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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

15 July 2021

ESCAP

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to this side event at the High-Level Political Forum co-organised by the Governments of Fiji, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The opportunity afforded by the HLPF is an important one to engage in a conversation with member States and experts about how the Asia-Pacific region charts a course away from COVID-19.

I hope these discussions can build on the dialogue at the recent session of the Commission, where we highlighted the need for a green recovery. To help realize this, we outlined a four-point agenda in our theme study to assist countries post-COVID-19:  (1) broadening social protection, (2) investing in a sustained recovery, (3) strengthening connectivity and supply chains; and (4) mending a broken relationship with nature.

First, social protection should be extended to all, including informal workers, women and vulnerable groups, to ensure future pandemics do not widen existing inequalities.

Second, our analysis indicated that creating the fiscal space needed for the region’s recovery is possible but requires innovative approaches to both taxation and expenditure prioritization.

Next, the region’s trade and transport links, so critical to sustaining economic activity and keeping vital supplies moving during the pandemic, must be enhanced by greater digitalization and broadband connectivity.

And lastly, the study reinforces the concept of planetary health, advocating that countries integrate this idea into national and regional policy agendas. This is vital if we are to ensure that long-term systemic changes – institutional, structural and behavioural -- are made to protect the environment and mitigate the risks of future pandemics.

Excellencies, Ladies, and gentlemen,

COVID-19 continues to challenge our societies and economies. We still have some way to go to build our defences against the virus and safeguard populations. Despite the challenges we are facing, our common agenda must be to plan for the post-pandemic era.

As we plan for life after COVID-19 we must ensure we stay on course to achieve the SDGs and tackle the climate crisis. The pandemic has taught us that inequalities in our societies make us all weaker. It has shown that undermining the health of the environment is to the detriment of our own physical health. And that, together with the twin crisis of climate change, these issues are not fading away and will require more concerted efforts.

Thus, as the region’s economic engine restarts, we must recognize the need to do things differently and seize key opportunities to shape the recovery as a truly green and sustainable transformation. We can do this more effectively if we cooperate more closely to tackle systemic issues, build capacity, and replicate and scale up our successes.

Excellencies, Ladies, and gentlemen,

I look forward to learning more from the perspectives of the distinguished delegates and experts with us today. Your discussions will help build on the strong foundations of analysis and dialogue already established. I wish you a very successful deliberation.

Thank you very much.

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