Remarks at the 379th Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives Bangkok, Thailand.

Distinguished Members,

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be with you for today’s Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives. I am grateful for the warm welcome many of you have extended to me in recent weeks and am looking forward to working with all of you.

2019 marks the end of the first four-year cycle of the 2030 agenda. It provides an opportunity to take stock, identify shortcomings and refocus our response where necessary. This is an opportunity UN ESCAP must take. The evidence already available shows progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is insufficient in Asia and the Pacific. You will be familiar with the analysis:

  • Inequalities are widening. Our societies are ageing and international migration increasing. Inadequate social protection compounds these challenges.
  • Our growth continues to come at a high environmental cost. Air pollution is increasing. The health of our oceans and ecosystems is deteriorating. Our carbon emissions remain high.
  • Intraregional trade remains below its potential, hampered by insufficient connectivity.

Much good work is underway at national and regional level to overcome these challenges. But we should use 2019 to ensure our efforts are as coherent and efficient as possible. And to feed our region’s analysis and response into global deliberations.

For this purpose, several high-level events will be particularly important. The High-Level Political Forum SDG Summit will meet during the General Assembly. There will be a Climate Change Summit. And high-level dialogues on Financing for Development, Universal Health Coverage and the mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway.

As the President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, recently emphasised to me – Asia and the Pacific will play a major part in determining the progress in all these areas. Our regional cooperation gives scale to this effort. So, we have a clear role in shaping global development agendas.

The 6th Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD) and the 75th Commission will be central to achieving this objective. Both will share the same theme as the 2019 HLPF they precede, which is ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’. They are an opportunity for the region to take the lead in agreeing ways to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Guided by our members, we are eager to use both the APFSD and the Commission to shape coherent input to HLPF. We count on your support to ensure they are well attended and at the appropriate level.

The stock taking which will occur in 2019 presents another opportunity. One to assess where UN ESCAP’s organization needs be adjusted. I am talking of measured assessment, followed by informed adjustment - to keep our institution’s work relevant. I see three opportunities to start this process.

The first is the ESCAP Commission itself. This should be the primary decision-making body for development issues in our region. To ensure it is, discussions need to be results oriented. We need to substantially step up our engagement with sub regional organisations and UN Development partners. And give priority to discussions on regional norms, standards and frameworks.

The second is the midterm review of the conference structure which will take place at next year’s Commission. This is your opportunity to ensure the content and structure of the Commission and its Committee serve your priorities. As requested by the Advisory Committee, we have circulated a paper providing background to the review. It offers questions for the reflection of member States, as well as some initial ideas. We are convening an informal session of the Advisory Committee next week. We look forward to your active participation.

The third is UN Development System Reform, which was the focus of meetings I attended in New York in early November.
The first phase of these reforms was about optimizing functions and enhancing collaboration at regional and subregional levels. Many of the recommendations are already underway such holding RCM and Regional UNSDG meetings back to back. Or ensuring active participation of UNDG entities in the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.
The second phase will focus on reprofiling and restructuring of the regional assets, taking regional specificities into consideration. I would encourage members to engage with delegations at UN HQ to steer the second phase. It will formally come before ECOSOC early next year. This is our opportunity to increase the coherence of the UN’s support for countries at the regional level.
Most distinguished members,

I am looking forward to our discussion today. Both during this ACPR and the reception so generously hosted by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. I hope it can be our first step towards reaching a common assessment of where we need to adjust our effort; and ensure we are organised in the best possible way to respond to our region’s challenges. This is your Commission. So, it is with your guidance, support and trust that UN ESCAP can accelerate our region’s progress towards the 2030 Agenda.