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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

04 November 2020

Distinguish guests, Ladies and gentlemen,  

I would like to extend my congratulations to the South China Morning Post for organising this Asia Sustainability 2020 event.

The COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting socio-economic fabric in Asia and the Pacific. This ongoing crisis is significantly slowing down the progress we have made towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As member States are working towards a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy, a well-formulated and comprehensive set of plans could contribute to minimizing the widening socio-economic inequalities and mitigating detrimental effects of climate change on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Allow me to highlight three policy proposals for transformative recovery your consideration and further reflections.

First, scale-up investments to sustain human and economic well-being.

Build back better from COVID-19 crisis must focus on mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the vulnerable groups, strengthening the healthcare system as well as the social protection system.

Innovative financing strategies must improve diminished fiscal space and support of micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) through fiscal stimulus packages.

Promoting women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and digital technologies in close collaboration with governments, financial institutions and the private sector must remain a key policy priority.

Second, ensure green recovery.

Government stimulus packages should aim to accelerate decarbonization and greening of the economy, not simply support” business as usual” decision-making and practices.

Where corporate bail outs may save jobs and maintain social well-being, it is crucial that such bailouts not support polluting businesses and sectors that are main drivers of environmental degradation.

We also need to prevent and mitigate future pandemics and develop collaborative policy frameworks that address the interacting threats due to illegal trade, habitat loss, climate change, and different sources of pollution.

Transitioning towards a growth path that ensures a healthy and green planet for future generations should be an integral part to designing post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Third, integrate sustainability interests into private investments.

Encourage businesses to integrate sustainability by factoring in environmental, social and governance aspects in investment analysis and decisions and to step up innovation to ensure sustainable production.

In particular, this means the need for business to adopt and implement internationally recognized principles and standards of responsible business conduct, such as the principles of the United Nations Global Compact.

It also means that governments have to implement the appropriate policies and laws and regulations to improve the investment climate for sustainable business, innovation and adopt a monitoring and evaluation framework, including a set of indicators, to assess the contribution of business to sustainable development.

ESCAP stands ready to work with governments, the private sector and all stakeholders in advancing SDGs implementation plans in the post-COVID-19 era.

I count on your commitment to build back better in Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you.

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