Celebrating the 69th UN Day

Delivered during the commemoration of the 69th United Nations Day in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Your Excellency, Mr. Cho Tae-yul,
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea

Ambassador Lee Jin-Ho, Vice President and CEO,
Korea UN Association,

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

It is an honour and a pleasure to join you today to celebrate the 69th United Nations Day in Seoul. I also want to use this opportunity to offer our warm congratulations to the Republic of Korea on the 60th anniversary of its membership of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). I understand that, in Korea, the 60th birthday has very special significance – the completion of one full circle in one’s life and starting afresh a new circle.

The United Nations has been a major driver of multilateralism, and through its institutional architecture, especially the five regional commissions (of which ESCAP is the largest), it has fostered regional development as a way to reinforce multilateralism. The United Nations system, as a whole, is a unique platform for multilateralism, reinforcing regionalism, and this stronger regional development in turn supports stronger multilateralism.

The Republic of Korea’s development history during its 60 years with ESCAP has been an incredible journey, which deserves special recognition and celebration. In 1954, the Republic of Korea became a full member of ESCAP, at a time when it was battling to overcome a legacy of conflict, poverty and underdevelopment. Sixty years later, it has emerged as a dynamic and accomplished state, leading our region on several counts.

Its path towards remarkable economic success is a well-known story, but in addition to its own progress, the Republic of Korea has consistently provided inspiration and assistance to other developing countries wishing to follow in its footsteps. The implementation of the new vision of leadership of the Republic of Korea will further augment its creativity and innovation, with positive spill-over benefits for the whole Asia-Pacific region.

By working closely with United Nations bodies, including ESCAP, the Republic of Korea has, over many year, generously shared its development experience and supported countries in need. It is currently the 13th largest contributor to the United Nations as well as the top donor to ESCAP, and is home to two ESCAP offices, our Subregional Office for East and North-East Asia, as well as the Asia and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT).

Even more importantly, the Republic of Korea’s valuable substantive inputs have helped to shape many of the key priority initiatives which have contributed to intergovernmental agreements on the ESCAP platform. A recent example is the instrumental role played by the Republic of Korea in the development and adoption of the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific, and the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022. This led to the endorsement of the Road Map for the Implementation of the Incheon Strategy at the 70th session of ESCAP earlier this year, which will help to turn policies into concrete actions, making human rights for persons with disabilities a reality.

It would be remiss of me if I did not also recognise the generous support by the Republic of Korea to the United Nations system. We are honoured, for instance, by the leadership of our Secretary-General, a Korean national, who brings to our international platform the many strong values of the Republic of Korea. At the same time, on behalf of the United Nations system, I wish to extend our specific thanks for the generous support provided to nurture a number of key United Nations funds, agencies and programs, including WHO, UNHCR, and UNCITRAL, among others.

Today, as we celebrate our 60 years together, we count on further enhancement of the role of the Republic of Korea in three core areas that are critical for securing shared prosperity and sustained dynamism in the Asia-Pacific region, and beyond. These are:

  1. Brokering regional connectivity and integration;
  2. Promoting sustainable development in the context of the post-2015 development framework; and
  3. Developing new growth engines through innovation and creativity.

Brokering Regional Connectivity and Integration

The global economic and financial crisis has been a rude awakening in all parts of the world. Over the past five years, a combination of unconventional monetary policy by the G4, and fiscal accommodation within country debt dynamics, has seen the gradual emergence of a tentative global recovery. However, deflationary trends in the euro area and a fragile recovery in other advanced economies, has resulted in a global slowdown. Asia, which has been a driver of global growth and trade, has also shown recent signs of increasingly modest growth, impacted by unsustainable development paths, weak external demand and by a range of structural impediments.

To achieve sustained growth and dynamism, the G20 counties (which includes a range of emerging markets such as China, India, Japan and Korea) have resolved to raise their collective GDP growth by roughly 1.8 per cent, by launching a set of structural reforms to enhance competition and innovation, to promote product diversification and labour flexibility. This strategy will help to create increased trade and investment opportunities for the region.

While the potential for regional growth through increased trade is enormous considering its large and growing domestic markets, constraints to physical and non-physical connectivity are an impediment to exploiting this potential. With firm support from the Republic of Korea, ESCAP member States have improved physical connectivity through historic agreements, such as the Asian Highway Agreement, Trans-Asian Railways Agreement and the Asian Dry Ports Agreement. In particular, the contributions made by the Korea Expressway Cooperation in promoting the Asian Highway, resulted in the provision of technical assistance to Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Myanmar.

ESCAP, with the support of our member States, is now looking at options for a more integrated approach to energy, trade and transport, ICT and people to people connectivity, as well as the promotion knowledge-based economies. Of the utmost priority in this approach, is to link the landlocked belt of Central Asia, through development of cross-border infrastructure and logistics networks, backed by a conducive regulatory and legal framework for trade and transport. Evolving land links in Central Asia can better connect North-East Asia to even larger markets in Europe through Central Asia.

In this regard, President Park Geun-hye’s call to launch a “Eurasia Initiative” will, in parallel, connect the Republic of Korea, China, the Russian Federation and Central Asia. It will also allow seamless connectivity all the way to East and West Europe. In the same vein, President Park’s proposal for developing regional energy networks, including oil and gas pipelines, will benefit from the fact that our region is home to the world’s largest energy producers and consumers.

Strong political will and cooperation is required to achieve tangible outcomes in enhancing regional connectivity.. To this end, the leadership of the Republic of Korea will be pivotal in building consensus and momentum among ESCAP member States.

Promoting Sustainable Development in the Context of the Post-2015 Development Framework

Building on the momentum of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), United Nations Member States are now at a critical juncture, as they embark on a new global development agenda beyond 2015.

The proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs), which will still be negotiated, advocate for universal adoption of an inclusive, balanced and sustainable growth agenda that has, at its core, poverty eradication, and which tackles pervasive thematic and cross-cutting issues, including the reduction of inequalities.

To ensure effective sustainability, the proposed agenda adopts an integrated approach to economic, social and environmental development. Global partnerships to ensure that multilateralism delivers underscore, among others, the need for the withdrawal of the economic protectionism that has grown in the post-crisis period; the resolution of issues surrounding the Bali agreement on Trade Facilitation; and international communities going beyond this agenda to resolve other issues holding back the Doha round.

Equally critical is the need for the international community to enhance access to development financing for the sustainable development agenda, and to advance science, technology and innovation - maximize its impact through knowledge sharing and technology transfer, to ensure greater shared prosperity for our people and our planet.

2015 will be a critical year for the United Nations, with agreement on the SDGs and hopefully the finalization of a meaningful and universal new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Reaching proper agreement in these two areas will, together, set the stage for solid international and multilateral cooperation in the decades ahead.

For the Asia-Pacific region, our highest priority remains poverty eradication, with the largest number of the world’s poor, some 800 million people, living on less than $1.25 a day. A second key regional issue is the unsustainable use of natural resources, and its impact on the environment. Energy consumption in Asia and the Pacific is growing more quickly than in any other region of the world. This is exacerbated by the low levels of technology currently in use, leading to heavy dependence on coal.

The Republic of Korea can take pride in its leadership on sustainable development. Among others it has pioneered the concept of green growth, and now hosts and provides vital support to the Global Green Growth Institute and the Green Climate Fund. President Park, at the recent United Nations Climate Summit, pledged $100 million to the Green Climate Fund and reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to promote sustainable development. At the same time, Korea is now promoting creativity and its research and development (R&D) allocations, as a proportion of GDP, are second highest in the world. The National Science and Technology Council offers the right political leadership to steer the bulk of R&D programs, and innovation supported by it will be a key driver of future growth.

In anticipation of the adoption of the sustainable development agenda, ESCAP is realigning the secretariat to assign high priority to sustainable development, regional connectivity and support for countries with special needs. Notable outcomes in recent months have been the establishment of an annual Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), an Asia-Pacific Outreach Meeting on Sustainable Development Financing and the Asia Pacific deliberations on regional monitoring and accountability mechanisms for the implementation of the SDGs.

To support the implementation of its mandate, ESCAP member States have also recommended that we establish new committee on Financing for Development, Science, Technology and Innovation, and on Energy. In addition, we have been called on to develop, monitor and evaluate a regional roadmap for sustainable development and implementation of the SDGs; as well as to compile regional reports which capture and reflect national sustainable development plans.

In all of these efforts, we count on the Republic of Korea’s continued support.

Developing New Growth Engines Through Innovation and Creativity

The underlying prescription of the sustainable development agenda beyond 2015 is the need to move away from “business as usual”. This means, first and foremost, breaking the vicious cycle of over-supply and excessive production, feeding unsustainable consumption patterns.

Instead, we must turn to promoting sustainable approaches to growth, which create decent jobs and do not harm future generations, by promoting technological breakthroughs in clean energy, science and ICT, and by having mechanisms allowing for the efficient transfer and sharing of technology.

In this context, ESCAP is providing support to our member States in designing and implementing domestic and regional science, technology and innovation policies, nurturing the right incentive structures for incubating innovative solutions to global challenges, and making them the basis for inclusive and sustainable development.

I hope to fully engage the Ministry for Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea, and other stakeholders in the private sector, as forerunners with experience in developing policies toward building a “creative economy”.

Conclusion

I would like to end my remarks today with the words from the United Nations Secretary-General, a proud citizen of this country, who once said “I believe in the United Nations, I have seen what it has done for my country”.

As we enter the next chapter in our relationship, at a crucial time of moving into the post-2015 development agenda, I look forward to the strengthening ESCAPs partnership with your Government, and look to the leadership of the Republic of Korea in addressing the shared challenges of our region by championing the cause of sustainable development.

I thank you.