Opening of the Senior Officials Segment of the 71st Session of the Commission

Delivered at the opening of the Senior Official Segment of the 71st Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

Welcome to the seventy-first session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Great emphasis will be placed this week on the importance of 2015 and the universal and sustainable future of global development. I would like to acknowledge the exceptional efforts of the countries of Asia and the Pacific in critical areas of development, striving to serve their people and drive momentum on all global fronts.

Three years ago, just after the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, ministers from across our region made a landmark decision to build a more inclusive future by declaring 2013-2022 to be the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities.

Two years ago, the leaders of our region used the ESCAP intergovernmental platform to agree on a comprehensive new plan to bring member States into even closer partnership through accelerated economic cooperation and integration. They also adopted a groundbreaking Plan of Action to ensure a sustainable regional energy future; drove courageous change on issues of population and development; and began, in earnest, the Asia-Pacific dialogue on moving beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) .

Last year, saw the creation of a new regional forum to forge a strong Asia-Pacific voice on development beyond 2015; deliberations on regional follow-up and review mechanisms as well as the means of implementation; transformational leadership on gender equality and women’s empowerment ; and a new action plan to ensure that every person, in every country, gains legal recognition of their identity and rights .

Now, less than halfway through 2015, with renewed vigor, Government’s at the highest levels have committed to meet the regional challenges of HIV and AIDS, disaster risk reduction, financing for development and, just last week, engaging stakeholders from every segment of society with the post-2015 development agenda .

So I would like to begin this 71st session of the Commission by appreciating member States’ foresight, commitment and tenacity to position our region on newer frontiers in building the future Asia and the Pacific we want.. We must together lead on sustainability to ensure the global success of the new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Strengthening ESCAP to Better Support Sustainable Development

Although the final contours of the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs are still being negotiated, the regional commissions will have a key role in supporting member States in developing national sustainable strategies and financing plans, implementation of the goals, as well as in the follow-up and review processes.

To better support your efforts and priorities, and to ensure that the Commission is empowered to seize the opportunities of the next phase of global and regional development, we have been working to transform ESCAP – to make it, in the words of the Secretary-General, a body more “fit-for-purpose” in 2015 and beyond.

Part of this transformation has been to refocus the energies of the secretariat to concentrate on our primary mandate: our intergovernmental efforts, with strengthened analytical work and capacity building.

This has already seen a number of administrative and organizational shifts, including the creation of new substantive capacity in areas such as financing, sustainable development and science and technology. It has also seen the establishment of a new Research and Publications Committee to align and strengthen our research and analytical work. We have also improved our strategic coordination and partnership systems; and will create a new coordination mechanism for capacity building, strategy and implementation – which I will address in more detail during my Policy Statement on Thursday.

When I was appointed as Executive Secretary, I instituted a series of consultations with senior managers and with member States, to set the strategic direction for the secretariat. The strategy note 2015 to 2020 defines four impact-level development results: (1) helping member States formulate and implement effective policies and strategies for integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development; (2) assisting them in making measurable progress in achieving the sustainable development goals; (3) helping them articulate a stronger regional voice to influence global decision-making; and (4) helping to strengthen capacities for regional and economic integration.

To ensure that these development results are reflected in our strategic framework and work-programme, I created a taskforce which has developed an ESCAP-wide measurable institutional results framework, with five outcomes and eighteen institution-wide performance indicators. We will be discussing and refining the work of the taskforce in the coming days, and hope to roll-out the new framework before the end of the year to ensure that our work is more results-based and that progress, performance and impacts will be fully measured.

As you may be aware, over the last year we have also undertaken consultations on the restructuring of the Commission conference structure. I will be speaking more on this later today, under agenda item 5, but for now I want to emphasize that the proposals are meant to strengthen and reinforce the Commission’s mandate and work to address the priorities that you, our member States, have identified as needing greater attention in the post-2015 world.

All of these much-warranted improvements and changes have been reflected in the proposed Programme of Work for the biennium 2016-2017, which I urge the Commission to endorse later today, and which will be taken up in New York later this year.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Enhanced Partnerships for Better Implementation

Revitalizing ESCAP’s development partnerships has also been our priority. The Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) has been leveraged to draw together the regional UN system to provide inputs to the global sustainable development deliberations, as well as on the Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations.

The UN system is now jointly implementing the tangible components of the economic and socio-cultural pillars of the ASEAN-UN Work Plan for 2015, which was adopted at the ASEAN-UN Summit in November 2014, in Myanmar.

ESCAP and ADB’s partnership has focused on our MDG reviews, transport connectivity, trade facilitation, statistics and environment. The ADB President and I signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), focused on collaboration on the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals.

Just last week, we strengthened our long-standing relationship with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), by signing a new MoU. The key areas for cooperation will be an institutional framework for sustainable development, a ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption, and the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Strategic partnerships have also been developed with bilateral organizations: for instance a new MoU has been signed with the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), to promote sustainable transport systems across the Asia-Pacific region.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Resolutions and Decisions

Each year the Commission has before it a heavy slate of resolutions which require consideration and concurrence. This year is no exception. From the draft resolution on the conference structure review, to another on financing for development, the Commission has before it 14 proposals in all, dealing with key facets of the post-2015 development agenda.

The resolutions cover a spectrum of issues from maritime, rail and ICT connectivity, to ensuring continued progress on the commitments of the Beijing Conference, to greater support for our countries with special needs and the global processes defined in Istanbul, Vienna and Samoa.

We also have drafts that take forward the outcomes of the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, as well as the creation of ESCAP’s sixth regional institution to support information management and sharing about disasters.

The diversity and importance of these issues are clear indications that the countries of Asia and the Pacific are again turning to the ESCAP intergovernmental platform to address the most pressing shared challenges and to seize the shared opportunities of our region.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Conclusion

I began this morning by recalling the exceptional progress member States have already made in setting our region on the path to inclusivity, resilience and sustainable prosperity. I would like to conclude by assuring you that the secretariat stands ready to help the people of Asia and the Pacific prosper by unlocking the barriers and impediments to a more sustainable future of shared prosperity. To do so, we need your continued guidance, commitment and active support.

I wish you very fruitful deliberations in the week ahead.

I thank you.