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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

21 November 2020

Keynote Speech


Excellencies, Distinguish guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to extend my congratulations to the International Finance Forum (IFF) for organising the 2020 Annual Meeting.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, member States have been experiencing uneven progress towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific.   

Our region witnessed a significant decline in income poverty and undernourishment, while provision of quality education and access to affordable energy have improved over the past years.  

Yet, inequality is still widening. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are lagging behind in many countries.

The overall lack of progress towards the environmental goals is a matter of continued concern across the region.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the region is now being exposed to multiple shocks. Socio-economic vulnerabilities are on the rise.

Economies are recording an unprecedented level of GDP contraction. Financial systems are unable to cope up with the growing need of development resources.

This unfolding socio-economic crisis has exposed the fragility of our institutional preparedness and governance mechanisms.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

How do we build back better? 

I recognise that member States have been implementing pragmatic policies to save people’s lives and livelihoods and to ensure sustainable recovery.

The adoption of ESCAP resolution (RES/76/2) in 21 May 2020 on Regional cooperation to address the socioeconomic effects of pandemics and crises in Asia and the Pacific, have paved the way in responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and future pandemics and related widescale crises in the region.

In view of this, let me highlight four policy priorities for harnessing regional cooperation.

First, Protecting people. Governments are formulating policies to protect the most vulnerable, including through social protection systems, health care provisions and technological innovations.

Strengthening financing support to the micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and to promote women entrepreneurs’ access to finance are essential tools in this rebuilding effort.

We must take this opportunity to boost the better availability of geospatial data and to enhance civil registration and vital statistics systems, so that everyone, everywhere can receive the social protection benefits equally. 

Second, Ensuring economic recovery.  Over the past three quarters of 2020, Governments are also undertaking expansionary fiscal and monetary measures, as well as innovative financing strategies to overcome the resources constraints, and mitigate debt distress.

Addressing the challenges of fiscal space requires not only international response such as debt moratoriums, but also national action on increasing tax-to-GDP ratios and exploring sustainability-oriented bonds and innovative financing instrument options such as debt swaps for SDG investment.

Importantly, these policies must be in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

Third, Restoring and building resilience in supply chains and connectivity.

Member States have been actively undertaking policy measures to ensure stable and smooth functioning of regional trade and investment flows.

ESCAP’s intergovernmental agreements and frameworks such as the Asian Highway Network and the Trans-Asian Railway Network have been supporting the governments to facilitate the cross-border connectivity across all the five subregions in Asia and the Pacific.

By focusing on digital trade, e-commerce and digital finance, governments are ensuring improved delivery of public services to citizens and businesses.

Fourth, Protecting and restoring ecosystems.

I also welcome continued efforts of the governments to implement policies in accelerating decarbonization and greening of the economy. We must not simply encourage and promote “business as usual” policymaking in protecting and restoring the ecosystems. 

There is a need to work with the private sectors in implementing concrete actions to reduce investments in polluting industries, which are causing environmental degradation.

ESCAP is working with member States and stakeholders to develop a set of collaborative subregional and regional initiatives and frameworks to mitigate future pandemics. Together, we can address the climate change emergencies through cooperation on air pollution, climate change and biodiversity conservation.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

At the regional level, ESCAP is strengthening our multilateral platform to better understand how member States and all stakeholders can collaborate, leverage and learn from each other’s best practices, knowledge and experiences.

We are committed to underscore the significance of the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to build back better.

ESCAP, along with the UN system, is harnessing regional cooperation to support the resilient recovery and the achievement of the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific.

I count on your leadership.

I wish you a very successful IFF 2020 Annual Meeting.

Thank you.

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