Opening Statement: Remarks at the 381th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives

Distinguished Members,

It is a pleasure to be with you for today’s Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives. Today, allow me to update you on my visits to member States and multilateral institutions, touch upon the unfolding UN development system reform and look ahead to upcoming major events in the ESCAP calendar.

Shortly after our last meeting, I met with the Secretary General of ASEAN. Mr. Dato Lim Jock Hoi expressed his support for ESCAP’s work on the 2030 Agenda and our efforts to foster cooperation between sub regional organisations. He was eager to see the ASEAN–ESCAP partnership taken a step further, continuing to build on the complementarities of our agendas. Connectivity, trade facilitation, social development and disaster risk reduction were among the priorities discussed. Thailand’s chairpersonship of ASEAN is an opportunity to pick up the pace. We are exploring opportunities for joint research with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia whose President I also met. I was also in Jarkarta this week to participate in a High-Level Dialogue on Indo Pacific Cooperation and underline ESCAP’s role in supporting SDG implementation at the regional level. I took the opportunity to meet counterparts from across government.

The architecture of ESCAP’s collaboration with the Republic of Korea was strengthened during my recent visit. In a move which we could replicate with other interested member States, we adopted a Strategic Cooperation Framework Document with the ministry of Foreign Affairs. It focused on leaving no one behind and achieving environmental sustainability and connectivity. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the Ministry of Interior and Safety to underpin our work under the Sendai Framework and support the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network. With the Korea International Cooperation Agency, a Memorandum of Understanding was agreed focused on Connectivity in ICT, women’s empowerment, transport and energy.

Last week I was in Kuala Lumpur where I met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Dato’ Saifunddin Abdullah emphasized his government’s desire to strengthen its engagement with the United Nations and in particular ESCAP. We discussed the upcoming Asia-Pacific Urban Forum which ESCAP will jointly host with UN-Habitat in Penang this October. I took the opportunity to meet think tanks and academic institutions to explore collaboration opportunities focused on accelerating SDG implementation in our region.

I am looking forward to visiting more countries. Trips to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Kazakhstan are planned. I am grateful for the help your delegations are providing to ensure these visits are meaningful.

The second phase of the United Nations Development System reform process continues, focused on the regional dimension.

The think tank CEPEI has now completed all regional consultations in Asia and the Pacific, gathering information on regional assets. CEPEI will now begin to explore how these assets might be best used to support member States and where support can be made more coherent.

The Internal Review Team and the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on reforms, Mr. Jens Wandel, is leading a second stream of work. I took part in this team’s retreat in February. I was able to set out ESCAP’s role and the integrated regional approach to implementing the SDGs. On behalf of all Regional Commissions, I also underscored the work done by Region Commissions on data and statistics on SDG monitoring with our member States.

The Internal Review team will meet again in April. I will attend and would like to take the opportunity to meet with more of your permanent representatives in New York. The review team will work to translate the review of assets and inputs of CEPEI into recommendations for the Secretary General on transforming the UN Development System at the Regional level. A report and recommendations will be presented by the Secretary General to ECOSOC in May.
Following last week’s successful Committee on Trade and Investment, on which you will get a full debrief shortly, we are now in the final stretch of our preparations for the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development. This will be attended by the Deputy Secretary General who will be fully engaged throughout, including for the launch of our SDG Partnership Report. We are looking forward to the active participation of your delegations.

Preparations for the 75th Commission in the last week of May are well underway. This Commission will have a dedicated agenda item on the sub regional dimension of our work. I want ESCAP to help strengthen regional cooperation within and across its subregions. We need your input to do so effectively. An advanced version of the report to the Commission on the Mid Point Review of the Conference Structure has been circulated and informal consultations will continue after APFSD.

I am delighted several delegations will be tabling resolutions. In addition to those I mentioned in our last meeting, Thailand and the Republic of Korea are considering sponsoring resolutions. I hope both can be taken forward.

Several delegations have indicated their intention to organize side events related to this year’s theme of empowerment. I am encouraged by these initiatives. Side events allow us to involve a broader range of stakeholders, drill down on specific issues and ensure your Commission is a vibrant one. We need your support in this area.

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