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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

30 November 2020

Special Plenary Message

Excellencies, Distinguish guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to extend my congratulations to the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies for organizing this International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP2020).

The Forum provides a timely opportunity to discuss how the Asia-Pacific region can build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. Widening inequalities are exposing deep vulnerabilities of our societies. Sustainable recovery is crucial to spread the fruits of development at all levels, leaving no one behind.

Even prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, our region had not seen sufficient progress towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let me offer how ESCAP is moving policy actions at the regional and subregional levels in Asia and the Pacific: 

First, we must Protect People and Enhance Resilience. 

COVID-19 revealed the great number of people and vulnerable communities in our region, including women and children, without access to basic services necessary to safeguard their health.  

To ensure a just transition requires recoveries that invest in social protections, improve access to health care systems and build resilient infrastructure, including for water, sanitation and hygiene, and ICT.

Second, let us Support Economic Recovery.

We have seen unprecedented speed in government actions in response to the pandemic. There is an opportunity to support decarbonisation, and accelerate transitions to renewable energy, which can create more jobs than fossil fuels.  Economic recovery, inclusive growth and carbon neutrality can be advanced at the same time. 

Economic recoveries and investments should be designed to support more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement. There are no trade-offs between green recoveries that address climate and economic progress. 

Third, we must focus on Restoring supply chains and supporting SMEs.

Member States must focus on access to finance for SMEs and undertake policy measures to ensure stable and smooth functioning of regional trade and investment flows.

Connectivity is critical to restoring supply chains.  ESCAP is supporting efforts to facilitate the cross-border connectivity across all the five subregions in Asia and the Pacific. Let us accelerate digitalization, through trade, e-commerce and digital finance that can improve the delivery of public services to citizens and businesses and open new markets for all sizes of businesses. 

Fourth, we must ensure green recovery.

We must take active measures in recovery strategies to reverse the loss of the region’s rich biodiversity which sustains our region and protect it for future generations.  But we must rapidly develop policy actions that can secure long-term environmental gains. 

We need the post-pandemic future to leverage innovation and to ensure that economic growth does not recover at the expense of the environment. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

With the promise of effective vaccines for COVID-19 by early 2021, we can continue to turn our attention to how we build back better.  A just transition must consider how vaccination programmes are developed to ensure access and priority to the most vulnerable populations so that everyone, everywhere is positioned to equally benefit in the post-COVID-19 era. 

We need a whole-of-society approach that engages government, the private sector, civil society, local authorities, academia, international and regional institutions. We must enhance regional development cooperation and partnership in our uniquely inter-dependent and inter-connected regional economies. 

ESCAP, along with the UN system, will continue to support member States to develop sustainable recovery strategies and solutions that will pave the way towards building a resilient, inclusive and green Asia and the Pacific.

I count on your leadership and look forward to working with all of you as we advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

I wish you a very successful forum.

Thank you.

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