ACPR 357: Executive Secretary's Remarks

Delivered during the 357th Session of the Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives (ACPR) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Madame Chair,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Members of the ACPR,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

This being the final ACPR meeting for 2014, I would like to thank you – our member States – for the support which you have given to me in my first year managing the secretariat – it has been a pleasure and a delight working with you all.

At my first ACPR, I outlined my strategic approach to the management of the secretariat. Eight months later, with support of my colleagues, I am proud to report that we have strengthened our analytical work, deepened our regional advice and advocacy, and accelerated Asia-Pacific regional cooperation and integration – of course, more will follow.

Real progress has been made in fine-tuning the ESCAP work program to incorporate new strategic priorities, and guidance has been issued on how we will progress with the subregional offices and regional institutions now integrated into the main subprograms of the divisions. With your guidance and engagement, ESCAP through these efforts, has delivered on its commitment, I believe with quality, and will continue to do so, especially when you bring to the table your generous additional extra-budgetary support in the coming year, despite the budget cut imposed on ESCAP for 2015.

Madame Chair, Members of the ACPR,

ESCAP Intergovernmental Platform

In addition to the 70th Commission session, ESCAP has in 2014 hosted five major intergovernmental and several other outreach and working group meetings. We have also produced a number of important research documents this year, including ESCAP's flagship publication, which combined the theme study for the 70th Commission Session and the Economic and Social Survey. In the past few weeks, this level of activity has heightened even further, with two key Ministerial meetings held in short succession. In November alone, our team has organized three major events:

  • About 700 senior officials, including Ministers, policymakers and civil society representatives from more than 40 countries, came together for the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review. The resulting ministerial declaration calls for the accelerated elimination of gender discrimination and inequality, and for the advancement of women’s rights as cornerstones of the wider development and prosperity of our region. The Conference outcomes will be presented to the 71st session of the Commission next year and serve as Asia-Pacific inputs to the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the global commemorations of the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
  • The first Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific. Bringing together 21 Ministers and more than 300 delegates from 44 countries, the Conference broke new ground by integrating, at the intergovernmental level, the civil registration, health and statistics sectors, along with the wider United Nations family and our development partners. The ministerial declaration of the Asia and Pacific Decade for CRVS, and the regional action framework aim to institutionalize universal civil registration to provide legal identity to all and to serve as the basis for comprehensive, accurate and reliable vital statistics by 2024.
  • The Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) 2014 was organized last week by ESCAP, in partnership with the Government and Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, under the theme of “Enhancing Regional Business Sustainability and Investment”. More than 300 participants from both the public and private sectors attended to identify challenges and opportunities for enhancing interregional business connectivity, increased investment and stronger partnerships in achieving inclusive and sustainable development.
  • In parallel, ESCAP hosting the inaugural meeting of the working group to enhance financial cooperation in Asia and the Pacific – part of the regional economic cooperation and integration mandate you have given us, but also part of the Asia-Pacific financing for sustainable development mandate. We also held the annual ESCAP policy dialogue on energy for sustainable development, to support implementation of the outcomes of our 2013 Asian and Pacific Energy Forum.

Madame Chair, Members of the ACPR,

Global Impact of Asia-Pacific Development

ESCAP has been proactive in a number of key regional and global development forums since we last met. These included: in early November, the 2nd United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing States (LLDCs) in Vienna, Austria where, besides reporting to the plenary on the challenges facing our twelve Asian LLDCs, and ESCAP’s role in facilitating land-linkages for these countries, we also launched during the side events two new analytical reports recommending economic diversification and development of integrated and holistic regional connectivity for LLDCs. Both reports are available on the ESCAP website. Additionally, I served as a panellist on two high-level thematic roundtables on “Regional Integration and Transit Cooperation” and “Harnessing International Trade and Investment Opportunities for LLDCs”.

At the invitation of President Xi of China, I then participated in the “Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership,” on the side-lines of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in Beijing. President Xi announced a new Silk Road Fund ($40 billion – over and above the AIIB capitalisation of about $50 billion) and outlined China’s strategy for promoting regional connectivity. Heads of State from Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Cambodia and Pakistan shared their plans for infrastructure development. ESCAP and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were the only two international organizations invited to the Dialogue. In addition I was invited to moderate a panel of leading business CEOs, and I also moderated a panel of leaders from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar on opportunities for non-APEC economies to benefit from closer ties with APEC.

I then accompanied the United Nations Secretary-General to two key Leaders’ Summits:

The sixth ASEAN-UN Summit resulted in the adoption of the ASEAN-UN Work Plan for 2015. The ASEAN-UN partnership is based on the distinctive capacities of each UN organization. Besides contributing to peace, security and sustainable development, the Summit endorsed the goals of the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership. The Summit recognized ASEAN’s efforts to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015. In this context, the Summit reiterated the importance of regional integration in Southeast Asia and its potential contribution to prosperity, stability and development. ASEAN called on ESCAP to support implementation of the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015, and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), to strengthen regional connectivity in transport, trade, energy and ICT, while promoting sustainable development by enhancing science, technology and innovation; strengthening national statistical capacities; improving access to development financing; and promoting integrated approaches to address the impacts of climate change in the region especially through climate financing initiatives and appropriate technology solutions. Going forward, Malaysia’s theme for its tenure as Chair of ASEAN is “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision”.

The G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia ended on a number of positive notes. Leaders committed to boost G20 growth by 2.1 per cent (adding $2 trillion) by 2018, which will stimulate non-G20 GDP growth by more than 0.5 per cent. The G20 growth scenario is contingent on the ability of the G20 to remove rigidities facing trade, competition and product innovation, as well as labor markets. Most of all, it depends on their joint ability to raise Investment/GDP ratios. Leaders called on the WTO to analyze protectionist measures and their implications and deliberated on ways to enhance the effectiveness of the WTO. Countries were also called on to communicate their intended contributions to the Green Climate Fund and to mobilize finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation. China announced the additional establishment of a South-South Cooperation Fund to help developing countries address climate change. Most of the United Nations development agenda was endorsed by the Leaders. Additional to explicit support for the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, the G20 will reinforce sustainable development by: (i) pursuing strong, sustainable and balanced G20 growth; (ii) enhancing the robustness and stability of the financial system; (iii) implementing trade facilitation & framing an action plan for the Doha Development Agenda; and (iv) advancing energy transformation and energy efficiency.

Madame Chair, Members of the ACPR,

ESCAP Organisational Matters

A focus for the secretariat this year has been to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the way we work. The Secretary of the Commission will shortly circulate Dr. Uriarte's interim report. The ACPR will hopefully have an opportunity to review the report and discuss its recommendations in January in the working group. We owe thanks to Ambassador Batoon-Garcia, who has agreed to chair the working group on the second phase of the conference structure review.

Our work-programme for 2016-2017 has been has also been discussed. We would like to briefly introduce you to the overall preparatory process and to highlight the substantive areas that the secretariat proposes to emphasize in 2016-2017. Mr. Hirohito Toda of the Strategy and Programme Management Division will brief you in more detail on the work programme processes later in the meeting.

Madame Chair, Members of the ACPR,

Looking Ahead & Conclusion

In conclusion, today is World AIDS Day. ESCAP will be organizing the Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS from 28 to 30 January 2015 in Bangkok, and we look forward to your participation at a high level.

The next few months will also see a renewed focus by the secretariat on our engagement with and support for our developing country member States. This will include, among other initiatives, my official visits and those of our directors to more developing countries.

I thank you for your support which has helped us to deliver a strong program. Your confidence in us has given us strength. For ESCAP it has been a successful 2014 – not just because of me but because of the efforts of all our directors and staff. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful, rejuvenating and enjoyable break over the festive season.

I thank you.