Opening Statement at the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development

Honourable Ministers,
Excellency, Mr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman NITI Aayog, India,
Excellency, Ms. Kira Christianne D. Azucena, Vice-President of ECOSOC,
Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations,
Distinguished participants,

Welcome to the sixth Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development. The UN ESCAP platform provides all the stakeholders the vibrant and collective opportunity to steer the future direction of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that promises to leave no one behind in Asia and the Pacific.

In Asia and the Pacific, the countries have undergone significant economic and social transformation over the past seven decades. This process of extraordinary dynamism has led to changes in lives of our peoples and societies:

First, the region has witnessed significant reduction in extreme poverty, thereby creating the conditions for incomes and opportunities to increase - for longer, healthier lives to be led.

Second, the region continues to progress towards vital goals such as providing universal education. More people have access to affordable clean energy.
Third, at the sub-regional level, there has been satisfactory progress across various Sustainable Development Goals.

This achievement has been powered by the entrepreneurship, hard work and innovation, and I commend it to visionary leaders of our region.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

In view of this, let me highlight key observations on the status of the Sustainable Development Goals for the region:

  1. The Asia-Pacific region needs to accelerate progress on every single SDG by 2030. Now, our priority is to keep momentum.
  2. Member States require to accurately monitor and review progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Our analysis is clear, there is no room for complacency in promoting collective efforts towards the advancement of the Regional Roadmap for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Today, let me take this opportunity by outlining for your consideration several policy options that can further be considered as a way forward in supporting our member States to find solution on accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Firstly, to achieve the 2030 Agenda, increased investment is needed to quicken the pace of progress. Initial analysis suggests that most countries can afford it, although where the money is needed will vary greatly in a region of the size and diversity of Asia and the Pacific. What is consistent is evidence that empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality – the theme of this APFSD - can help accelerate progress towards all SDGs.

Secondly, we need to enable people to shape the policies which determine their future, the services on which they depend and the household decisions which govern their daily lives. If the additional investment can be unlocked, empowering people can ensure policies are fit for purpose and every dollar spent, on target.

Thirdly, we should put rights at the heart of environmental policy gives people a stake in the environment and quickens the transition to renewable energy. Supporting women’s participation in household decisions drastically improves children’s health. Resetting social norms to make child marriage unacceptable demonstrably improves women and girls’ educational attainment.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

With this objective in mind, ESCAP has worked with the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme to determine how empowerment can be delivered. Its recommendations focus on:

  • integrating fundamental rights into modern legal frameworks;
  • eradicating prejudice from our societies and institutions;
  • giving vulnerable groups more power over productive resources; and
  • institutionalising civil society’s role in shaping policies and public services.

Actions in these areas are known to make a tangible difference. Many innovative approaches are underway. Participatory budgeting and decentralized governance are increasingly common. Rights-based approaches are being taken to employment provision. These are initiatives on which we should build.

As we are moving towards our shared prosperity and future for all, UN ESCAP stands ready to work with you support this transformational journey. Importantly, I must emphasize that we need strong and durable partnerships. Strengthening cooperation between governments, civil society, businesses and the UN System, but also within and between our subregions holds great promise. It can underpin regional solutions to sustainable development challenges, strengthen action at national level and support global multilateral solutions.

My hope is that this APFSD can drive this agenda forward. Four years into the 2030 Agenda, it will facilitate in-depth reviews of progress towards the SDGs which will be considered by the High-Level Political Forum. You will have the opportunity to reassess our regional follow-up and review mechanisms and share your experiences on Voluntary National Reviews. This is our opportunity to prepare the review of the global architecture at the HLPF summit later this year. I am looking forward to your active participation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

The UN ESCAP is your platform, and we are always ready to share your voices in every corner of this vast and ever-changing landscape of this region. The pace of change in Asia and the Pacific continues to capture the imagination of the world. Together, we can make it sustainable and inclusive. Let us empower people and through partnerships, give scale to our effort. The expertise gathered in this room can drive the initiatives needed to get us on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda. I am looking forward to working with you to seize it and to accelerate sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you.