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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

01 September 2021

ES speech-AP Regional Review-special session

The special session was organized on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Regional Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries, 30 August-3 September 2021.

Excellencies, distinguished panelists, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to speak at this special session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action in Preparation for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

Harnessing the potential of science, technology and innovation will be pivotal for LDCs to meet the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals; and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic with inclusivity, resilience and sustainability.  

To meet the ambitions of the SDGs, we need to build technological and innovation capabilities that can solve the pressing economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. LDC economies have been affected more than most by the pandemic. The crisis has also disproportionally affected marginalized communities and vulnerable groups such as women.

Meeting this ambition will require governments to invest in the formulation and implementation of STI policies that enable industrial development and build productive capacities. It will also require policies that go beyond economic imperatives to include social and environmental goals and leave no one behind.

Such strategic policymaking can only be successful if implemented by a government that is courageous and ambitious, with leadership capable of seeing beyond short-term gains and committed to a long-term plan for national prosperity.

The Asia-Pacific region has many examples of how STI can lead to economic growth and inclusive and sustainable development. Among LDCs, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal are pioneering countries in this regard.

The Royal Government of Cambodia established a clear vision for promoting STI by establishing - in 2020 - the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology & Innovation and recently adopting a Roadmap that establishes the vision and ambition to leverage STI for inclusive and sustainable development. Today we will be hearing from His Excellency Prof. Dr. Chhem Kieth Rethy, Minister Delegate Attached to Prime Minister and Secretary of State of MISTI who will be sharing more about Cambodia’s approach to STI. It has been a pleasure and an honour for ESCAP to partner with and support His Excellency on this STI journey.

Bangladesh has put in place a range of policies and programmes to harness digital technologies to transform the economy and how the government works. And today, we will be hearing from Ms. Tina Jabeen on how the government is promoting technology start-ups and innovative financing to support entrepreneurs. Again, it has been a pleasure and an honour for ESCAP to partner with and support Ms. Jabeen on her innovative and ambitious endeavours.

While in Nepal, we are working with FinTech start ups to provide access to finance to women entrepreneurs. And may I take this opportunity to thank His Excellency Dr. Biswo Nath Poudel for being a champion of innovation in Nepal and beyond.

But the public sector cannot achieve this alone. Innovative transformation will also require a thriving private sector. Most technological solutions and innovations that can address the SDGs are developed and diffused by the private sector. Yet, businesses do not always have the incentives to develop, share or market those solutions. Governments must support enabling business ecosystems that catalyse business innovation for the SDGs.

In this regard, government policies that enable and incentivize a shift from entrepreneurship to social entrepreneurship, business as usual to inclusive business, and investing for profit to investing for impact are urgently required.

The international community also has a supportive role to play in the development of national STI capabilities in LDCs. And may I take this opportunity to thank our partners for this session – the UN Technology Bank and UNCTAD – for their fruitful collaboration on promoting STI for inclusive and sustainable development.

To support member States to build back better, ESCAP’s STI work focusses on three core areas:

First, we are working with governments to integrate inclusive and SDG dimensions in to STI policies.

Second, we are supporting digital transformations. We are investing in digital solutions that provide access to finance and build digital skills. And we are working with governments on digital economy strategies with an inclusive lens.

Third, we are supporting governments to promote business innovations to direct the private sector towards inclusive and sustainable development through policy measures to promote social enterprise, inclusive business and impact investing.

ESCAP has been supporting LDC’s in the Asia-Pacific region to develop innovation policies and strategies for inclusive and sustainable development. ESCAP stands ready to continue to support LDCs on their journey to harness innovation for structural transformation and graduation.  

Thank you to all our partners for joining us today to share your insights, thoughts and experience - and to all of you for your participation – on what I’m sure will be an inspiring and solution orientated session.

Thank you very much. Thank you Mr. Chair.

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