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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

01 September 2022


Mr. Hyuk-Sang Sohn, President of the Korea International Cooperation Agency,

Mr. Lee Dohoon, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea,

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased and privileged to address the Fifteenth Seoul ODA International Conference.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the organizers for providing this dynamic forum to discuss issues related to development cooperation.

The Asia-Pacific region has witnessed significant progress in reducing extreme poverty, expanding social welfare and accelerating innovation over the past two decades thanks to our shared goals and targets set since the turn of the century.

Almost halfway into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing impacts of climate change, and geopolitical conflicts have unveiled the fragility of our interconnected world. All these crises threaten the hard-earned progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

The pandemic highlighted the widespread inequalities that exist among countries and within countries through widened gaps in access to health care and other services, financial resources and capacity to implement initiatives for economic recovery.

In addition to the pandemic, geopolitical conflicts are compounding SDG financing challenges and exposing fault lines in energy and food systems, international finance and social protection. It is undoing efforts to strengthen food security and systems by putting additional pressure on limited resources.

Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and food and water scarcities are projected to increase in intensity and frequency. But the political commitments continue to be vague, and indeed, the gaps between actions and commitments are clearly evident.

These issues, particularly inequality and environmental sustainability, require transformational policy measures at the country, regional and global levels.

Development challenges are too large and too complex to be addressed by one country alone. The emergence of middle-income developing countries willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and resources through their own assistance programmes, offers new opportunities for partnerships and points to the changing dynamics in development cooperation.

ESCAP has contributed considerably to the development of Asia and the Pacific, establishing key regional institutions; negotiating crucial intergovernmental agreements, undertaking quality normative and analytical work, advocating policies to address critical and emerging issues, and building the capacity of its members to address common and transboundary development challenges in the region.

In our efforts to build back better and advance the SDGs, three elements are critical to consider:

1. High and sustained levels of financing are required, and innovative solutions are needed

Governments need to prioritize domestic resource mobilization, curb non-developmental expenditures and safeguard SDG investment, raise additional funds through innovative instruments, and work together on debt sustainability.

After decades of agreement, we are still far below the official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI). Developed countries need to follow through on their old and new pledges, particularly the $100 billion per year for climate action, as the threat of climate change has become a clear and present danger for all countries.

2. Multilateralism and regional cooperation must be more effective

We need to rethink how multilateralism and regional cooperation can effectively overcome transboundary, interlinked challenges, build resilience against shocks and ensure that no one is left behind. All development partners need to work more closely together on a wider range of regional public goods.

Asia-Pacific countries reaffirmed their commitment to promoting multilateralism and international cooperation, strengthening partnerships, and advancing sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific through the adoption of the “Bangkok Declaration” at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ESCAP. This declaration outlines our Common Agenda for the region.

3. Partnerships need to be broadened and diversified

With a changing donor landscape and new emerging donors, we need to diversify and broaden partnerships towards more integrated, effective, and innovative development cooperation strategies. We need to identify and overcome the barriers standing in the way of long-term and deeper partnerships with beneficiaries. It is only by interventions that are targeting systemic changes that we will have a sustainable impact.

Over the past decades, South-South cooperation has gained increased importance in accelerating sustainable development and has evolved as a key modality to address transboundary issues as well as issues of common concern, including poverty and inequalities, environment and disaster risk reduction.

The increasing role of South-South and triangular cooperation was recognized by countries in a resolution adopted by the ESCAP Commission at its 75th session.

In addition, ESCAP has been at the forefront of promoting multilateral partnerships to address regional and transboundary issues, such as air pollution - a pressing environmental challenge that has increased considerably in recent years. With support from the Government of the Republic of Korea, ESCAP is currently advancing its work on the use of satellite technology to monitor air pollution.   The results of this work are being applied in almost 20 countries in Asia.

2022 is a milestone in South-South cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. In less than two weeks, the Government of Thailand, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and ESCAP will jointly host the eleventh Global South-South Development Expo in Bangkok from 12 to 14 September 2022.

The fourth meeting of the Asia-Pacific Directors-General Forum on South-South and Triangular Cooperation will also be convened in conjunction with the Expo.

These events will provide opportunities to discuss more concrete measures for leveraging and enhancing the role of South-South cooperation as a key modality for sustainable recovery from the pandemic and for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

And I certainly hope many of you will join us in person or online at Global Expo.

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

As ESCAP celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary, in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of multilateralism, partnerships and enhancing targeted technical cooperation is even more pronounced and important.

The Republic of Korea is a living testimony that with strategic cooperation and the right national policies, socio-economic development is attainable. It has also been a champion and a key partner for ESCAP in tackling the economic, social and environmental challenges of the region.

Indeed, ESCAP’s partnership with the Republic of Korea, through the Korea-ESCAP Cooperation Fund and collaboration with over 20 other Korean entities, including KOICA, has been one of the most important enablers for ESCAP to fully implement its programme of work in support of its member States.

In June of this year, KOICA and ESCAP expanded the scope of our collaboration towards achieving concrete outcomes in support of the 2030 Agenda by signing an expanded MOU.

I take this opportunity to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for its continued support to the work of the United Nations and development cooperation at large and wish you a successful Conference.

Thank you.

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