Opening Statement at ACPR

Delivered at ACPR, UNCC in Bangkok, Thailand
Distinguished Members of ACPR,

This morning I would like to report on ESCAP’s participation in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York and then turn to few other key activities.

As the Regional Commission’s Coordinator for 2017, ESCAP played the principal role in organizing for the first time a substantive regional session of HLPF with the support of ECOSOC. The regional dimension session, chaired and moderated by President of ECOSOC, was held on 10th July 2017 after kick starting the opening session of ECOSOC. The session called for all five Regional Commissions to report on the challenges and progress made by their regions in progressing the 2030 Agenda and its means of implementation. On behalf of ESCAP, I presented an account of the regional progress on Agenda 2030 with a focus on the state of play of the predetermined priority goals (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14) which had been designated as the core priorities of the 2017 HLPF deliberations. In addition, I reported on the member-led development of the Asia and the Pacific Regional Road Map, which you all helped to shape, and contributed to the deliberations of the means of implementation. On the latter, a report was presented of the findings of the SDG Statistical Outlook which clearly brought out the advance work undertaken by ESCAP in assessing the state of preparedness of data and statistics that are key to setting action on SDGs on course.

The Asia -Pacific deliberations were further enriched by a report of the Eurasian Economic Union on SDGs, and presentation by Oleg Pankratov, Vice Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan who highlighted that regional economic integration provides an additional incentive to implement the 2030 Agenda – a clear message consistent with the approach being taken ESCAP. The Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) highlighted the mutually reinforcing nature of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda, noting efforts to strengthen such complementarities - again an area where ESCAP has been called upon by Thailand to take the lead.

On side lines of HLPF, a dedicated ESCAP side event was organized, where the objectives and scope of the Regional Roadmap for Implementation of SDGs and findings of the Statistical Yearbook along with other ESCAP publications were highlighted. This event was co-sponsored by the governments of Fiji and Pakistan to whom I would like to once again extend my thanks. ESCAP also took in the lead in organising a joint side event with the four other Regional Commissions that clearly brought to forefront the substantive role of the regional commissions in supporting the implementation of the SDGs and ensuring how they can reinforce national action. All commissions are working on issues of policy coherence and coordination; fostering technical approaches to reinforcing sector nexuses and interdependencies; promoting SDG data and statistical development; and developing understanding of how to exploit the means of implementation to support SDG financing.

In all these platforms, we were able to share the findings of our regional SDG Statistics Report prepared by the Statistics Division. Adopting an innovative progress measurement methodology, this report makes use of available data to establish SDG baselines and assess the gaps which need to be closed if the SDGs are to be achieved by 2030. The report shows that Asia and the Pacific needs to step up its overall development reform effort. For over one third of the SDGs, the data point to slow or stagnating progress since 2000. For another third of the set of goals - reducing inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, and life on land - the data suggest the region is moving in the wrong direction, a trend we must work to reverse. For only five SDGs (no poverty; quality education; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and life below water) do the current trends set the region on the path to achieve the desired development outcomes by 2030. I hope this solid analysis can serve as basis for stepping up our collective effort, but also to underscore the need for work to improve the quality and availability of our data.

ESCAP also organized Regional Commissions coordinating meetings to deliberate on how to coordinate ourselves to support the consultation process on the role of the regional commissions as a part of the ongoing work on formulation of the reform agenda for UNDS. The Secretary General has already briefed ECOSOC on the first report of UNDS reforms released in June this year and working groups have been formed to discuss how coordination is to be strengthened across the UNDS to ensure regional agencies and the Regional Commissions are better aligned, and how to improve coordination between DESA and Regional Commissions. Again, as a coordinator of the Regional Commission, our office has been playing an instrumental role in working closely with our counterparts to submit inputs to the working groups and consultants studying how to structure better UNDS coordination at regional level.

Moving to other activities, as a part of our endeavour to more effectively support countries with special needs I undertook a day visit to Myanmar and met H.E Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, the Speaker of Myanmar’s Parliament and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Union Minister of Planning and Finance. Our discussions focused on the range of challenges facing Myanmar, but centred on how Myanmar is positioned to approach the implementation of sustainable development. The Government underscored the importance of streamlining trade policies and agreements and requested support in this area, while pushing for dismantling barriers to cross border trade and investment. It also sought technical cooperation for SME development and for Youth events. Deliberations were also held in the field of financing for development and on efforts that could be launched to support regional economic and integration. The Government of Myanmar briefing on SDG preparation and monitoring and evaluation progress towards the SDGs in different areas was helpful. The consultations with authorities will now be followed with technical missions to support Myanmar’s requests.

On 29th August, ESCAP was able to secure sign off from several member States in Bangkok on the framework agreement on the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade. Switching from paper to electronic solutions offers countries an immense opportunity to simplify trade processes, minimize documentary requirements, promote transparency and increase the security of trade operations. Full implementation of cross-border paperless trade should also significantly increase international trade revenues in our region, while enabling governments to reduce administrative costs and minimize revenue lost to fraud and non-compliance.

Following this, on the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, ESCAP and ECLAC were called upon to join the Forum for East Asia and Latin America which brought together foreign ministers from the two regions to discuss inter-regional collaboration. Deliberations were held on how to frame future work to promote broader regional collaboration and cooperation between two blocs in order to strengthen trade, investment flows and STI exchanges between the two regions. I underscored the need for developing not only short term initiatives to reversing the decline in trade flows by more comprehensively lifting trade barriers and strengthening investor confidence, but also highlighted the need for a long term strategy to promote multilateral harmonized trade and investment frameworks, while encouraging domestic structural reforms to improve the broader business climate and to diversify economic activity, particularly in some resource dependent parts of Latin America. Ministers welcomed the proposal to establish a FEALAC fund and supportive institutional framework to steer the required analytical work to foster more effective and sustainable inter-regional cooperation.

Last week we held a very successful Ministerial Summit on the Environment. Many of you were there and know how well-coordinated the theme of resource efficiency and reduction of air pollution resulted in a very successful conference. Your combined efforts made this possible for ESCAP and the UN Environment. Let’s build on this experience and continue doing all we can to deliver as One UN.

To conclude, from now onwards we face a series of back-to-back intergovernmental meetings and the secretariat is fully geared to support the work of the various Committees. We count on your support to mobilise the high-level participation of your Ministers to ensure we have strong political inputs and commitment to the emerging future work programme.

I thank you.