Opening Remarks at the 382nd Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives, Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished Members,

It is a pleasure to be with you for today’s Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives. I would like to highlight four issues: (1) 75th session of the Commission and Sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), (2) recent visits to member States, (3) proposed programme plan and budget for 2020, and (4) update you on some upcoming plans.

1: UNESCAP intergovernmental meetings

As this is our first meeting since the 75th session of the Commission (CS75), I would like to express my very sincere and heartfelt appreciation to you all, for your extensive support and engagement, both before and during the session.

Your countries’ active participation, the numerous side events you organised and sponsored, as well as the exhibitions and information booths throughout the conference centre made a special event for moment for all the participants. We had 46 member States and more than 900 participants in attendance, making it one of the most engaged sessions in recent years. Indeed, you made it vibrant.

We organised the first ever dialogue with major multilateral groupings and associated intergovernmental organizations at the CS75. I hope this will be a first step towards more systematically in identifying common priorities to complement each other’s work and to facilitate best practice exchange between subregions. I am very encouraged by its outcome.

I also signed three Memorandum of Understanding and a Statement of Cooperation in areas related to (1) enhance regional knowledge sharing, (2) promote Multi-Global Navigation Satellite Systems, (3) cooperate on solar applications and renewable energy, and (4) build resilience and disaster risk reduction. I look forward to advancing our engagement through these partnerships.

You may recall that the CS75 adopted 9 resolutions dealing with a range of regional issues that would benefit us all. In particular, the following resolutions will serve as a catalyst for deepening regional cooperation:

  • Committing to strengthening the links between national, regional and global follow-up to and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific
  • Advancing partnerships within and across regions for the sustainable development of Asia and the Pacific
  • Strengthening regional cooperation to tackle air pollution challenges in Asia and the Pacific
  • Advancing the implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative through regional cooperation
  • Advancing science, technology and innovation for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific

I commend your efforts to make it all happen.

The Theme Topic of the 2020 Commission session is “Promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development”. Today, we are sharing with some broad ideas on the scope of this study. I am sure with your deliberations, the Theme Study will help member States identify opportunities for economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans in Asia and the Pacific.

Let me assure you that I am deeply committed to ensure the Commission session stands out as the premier regional intergovernmental, collaborative and inclusive platform in our region.

Earlier in March this year, UN ESCAP convened the Sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) reiterated the importance of the Forum as a platform for dialogue and reflection on the SDGs and the need to make it stronger as it brings important contributions to the global debates through the high-level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, which I will attend in the UNHQ in early next month.

The Forum was convened as the culmination of 7 preparatory and associated meetings, and brought together more than 1,000 government officials, civil society and other stakeholders, which highlighted its popularity among stakeholders.

The Forum underscored the importance of empowerment and inclusion to address inequalities spanning the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and to accelerate progress towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Forum provided an opportunity for interagency cooperation, especially within the UN system. The presence of the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, the Vice President of ECOSOC and the many UN Resident Coordinators has enriched the interactions and quality of the dialogue.

2. Member State Engagement

Since our last ACPR meeting # 381 on 21 March, I had the opportunity to engage further with member States as I had the good opportunity to visit many countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, China, Viet Nam, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Islamic Republic of Iran, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore. During these engagements, I had the good opportunity to meet the Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and other related Ministers. Similarly, I met heads of various international and regional organizations, think tanks and academic institutions to explore further collaboration opportunities focused on regional cooperation and SDGs.

Let me highlight some key issues that were discussed and identified during these visits: (1) regional connectivity in areas such as transport, energy, STI and ICT, which are our long-standing work; (2) social development, disaster risk reduction and smart cities and nations, which is an initiative of Singapore; (3) Financing for development, trade facilitation, and data and statistics; (4) LDCs graduation, landlocked countries and small island developing States, middle-income countries and South-South cooperation; and (5) requests from several countries to assist to establish the National Research Centers and capacity building on SDGs assessment and the Voluntary National Reviews.

I would like to express my utmost appreciation to your delegations and colleagues for extending strong support to facilitate my very successful missions.

3. UN ESCAP 2020

I am pleased to inform you that I had, via VTC with member States in New York, hearing on UN ESCAP’s proposed programme plan 2020 with the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) on 13 June. I also had a hearing, via VTC with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), on UN ESCAP proposed programme budget for 2020 on 18 June, which lasted for about three hours. Each Committee asked questions in areas that fall under their purview. I am happy to report that both Committees expressed strong support and appreciation for the work of UNESCAP.

For example, the discussions underscored some of the recurring points concerned cooperation among Regional Commissions—including sharing of best practices, UNDS reform and UNESCAP’s work with the new UN Resident Coordinators system and UN Country Teams. The Committees made points of clarification regarding SDGs alignment and the achievements of specific subprogrammes. The recommendations of the Committees will be published in their respective reports and we expect that the 2020 programme budget document will be endorsed by the UN General Assembly by the end of this year.

I take the opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to the distinguished ACPR members for your support in this process.

4. Upcoming plans

Looking ahead, the outcomes of the APFSD and the Commission will offer important perspectives from our region to feed into the HLPF on sustainable development in July 2019, as well as the SDG Summit in September 2019 in conjunction with the 74th UNGA. It will also provide solid foundations on which to build and will help guide our future work.

I am sure many of you have been following closely the report of the Secretary-General that he presented, “Implementation of General Assembly resolution 71/243 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, 2019”, during the 2019 ECOSOC operational activities for development segment on 21 May in New York. Member States are now reviewing the report, which includes the UN regional assets on how to reprofile and reposition, and will have further consultations. I will update you more in our next ACPR.

Meanwhile, I will organize the next consultation with the Eminent Persons Advisory Group from 9 to 11 September 2019 in Bangkok. In view of that, I hope to plan a special interaction with the distinguished ACPR members and the Advisory Group. I have asked the Secretary of the Commission to be in touch with you on this matter.

As always, I look forward to a continued dialogue with member States, including through the Advisory Committee, on the review of the conference structure of the Commission and on the repositioning of ESCAP in light of the reform of the United Nations development system reform.

We are planning to engage and participate in the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2019 in New York. The high-level General Debate will focus on five priority areas: Climate action summit, SDG summit, FFD dialogue, SAMOA Pathway, and Universal Health Coverage. These focus areas are well synergized with my call for the leadership to collectively achieve a transformed and resilient society in our region as I outlined in my Policy Statement at the CS75.

Distinguished Members,
Today is the first time we utilize Conference Room 3 after its technology upgrade and renovation. Conference Room 3 is the oldest room in the UNCC, having been built as part of the secretariat building in 1970s and later merged into the UNCC when it was built in 1990s.

The technology upgrade of Conference Room 3 is part of a larger initiative involving the enhancement and upgrading of technology systems in the Conference Center from an analog to a digital platform. All technology systems in the UNCC except ESCAP Hall are obsolete and no longer available in the market.

Conference Room 3 was selected as the first room in the series owing to its age and the frequent breakdown of the system as well as frequency of use. The upgrading was limited to the technology systems, no changes were made on the fixtures and furniture due to budgetary constraints.

ESCAP is working collaboratively with the Office of Information and Communications Technology and the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management at Headquarters on this project. We also work closely with colleagues in the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Office at Geneva, who are undertaking similar upgrading/renovation projects of their conference rooms.

I hope that your experience in this renovated Conference Room 3 was enjoyable today. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you and your colleagues in New York for your continuous support to the UNCC technology upgrade project. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Division of Administration, who have worked tirelessly to get the project completed despite of many challenges.

A video will now explain the improvements we have introduced.

Distinguished Members,

Finally, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Embassy of Bangladesh for hosting a reception later today. I record my personal thanks to Mr. Kabir Ahamed, Economic Counsellor and Alternate Permanent Representative of Bangladesh for his commitment and collaboration that he extended to UNESCAP secretariat during his past four and half years of duty.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing your views and suggestions.