Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to the Fifth North-East Asia Multi-Stakeholder Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The North-East Asian member States have weathered the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic generally well.
The region is steadily approaching a critical vaccination threshold that should open a clear path to exit the pandemic and restart the socio-economic activities.
Since 2020, governments have focused on devising and executing timely new policies and innovative solutions to minimize the adverse effects of the pandemic.
However, our SDGs analysis underscores several vulnerabilities, including:
- most progress can be seen in Goals related to no poverty (Goal 1) and clean water and sanitation (Goal 6),
- while relatively good progress has been made in zero hunger (Goal 2), good health and well-being (Goal 3), affordable and clean energy (Goal 7), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9),
- but slow progress has been recorded in gender equality (Goal 5) and reduced inequalities (Goal 10), and
- Goals regressed in climate action (Goal 13) and life below water (Goal 14).
During the 2020 forum, I welcomed member States’ concerted whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to contain the severity of the new pandemic.
However, let me reflect on some policy issues for reflections that are relevant to our member States in North-East Asia:
- The role of social protection policy to effectively address new forms of multi-dimensional poverty and social exclusion of vulnerable groups enlarged under the pandemic;
- Identify the implication of digitalization in our society, particularly for children of low-income families; and
- Explore climate commitments to quickly turn countries on to a low-carbon pathway.
The policy issues clearly indicate that countries still need to strengthen international coordination in building back better from the pandemic and achieving the SDGs.
To ensure a broader and sustainable recovery, I call on member States to reflect on a set of selected SDGs.
On quality education, SDG 4, let us ensure graduates and workers who have lost jobs are trained with relevant skills, taking advantage of the economic recovery to push towards full employment.
We need to ensure the children who have had their studies interrupted due to measures of the COVID-19 are not left behind.
On gender equality, SDG 5, we must adopt adequate policies and social programmes to restore the confidence and dignity of affected people.
The policies must focus on gender empowerment and participation so that we can minimize socio-economic inequalities.
We need to be fully committed to ensuring that environmental sustainability is considered in recovery strategies and protecting the climate and biodiversity as an urgent priority.
I am very encouraged by the strong and strengthened commitments of member States to climate action, including the carbon neutrality goals announced by China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
I believe in harnessing the real benefits of multilateral cooperation through enhanced partnership across the entire range of scientific research, trade, connectivity, environment as well as social programmes within and across the subregions of Asia and the Pacific.
Over the past year, we have been reminded that crisis knows no boundaries.
We are seeing that some borders are still closed, and supply chains are being disrupted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, we have begun to understand the real lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I welcome the focus on strengthening regional cooperation and development partnership.
In North-East Asia, it underlined the need for building a well-functioning multilateralism that must immediately and effectively respond to crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change.
By investing in multilateral cooperation, member States can enhance preparedness to address new and emerging challenges while deepening the spirit of solidarity.
ESCAP, in close coordination and collaboration with the UN family, will continue to deepen our engagements with governments and all stakeholders in advancing SDG implementation plans in the post-COVID-19 era.
I look forward to hearing your insightful discussions and recommendations on the future course of action towards the attainment of the SDGs in North-East Asia, which will further be discussed and shared at the 9th Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD) from 28 to 31 March 2022.
I count on your commitment and leadership to recover better together.
I wish everyone a successful Forum.
Thank you very much.