Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A warm welcome to all the participants in this high-level virtual event organized by the Asian Development Bank on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific.
I am happy to recognize the objective of this event is refocusing on the efforts to implement the SDGs at all government levels under the “whole of government” and “whole of society” principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The focus on innovations that can accelerate achieving the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific is, also, key if the region wants to engage in a transformative pathway to implement the 2030 Agenda.
It is alarming, however, that the Asia-Pacific region is not on track to meet any of the 17 Goals by 2030 as stated in the ESCAP SDG Progress Report.
At the regional level, our report shows that most progress was recorded for good health and well-being, and industry, innovation and infrastructure, with some progress for no poverty, zero hunger, quality education and reduced inequalities.
But the region is lagging behind and even in reverse direction on climate action and life below water.
How do we move forward from this situation and, importantly, how can we turn around the trends where we are observing stalled progress or even a regression?
I understand that one focus of this high-level event is the ongoing efforts to support local action on the SDGs, and to highlight opportunities for multilateral institutions to foster these emerging initiatives. This is exactly the direction that needs to be taken!
As the United Nations Secretary-General has said, recoveries require “a focus on how urbanization shapes impact, responses and longer-term recovery”. And he highlighted that this must be done through commitments and action in three key areas:
- Tackling inequalities and development deficits;
- Strengthening the capacities of local actors, particularly local governments; and
- Pursuing a resilient, inclusive, gender-equal and green economic recovery.
Emerging from the pandemic, we must ensure that cities are empowered to implement urban solutions that contribute both to economic recoveries and address global and regional challenges.
ESCAP is pleased to be working with cities as partners to build capacities and support the development of innovative urban solutions. We are partners in the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy and have worked together on supporting cities to develop Voluntary Local Reviews.
Another spotlight of today’s event is on developing consistent, credible and comparable accepted SDG impact measurement and management standards that can play a vital role in mobilizing and catalyzing the financing needed to realize the SDGs.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused much damage in terms of lives and livelihoods lost. It has exacerbated the challenge to finance SDGs as the resources have been channeled to support recovery efforts.
The pandemic has also highlighted the urgent need to close data gaps and to have access to more reliable and consistent data across the SDG indicators.
Without adequate financing, the likelihood of achieving the SDGs is even lower. Continued policy support and the use of innovative financing instruments, including thematic bonds, debt-for-climate swaps and blended finance, will therefore be critical to accelerate implementation of actions to reach the goals in Asia and the Pacific.
These mechanisms can be supported by a recently established Consultative Group on financing strategies for the SDGs, which aims to facilitate dialogue and knowledge sharing between the ESCAP secretariat and its member States.
I would like to draw your attention to the ESCAP-ADB-UNDP Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership, which underpins this quest for knowledge, data and regional policy development in support of progress towards the SDGs.
The 2022 Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Report will examine how COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in our region with the thematic focus on inclusion, empowerment and investing in nature.
The report will also analyze underlying socio-economic factors that are shaping countries’ recovery trajectories, and highlight good practices that will ensure a resilient, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We aim to identify in the report, policy pathways for building back better that can address socio-economic inequalities within and between countries, improve management of critical global commons, and global public goods and promote green and environmentally sustainable development, that deliver equitably and sustainably for all to achieve the SDGs.
The post-pandemic recovery not only poses challenges but offers opportunities for countries to recover better together. We need to learn lessons from the pandemic. We learned that the pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of public health care and management.
We also learned that countries can no longer put off protecting development gains from adverse shocks and are better off making development inclusive.
The region needs a transformation towards an inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy. The time to act is now, the direction is set.
I thank you for your attention.