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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

26 April 2021

ESCAP / Suwat Chancharoensuk

Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

Welcome to the seventy-seventh session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

It is both an honour and privilege for me to greet so many distinguished delegates and colleagues from across our region.

At this point in time, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has touched each one of us and overshadowed every conversation.

This health crisis, together with measures to mitigate its impacts, have deeply affected countries of Asia and the Pacific, both economically and socially, over the past year.

The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific is at stake.

The ongoing roll-out of vaccines in the region offers hope for recovery.  Yet no country will be fully secure when others are still fighting the pandemic.

We must ensure that the vaccines are affordable and accessible to all if we are to recover better together.

Excellencies,

Since the adoption of resolution 76/2 on regional cooperation to address the socioeconomic effects of pandemics and crises in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP has mobilized its resources, together with UN system and in tandem with member States, to strengthen the resilience of health care systems.  

We launched the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific.

Despite limited fiscal space and debt burden, governments have instituted fiscal and monetary stimulus programmes.

We supported country efforts in the issuance of sovereign bonds and operationalization of private-public partnership networks for ensuring a sustainable economic recovery.

ESCAP worked with member States to overcome supply chain and connectivity disruptions resulting from border closures.  

The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, which entered into force in February 2021, is an important step forward.

Increased use of digital technologies has likewise allowed delivery of public services in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Climate change continues to be a crisis in the backdrop of this pandemic.

We have worked with member States to advance long-term solutions, including national roadmaps for energy transition; geospatial and modelling applications for disaster management; and the use of geostationary satellites for air pollution monitoring, among other things.

These policy actions have been presented in our studies on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 as well as this year’s theme study and considered in our regional conversations and high-level dialogues.

Excellencies,

Allow me to highlight four priority areas that are necessary to ensure a recovery in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for your further deliberations and guidance.

The first priority area is to integrate health risk management into our socio-economic policies and strategies.

Governments need to build resilient health systems and universal health care coverage together with communities and relevant stakeholders.

The social protection policies must be scaled up to include informal sector workers, persons with disabilities and older persons, as well as vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population.

A second priority area is sustainable financing that prioritizes investment in resilient economies through targeted fiscal and monetary policies.

We need to create fiscal space and explore alternate sources of innovative financing.  

Public debt sustainability concerns need to be addressed.

I welcome concrete steps taken towards the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and targeted debt relief efforts that would provide much-needed liquidity, especially for the vulnerable developing countries.

Regional connectivity with built-in resiliency is the third priority area for facilitating risk-informed development.

There is a clear need to promote digital trade and contactless trade facilitation.

In our region, coordinated regional and subregional approaches have facilitated cross-border transport connectivity.

Restarting our economies also requires governments to proactively harness investment, tourism and the creative economy, as well as energy and digital connectivity.

The fourth priority area is ensuring that a post-COVID-19 recovery is stronger, cleaner and greener.

It is high time for governments to adopt a climate and environmentally responsive approach in line with the Paris Agreement.  

Let us now urgently invest in renewable energy, energy efficient production system, green infrastructure and ecosystem restoration.

As we move towards recovery, our efforts must take into account the aspirations of all countries, including the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, of Asia and the Pacific.

Excellencies,

More than ever before, the full potential of inclusive and networked multilateralism should be tapped.

International development cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, must be further harnessed.

Knowledge sharing, technical and research capacities should be strengthened.

Collaboration with subregional organizations to promote cooperation throughout Asia and the Pacific could form the foundations for an effective regional response and build back better in a post-COVID-19 era.

Excellencies,

I am honoured to have the presence of many Heads of State and Government to guide our course of action.

We count on your strong leadership and commitment to solidarity and trust.

I thank the Royal Thai Government and all member States for their unwavering support for ESCAP work and the successful convening of the seventy-seventh session of the Commission.

As we approach our seventy-fifth anniversary next year, let us forge a common agenda to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to advance sustainable development through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

I wish you a very successful Commission.

I thank you, Chair.

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