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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

28 April 2021

ESCAP / Suwat Chancharoensuk

Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Distinguished Delegates,

It is my pleasure to have this subregional dialogue on “Building back better from crises through regional cooperation” with the participation of eight subregional organizations from around Asia and the Pacific.

Over the past year, we have gone through an unprecedented socio-economic crisis — no country and no one has been spared.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly underscored the significance of our approach towards inclusive and networked multilateralism.

You may have seen that there have been several attempts to focus on unilateral and national policy-driven announcements and measures in these challenging times.

Yet, the spirit of goodwill prevailed, and solidarity remained at the core of our responses.

The scale and urgency of the pandemic reaffirmed the importance and relevance of regional and subregional cooperation, more so for countries in geographical proximity to each other. 

I must highlight the solution-oriented plans and strategies of several regional and subregional mechanisms such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework; the PIFS Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19; the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund; the Central Asia’s guidelines on cross-border and transit traffic facilitation measures; and the Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health, to mitigate and address the health and socio-economic impacts.

As we gradually move towards a post-COVID-19 recovery, we must reinvigorate multilateralism to build back better. 

Please allow me to reiterate that I have witnessed the way your organizations have brought together a common understanding to find new pathways for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.

I commend your leadership.  

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

As we harness regional and subregional cooperation, multilateralism has gained momentum.

Simply put, we need to utilize all our platforms to work together more closely and effectively, and in a timely manner.

I am convinced that this is the time to fully put multilateralism into practice.

At the global level, we have seen the benefits of multilateralism — COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, which has brought multiple organizations and networks working together to efficiently mobilize global-level coordination.

The COVAX Facility, as the vaccine procurement platform, also contributes to managing the vaccines as a global public good.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

As you begin your Dialogue today, may I suggest some ways to building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

The first priority is to commit to social protection as a wise investment.

We must focus on investing in social protection systems to act as automatic stabilizers, stimulating aggregate demand and thereby helping to steady economies.

The newly adopted Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific through ESCAP platform provides governments in the region with a shared vision and strategy for promoting partnership, peer learning and the sharing of good practices, as well as for identifying needs for technical assistance.

A second priority is to align financial and economic stimulus with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is an opportune moment to work together to significantly reduce the constraints of fiscal resources within a country and among countries.

Regional and subregional approaches could support the mobilization of multilateral resources, provide debt relief and prevent defaults that lead to prolonged financial and economic downturns.

Third is to build resilient supply chains and increase cross-border connectivity.

It is heartening to know that coordinated subregional and regional approaches have been effective in facilitating trade and transport in these challenging times.

In this regard, ESCAP has several initiatives that advance and support this principle, most notably the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, the intergovernmental transport agreements on the Asian Highway Network, on the Trans-Asian Railway Network, and on Dry Ports; and the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative to improve information connectivity, Internet traffic and network management, e-resilience; and affordable broadband access for all.

Finally, we need to restore the broken relationship between people and nature.

The Asia-Pacific region is uniquely positioned to offer long-lasting solutions to the climate change crisis.

Regional and subregional cooperation frameworks are key instruments in ensuring conservation policies that focus on large-scale, integrated restoration of degraded ecosystems; enhanced management of protected areas to increase resilience to natural and health disasters; and on transboundary conservation, including biodiversity corridors.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

I am committed more than ever to leverage the expertise and capabilities of regional and subregional organizations in identifying areas of common interests and mobilizing collective actions to promote inclusive and networked multilateralism in our region.  

ESCAP, along with the broader United Nations system, stands ready to facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge sharing among subregions, and ensure that the benefits from the programmes of your respective organizations provide recommendations for building back better in Asia and the Pacific.

I look forward to listening to your recommendations.

Thank you, Chair.

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