mechanism for the region, and will soon provide a draft framework for your consideration. Part of this involves the evolving future modalities of the APFSD, and how it will contribute to the global processes of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF).

The secretariat will also be focusing on operationalizing your mandates on regional economic cooperation and integration and regional connectivity. This will involve work on developing approaches and options for strengthening regional financial cooperation and trade facilitation, including paperless trade. We will also continue to work on strengthening connectivity, especially in transport, ICT, energy, and people-to-people networks.

Another outcome of the Commission deliberations was our renewed commitment to address the development challenges of our most vulnerable member States, particularly least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States (SIDS). For the Pacific island developing countries, the just-concluded Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa agreed on a new action plan for SIDS development: the SAMOA Pathway. I will cover the outcomes of the SIDS conference in greater detail later, since I have just returned from this event.

To achieve these and other priorities of region, it is necessary to transform the Commission and the secretariat so they are both what we call in the United Nations system “fit for purpose.” I have already started the process of transformation within the secretariat and more will follow. We will be strengthening our analytical and statistical capacities, so that our intergovernmental and normative work is based even more firmly on sound analysis and evidence. I am also emphasizing the importance of knowledge products and platforms in our technical cooperation and capacity development work.

As a first step, I have appointed Mr. Anis Chowdhury as the new Chief of the Statistics Division, effective as of the 1st of September. The Statistics Division needs to be responsive to the emerging sustainable development agenda ensuring that data gaps are addressed, and offering the leadership perspective of a data and information user, rather than that of a data and information generator, making our data and information platforms more effective, substantive and user-friendly. In addition, we want to also focus work on addressing the opportunities and challenges for the region of Big Data.

On member States’ advice, we are continuing to reform the conference structure. Resolution 69/1 made changes to the structure and requested the secretariat to study additional changes which may be required. For this purpose we have engaged the services of an independent consultant, Dr. Filemon Uriarte, who is a former Minister of Science and Technology of the Philippines, and who also served as a senior staff member of ESCAP during his long career.

Based on a comprehensive review, Dr. Uriarte is looking at the establishment of the three additional ESCAP Committees which you have called for: one on STI, another on Energy and a third on Financing for Development. Your guidance on these and other issues covered by his research are extremely important. I would urge you to please take the opportunity to meet with Dr. Uriarte or to respond to the survey questionnaires that he has distributed.

Based on the outcomes of this study, the Secretary of the Commission will also undertake a series of informal consultations with the ACPR. We will then prepare a report for the consideration of the Commission at its seventy-first session next year, hopefully leading to the adoption of a resolution on the new conference structure. However, in the interim, I will proceed with organisational restructuring to make sure that we do not lose any time – we must position the Commission for implementation of sustainable development. Between now and December I will be sure to keep you informed about these changes.

Mr. Chair,
Distinguished members of the ACPR,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me turn now to some of the other important meetings and missions since I last briefed you.

Economic and Social Council (1-12 July 2014)

In the first half of July, I was in New York for the annual session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This was my first mission to headquarters since I joined ESCAP, and among the various panels and meetings in which I participated were:

  • The Executive Secretaries’ dialogue with ECOSOC on “Unlocking and reshaping development and enhancing implementation: the regional context”;
  • A Ministerial Dialogue on “Weaving regional realities and regional priorities into the post-2015 development agenda”; and
  • The 2014 High-level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum on “Bringing the future of development cooperation to the post-2015 development agenda.”

I also interacted with the G77+China. I am pleased to report that my interventions received support from both ESCAP member States as well as member States from beyond the region. The outcomes included a greater awareness and appreciation of the regional dimensions of sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda. The analytical and norm setting role of regional commissions also received support, while the interaction with the G77 led to a request for more frequent interactions and requests for support on a number of substantive issues.

I also held bilateral meetings in New York with permanent representatives and Ministers of ESCAP member States, including the Permanent Representatives of Bhutan, Japan, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, and Mongolia as well as Senior Ministers from the Republic of Korea and Japan.

Some key outcomes of these meetings include increased opportunities for partnership and cooperation with member States; as well as widespread support for increasing the visibility of ESCAP by holding both formal and informal briefings with Asia-Pacific permanent representatives to brief them about ESCAP’s work and priorities.

Official visit to Japan (21 to 25 July 2014)

Later in July I undertook an official visit to Japan – which was I believe the first official invitation by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan to an Executive Secretary of ESCAP, and which marked the 60th anniversary of Japan’s membership in ESCAP.

The visit reaffirmed the importance of collaboration between the Government of Japan and ESCAP, and identified common priority areas where further collaboration should be pursued. Topics on which they placed priority included:

  • Disaster risk reduction;
  • Climate change;
  • Science and technology;
  • Statistics; and
  • Support for Pacific Island Developing Countries.

Of course this is all very consistent with how I want the secretariat to be moving forward.

I wish to extend my personal thanks to Mr. Saito, the Permanent Representative of Japan, who not only coordinated my visit but also accompanied me during my mission. I would also like to thank all of his colleagues at the Embassy of Japan here in Bangkok for their support which helped to facilitate an historic and very successful visit. I also thank all of the high-level Japanese officials on whom I called, for their extraordinary warmth and our very open discussions.

Informal meeting with SAARC Ambassadors

During the Commission session I made a commitment that ESCAP would work more closely with subregional institutions and forums. I am pleased to share with you that last month I convened a brainstorming session with the ambassadors and permanent representatives of the SAARC countries represented here in Bangkok, to examine ways in which the ESCAP and SAARC secretariats could bolster cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Our subregional office in South Asia has already held deliberations on MDGs and other development areas, and has started preliminary discussions on reviving and updating the Memorandum of Understanding that we have with SAARC. For this to succeed, however, will require the strong support of our permanent representatives, who know the importance of ESCAP’s work, to push for this politically and to urge the SAARC secretariat to extend its development partnership with ESCAP.

Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (Samoa, 28 August to 6 September 2014)

I would like to turn now to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which concluded in Apia, Samoa, last week, in which I participated as part of the Secretary-General’s delegation.

Building on ESCAP’s renewed focus on countries with special needs, I delivered a plenary statement outlining the Commission’s planned responses in support of the SAMOA Pathway outcome document, which identified a number of very specific mandates for the United Nations regional commissions, especially in support in monitoring and accountability, as well as better data and statistics for evidence-based policy making.

With the support of our Pacific subregional office, I hosted a working breakfast which was attended by all ten Pacific leaders and on the side-lines of this event there was an official signing by the Presidents of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau of the new Micronesian Trade Committee Treaty Initiative, which ESCAP helped develop.

I also moderated an ESCAP-organised side event on the regional dimensions of development, which was addressed by the Prime Minister of Samoa; delivered remarks on behalf of the regional commissions at a high-level side event of the Chief Executive’s Board (CEB) about how the United Nations system will support the SIDS; and spoke at side events on Green Economy Pathways for SIDS (organised by UNEP but which benefited from the phenomenal work already undertaken by our ESCAP colleagues on the green economy concept and policies), Future Energy for SIDS (hosted by the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan), and the launch of the Pacific Regional Data Repository for Sustainable Energy for All (with the Prime Minster of Tonga).

In addition to announcing an ESCAP/UNDP/ILO partnership on climate change and migration at a multi-stakeholder dialogue on climate change and disaster risk reduction, I also joined a panel discussion on the importance of transport and ICT connectivity, and spoke at the high-level segment of the pre-conference Private Sector Forum on creating an enabling environment for private sector partnerships in the SIDS.

I am pleased to report that we received warm support from the Pacific leaders for our approach to strengthening ESCAP’s partnerships for sustainable development in the Pacific, in support of the SAMOA Pathway. For the information of the ACPR, key ESCAP priorities will be:

  1. Enhancing Pacific ownership of and voice on sustainable development;
  2. Shaping ESCAP’s subregional strategy for the Pacific on that basis;
  3. Promoting green transformation;
  4. Capacity development for national sustainable development strategies;
  5. Promoting subregional and regional connectivity;
  6. Responding to shared vulnerabilities by developing coping mechanisms;
  7. Sustainable development of Pacific natural resources;
  8. Natural disaster risk reduction; and
  9. Regional statistical and data development.

Mr. Chair,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Looking Ahead & Conclusion

To conclude, I wish to alert you to some important upcoming events in which I will be participating.

G-20 Meetings

As part of my ongoing duties as the G20 Sherpa and also now supporting the Finance Ministers track, I will travel next week to Cairns, Australia, for the meeting of the finance ministers and deputies, which will be followed by the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors.

I will return to Australia at the end of this month for another meeting of the G20 Sherpas in Canberra. While there, I plan to meet with senior officials of the Australian Government.

Between these G20 meetings, I will head to New York for the 69th session of the General Assembly.

69th session of General Assembly (22 to 26 September 2014)

On 23 September, I will attend the United Nations Climate Summit, being hosted by the Secretary-General. I will also take part in the ASEAN ministerial meeting on the side-lines of the General Assembly, as part of our efforts to translate the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership into real results on the ground.

I also intend to hold meetings with other senior Secretariat officials.

In October, I will pay an official visit to the Republic of Korea on their invitation, and brief you on the outcomes of that mission at our next meeting.

That concludes my report for this session. I would be happy to answer any questions or respond to any comments you may have.

I thank you.