Opening Statement at the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2015

Delivered at the 2015 Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in Bangkok, Thailand

Your Excellency General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand

Your Excellency, Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President, Islamic Republic of Iran

Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP

Mr. Mukhisa Kituyu, Secretary-General, UNCTAD

Honourable Ministers,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates

Introduction

Global negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs), are in the final stages of preparation, with a declaration being framed for the General Assembly summit in September. In parallel, the Addis Ababa Accord is being finalized for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in July, and intense efforts are underway to foster consensus on a new agreement on global climate action for the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris in December.

Building on the outcomes of our deliberations last year, the second Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) is an opportunity for member States to reflect on sustainable development and to provide further direction for our joint efforts.

In our deliberations, we need to focus on developing greater understanding of how to achieve balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development - social, economic and environmental (SEE), which will help us to “SEE” the nexus between these dimensions and explore how the countries of our region are gearing their national development frameworks and priorities. We also look forward to receiving your guidance on follow-up and review mechanisms.

Since we will be presenting the findings of the ESCAP theme study on balanced integration in the next session, I will focus my opening remarks today on a number of key priorities.

The outcome of the Forum will be shared with 71st session of the Commission next week, and then with the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to be convened during the ECOSOC session from 26 June to 8 July. Your perspectives and guidance will help shape the concrete steps that ESCAP, with our development partners, will take, through stronger regional platforms, to support implementation of national sustainable development programs.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Emerging Regional Mandates on Sustainable Development

Based on feedback from the member State negotiations, one of the mandates United Nations regional commissions are likely to receive will be to assist member States by ensuring effective regional follow-up and review mechanisms for SDG implementation, with global reporting responsibilities.

The synthesis report of the Secretary-General, also proposes a regional component for the review process. This would include “peer reviewing, tailored to regional and sub-regional needs, undertaken by existing mechanisms in a participatory, multi-stakeholder process, to consider national reports, identify regional trends, obstacles, commonalities, best practices and lessons learned, and to generate solutions and mutual support”. The APFSD will build on the experiences of existing regional review mechanisms and serve a central role in coordinating action and services as part of this follow-up and review process.

In developing our thinking on regional review mechanisms, there are a number of issues on which the secretariat would value your views:

  1. Which principles should be considered to guide the follow-up and review framework?
  2. What incentives might encourage States to participate and engage actively in follow-up and review?
  3. How best can a comprehensive programme of action on data be launched in the region, as proposed globally by the Secretary-General in his synthesis report?

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Priority Tasks for APFSD 2015

The APFSD consultations are not intended to duplicate the ongoing negotiations in New York which, as you know, are based on the proposals of the Open Working Group for 17 specific SDGs. Our purpose instead is to exchange information about your perspectives, strengthen areas of consensus and evaluate what needs to be done to overcome remaining differences.

We would especially value briefings on your national SDG strategies, institutional mechanisms, and modalities of working, as well as progress on national-level follow-up and review.

Getting policies right is critical. We have learnt many lessons from our regional experience of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The more comprehensive scope of the SDGs will require that we apply these learnings - particularly in terms of the need for stronger ownership and Government responsibility for identifying and acquiring the capacities necessary to deliver on the agreed goals and targets. Another key learning from the MDGs was the need for a comprehensive framework for the means of implementation, to back the ambitious agenda with supportive financing and effective global and regional partnerships.

It is important to recognize that both the sustainable development and financing tracks now underscore the need for cohesive, nationally-owned sustainable development strategies, supported by integrated national financing frameworks with supportive domestic and international enabling frameworks. Given that Governments will be formulating their SDG priorities, stronger policy and institutional coordination and integration across all sectors and spheres of government will be critical to ensure effective implementation of the goals and targets.

In parallel, there is a need for continued stakeholder ownership within and across both public and private sectors, and with civil society. Success will only be achieved through collaboration and partnership – several stakeholders have joint responsibility for the implementation of sustainable development. This is why ESCAP has facilitated a range of extensive consultations this week, with business leaders, environmental authorities and representatives of civil society, held back-to-back with the APFSD. I believe that the vibrancy of the dialogue processes in our region will translate into a robust and inclusive architecture for integration, implementation, and review.

Your perspectives on the future form and substance of the APFSD beyond 2015 are key. At the request of member States, a consultation process has been facilitated on this topic, with a proposal based on the result now being made by the secretariat, for your consideration and discussion.

In evaluating the inaugural APFSD held last year, this Forum can play a critical role as a platform for fostering high-level regional commitment to action; enhancing the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development at all levels; strengthening the science-policy interface; and identifying new and emerging sustainable development challenges. With these considerations, the secretariat is proposing a stand-alone APFSD for 2016, timed so that its deliberations and decisions can be reported to the 72nd Commission session, and taken up at the HLPF.

We look forward to your feedback on the proposals, and to your concrete guidance on the way forward. I am convinced that the value of a regional sustainable development platform is not only support for the technical aspects of implementation and capacity building, but also the fostering of regional norms and opportunities for effective regional engagement to ultimately strengthen implementation at the national level.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Significance of Regional Dialogue and Commitments

In recent weeks significant progress has been made at the global level in clarifying what is required to forge a strong and inclusive post-2015 development agenda. These deliberations have underlined the critical role that the regional dimension must play as countries share common experiences and challenges within regions.

The regional follow-up and review process I mentioned earlier could, for example, encourage countries to share information, knowledge and experiences, strengthen their respective capabilities and define coherent regional policies and approaches. This would also help member States to translate global goals into policies, guidelines, recommendations and standards that could be implemented at the national level, as well as to mobilize partnerships and regional cooperation.

We understand the enormous demands that successful implementation of the SDGs will place on all of us, particularly our member States - from setting up implementation frameworks at the national and local levels, to mobilizing the means of implementation and developing a transparent and inclusive process for follow-up and review.

The ESCAP secretariat, in collaboration with other UN agencies and development partners, stands ready to assist member States in implementation. Let us together make every effort to match the ambition of the post-2015 development agenda with the appropriate scale and focus of financial support and other means of implementation.

Finance will drive sustainable development. We recognize that financing for sustainable development is a critical challenge – but there are also many opportunities for this region to mobilize financing. These includes possible harmonization with commitments to be made at the Third International Conference on Finance for Development, in order to support the means of implementation. At the regional level there are also opportunities for such synergies. Last April and then again this year, the High-level Consultations on Financing for Development, organized by ESCAP in Jakarta, proposed tangible recommendations to mobilize additional financial resources, improve financial capacities, and develop innovative instruments to support the implementation of SDGs in our region.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

In conclusion, our regional accomplishments in growing our economies are impressive, but our success will not be judged by GDP growth alone. Ultimately we will be judged by the impacts we make on the lives of all our people, current and future.

Political will, commitments and effective coordination at national and regional level are key to sustainable development.

Your feedback and support to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable development at the regional level would be helpful at this stage.

I thank you.