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The year 2020 marked the end of the Fourth United Nations Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011−2020 or informally called the Istanbul Programme of Action. During that year, the world encountered an unprecedented global pandemic which significantly affected the Asia-Pacific least developed countries (LDCs).

The Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report provides a summary of the progress made and challenges encountered by the Asia-Pacific LDCs in implementing the Programme of Action. It also includes an evaluation of the socioeconomic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on these countries and offers perspectives on how the pandemic is likely to affect their progress towards graduation from the LDC category and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The report presents policy areas that should be covered in the next programme of action for LDCs for the next decade to initiate sustained socioeconomic recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic and to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. Also, in the report, the importance of regional and subregional cooperation going forward to improve the resilience of these countries in dealing with shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is reinforced. For graduating countries, continued support from development partners, beyond graduation, is essential to ensure a smooth transition from the category.

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Closing remarks at the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asian the Pacific

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 16:53
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Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Thank you for your active engagement and for making the 77th session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific a success.

We have come together – virtually again - to reaffirm our commitment to build back better in a post-COVID-19 era.

I would like to sincerely express my appreciation and thanks for your meaningful engagement and unwavering support in successfully concluding the Commission session.

It is my utmost hope that the resolution on the “Regional cooperation to build back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific” will further mainstream our response to COVID-19.  

We are committed to supporting governments to building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic through inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery strategies.

I am pleased to note that the Commission has decided that the theme for the 78th Commission session will be on “A Common agenda to advance sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific”.

ESCAP will be celebrating its own seventy-fifth anniversary in 2022.

As the Commission approaches this landmark milestone, it is poised to take concrete actions on shaping the future of regional cooperation to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable and deliver on the Common Agenda set out by member States at the 75th United Nations General Assembly.

Regional cooperation is as needed today as it was seventy-five years ago.

I recognise the true spirit of multilateralism and friendship.

Our member States can share experiences, including successes, challenges, lessons learned and provide lasting solutions through our Commission platform.

Allow me to sincerely thank all the member States and entities that have pledged additional financial support to help us take our work forward. 

I would like to thank the Commission Bureau, the Chair: His Excellency, Mr. Mr. Mukhtar TLEUBERDI, The Deputy Prime-Minister – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan; and the four Vice-Chairs:

  • Her Excellency Madam Millicent CRUZ-PAREDES, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ESCAP
  • Her Excellency Madam Suchitra DURAI, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of India to ESCAP
  • His Excellency Mr. Tumur AMARSANAA, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Mongolia to ESCAP, and
  • Mr. Paul STEPHENS, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission and Permanent Representative of Australia to ESCAP,

for so skilfully steering proceedings to their successful conclusion.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all Heads of State and Heads of Government who provided such inspiring statements at the opening to help frame our discussions and guide our course of action.

I am grateful also to the keynote speakers who helped us shape the narrative of forging regional alliances and solidarity.   

All of us at ESCAP remain indebted to our gracious host - the Royal Thai Government.

I would like to thank the ESCAP secretariat staff who have worked hard, tirelessly and professionally to make this session a great success.

I look forward to meeting with you in person, hopefully, in 2022 and to committing in shaping the future of Asia and the Pacific together.

Thank you all once again and stay safe.

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Asia-Pacific policymakers call for ‘whole-of-society’ response to build back better from crises in the region

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 16:44
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Policymakers from 50 Asian and Pacific countries today called for a “whole-of-society” response to COVID-19 and encouraged coordinated action across the region to mitigate the economic and social devastation brought on by the pandemic.

Endorsing a resolution on the final day of its annual session, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) also reaffirmed its commitment to multilateralism in response to global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delegates further underlined the importance of ensuring universal and equitable access to vaccines, investing in social protection systems that promote access to essential services and decent jobs, particularly to meet the health and social care needs of the most vulnerable populations, and promoting the continued flow of essential goods and services.

“We are committed to supporting governments to building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic through inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery strategies,” Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, said in her closing remarks to the Commission’s 77th session. “It is my utmost hope that the resolution on regional cooperation to build back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific will further mainstream our response to COVID-19.”

Noting that ESCAP will celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2022, Ms. Alisjahbana remarked that “regional cooperation is as needed today as it was 75 years ago.” She noted that as the Commission approaches this landmark milestone it is poised to take concrete actions on shaping the future of regional cooperation to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and deliver on the common agenda set out by member States.

More than 500 delegates from 52 of the Commission’s 62 members and associate members attended the session held this week from 26 to 29 April via a virtual platform.

For more information, visit: www.unescap.org/commission/77

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Special Body on Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Pacific Island Developing Countries at the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 13:28
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Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the Special Body on Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Pacific Island Developing Countries.

For our deliberations today, I present to you document E/ESCAP/77/4, Summary of the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report 2021: Strengthening the Resilience of Least Developed Countries in the Wake of the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic.

The document focuses on the development challenges of the region’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by taking stock of their progress made in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs, which concluded in 2020.

It also examines the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on these countries to provide perspectives on how the pandemic affects their prospects to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Excellencies,

Please allow me to highlight key findings and progress that has been achieved by LDCs in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action.

It is important to note that most of the LDCs in the Asia-Pacific region made significant progress in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action.

During the decade 2011-2020 covered by the Programme, three countries were able to graduate from the LDC category, and another 10 of the region’s remaining 11 LDCs have met the criteria for graduation.

By the end of this decade, almost all LDCs in our region may have graduated.

This is clearly a sign of the development success of these countries.

However, the LDCs in our region have encountered significant challenges and continue to face vulnerabilities, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the economic front, in the final year of the implementation period of the Istanbul Programme of Action, GDP growth grew only at an estimated average of 3 per cent as compared to a pre-pandemic weighted average rate of 7.2 per cent.

The pandemic has caused widespread unemployment in LDCs, particularly in the informal sector.

It has led to contractions in exports from Asia-Pacific LDCs that were deeper than the global average.

At the same time, FDI flows and remittances appear to have declined because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, while the share of total official development assistance (ODA) allocated to all LDCs has already been on a declining trend.

On social development issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing social vulnerabilities.

Education systems have been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which may impact develop prospects for decades to come.

The pandemic has increased poverty rates and exacerbated existing inequalities, particularly those related to gender.

ESCAP analysis shows that up to an additional 12 million people could fall below the $3.20 daily income poverty line owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, while multidimensional poverty is also on the rise in the Asia-Pacific LDCs.

Indeed, as the nature of poverty in these countries is changing, addressing it has become much more complex.

Excellencies,

At this critical juncture, governments, in their preparation for graduation and smooth transition, must acquire a much more holistic focus on sustainability.

We must acknowledge that economic growth alone is not sufficient to ensure sustainable development.

I encourage policymakers from LDCs as well as their development partners to initiate a sustained socio-economic recovery, including through strengthening public health and social protection systems.

To enhance resource mobilization efforts, a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy must be tailored to address the gaps that have held back financial deepening and to expand the range of financial products and services as a policy priority.

I welcome the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries, including several Asia-Pacific LDCs, together with increased assistance in accessing COVID-19 vaccines to reduce additional pressure on governments’ fiscal space.

Let us strengthen productive capacity and promote structural economic transformation in addressing multidimensional poverty.

Governments need to increase their efforts to expand trade capacity and move up in the resilient regional value chains, with the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade being a promising initiative.

Investments must be scaled up to encourage carbon-neutral production and consumption systems and to enhance opportunities of digital technology.

In conclusion, the pandemic also provides an opportunity for Asia-Pacific LDCs to reassess their development strategies to ensure a smooth transition and to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs.

Forging development cooperation and extending international support measures to LDC are essential policy tools in building back better and deepening resilience of the region’s most vulnerable countries— which is the LDCs.

The Special Body is invited to debate on the findings and policy considerations presented in this document and provide guidance to the secretariat on further support towards the implementation of the global programmes of action for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States of our  region.

Your solution-oriented recommendations will be an important contribution in the process leading to the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in 2022.

I wish the Special Body every success.  

Thank you.

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Subregional Perspectives on Building Back Better from Crises through Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific at the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 13:13
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Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Distinguished Delegates,

It is my pleasure to have this subregional dialogue on “Building back better from crises through regional cooperation” with the participation of eight subregional organizations from around Asia and the Pacific.

Over the past year, we have gone through an unprecedented socio-economic crisis — no country and no one has been spared.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly underscored the significance of our approach towards inclusive and networked multilateralism.

You may have seen that there have been several attempts to focus on unilateral and national policy-driven announcements and measures in these challenging times.

Yet, the spirit of goodwill prevailed, and solidarity remained at the core of our responses.

The scale and urgency of the pandemic reaffirmed the importance and relevance of regional and subregional cooperation, more so for countries in geographical proximity to each other. 

I must highlight the solution-oriented plans and strategies of several regional and subregional mechanisms such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework; the PIFS Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19; the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund; the Central Asia’s guidelines on cross-border and transit traffic facilitation measures; and the Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health, to mitigate and address the health and socio-economic impacts.

As we gradually move towards a post-COVID-19 recovery, we must reinvigorate multilateralism to build back better. 

Please allow me to reiterate that I have witnessed the way your organizations have brought together a common understanding to find new pathways for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.

I commend your leadership.  

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

As we harness regional and subregional cooperation, multilateralism has gained momentum.

Simply put, we need to utilize all our platforms to work together more closely and effectively, and in a timely manner.

I am convinced that this is the time to fully put multilateralism into practice.

At the global level, we have seen the benefits of multilateralism — COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, which has brought multiple organizations and networks working together to efficiently mobilize global-level coordination.

The COVAX Facility, as the vaccine procurement platform, also contributes to managing the vaccines as a global public good.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

As you begin your Dialogue today, may I suggest some ways to building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

The first priority is to commit to social protection as a wise investment.

We must focus on investing in social protection systems to act as automatic stabilizers, stimulating aggregate demand and thereby helping to steady economies.

The newly adopted Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific through ESCAP platform provides governments in the region with a shared vision and strategy for promoting partnership, peer learning and the sharing of good practices, as well as for identifying needs for technical assistance.

A second priority is to align financial and economic stimulus with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is an opportune moment to work together to significantly reduce the constraints of fiscal resources within a country and among countries.

Regional and subregional approaches could support the mobilization of multilateral resources, provide debt relief and prevent defaults that lead to prolonged financial and economic downturns.

Third is to build resilient supply chains and increase cross-border connectivity.

It is heartening to know that coordinated subregional and regional approaches have been effective in facilitating trade and transport in these challenging times.

In this regard, ESCAP has several initiatives that advance and support this principle, most notably the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, the intergovernmental transport agreements on the Asian Highway Network, on the Trans-Asian Railway Network, and on Dry Ports; and the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative to improve information connectivity, Internet traffic and network management, e-resilience; and affordable broadband access for all.

Finally, we need to restore the broken relationship between people and nature.

The Asia-Pacific region is uniquely positioned to offer long-lasting solutions to the climate change crisis.

Regional and subregional cooperation frameworks are key instruments in ensuring conservation policies that focus on large-scale, integrated restoration of degraded ecosystems; enhanced management of protected areas to increase resilience to natural and health disasters; and on transboundary conservation, including biodiversity corridors.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

I am committed more than ever to leverage the expertise and capabilities of regional and subregional organizations in identifying areas of common interests and mobilizing collective actions to promote inclusive and networked multilateralism in our region.  

ESCAP, along with the broader United Nations system, stands ready to facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge sharing among subregions, and ensure that the benefits from the programmes of your respective organizations provide recommendations for building back better in Asia and the Pacific.

I look forward to listening to your recommendations.

Thank you, Chair.

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CS77 Side Event on Sustainable Graduation in the Challenging Time: Perspectives from Bangladesh and the Region

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 12:00
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Excellency, Madam Fatima Yasmin, Permanent secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh,

Excellency Ambassador Mohammed Abdul Hye, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UNESCAP,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to this Commission side-event on “Sustainable Graduation in the Challenging Time: Perspectives from Bangladesh and the Region” organized by the Government of Bangladesh.

I would like to start by congratulating the Government of Bangladesh for successfully meeting the criteria for graduation from least developed status for the second time at the review of the Committee for Development Policy in February 2021.

The remarkable development success of LDCs in our region is highlighted by the fact that Vanuatu graduated from the group in December 2020 and Bhutan and Solomon Islands are scheduled to graduate in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nepal are also expected to leave or graduate the group in 2026, while several others are also expected to graduate before 2030.

Indeed, of the 46 LDCs globally, 16 are already on the graduation pipeline.

Of the 16 countries, 10 are from our region, Asia-Pacific region, including Cambodia that met the criteria for the first time in 2021. By the end of this decade, almost all LDCs in our region may have graduated. This is clearly a sign of the development success of these countries.

Nevertheless, LDCs must prepare well for their graduation as they will lose preferential access to international support measures (ISMs).

They will have to deal with a gradual withdrawal of duty-free quota-free access to markets and a termination of certain concessional financing.

Doing so may be a particularly daunting task for LDCs when considering the adverse impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic for now and for many years to come.

Excellencies,

In our upcoming report, the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report, we find that the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionally large in Asia-Pacific LDCs even though the number of COVID-19 cases reported are quite low. .

This is because high external dependence and low levels of resilience to external shocks have exacerbated the impacts of the pandemic.

In light of these challenges, preparations for graduation must acquire a much more holistic focus on sustainability.

We must acknowledge that economic growth alone is not sufficient.

Here, strengthening productive capacity and promoting economic diversification will play an important role in ensuring that development progress is sustained beyond graduation.

It will also be critical to achieve economic resilience, especially as many LDCs are too dependent on single economic sectors.

These should not only continue to include duty-free quota-free access for exports from LDCs and preferential access to concessional finance.

To ensure a smooth transition, an enhanced and extended support mechanism or ISMs could also be considered for graduating LDCs.

Excellencies and colleagues,

This side event is a great opportunity to hear perspectives from Asia-Pacific LDCs as well as the international community, including OECD and other UN agencies.

For your information, one of the main sessions of the Commission tomorrow, the Special Body will convene on LDCs, LLDCs and SIDs. This year’s report for the Special body will focus on LDCs.

I would encourage everyone here to participate in that event tomorrow.

Excellencies,

ESCAP is already engaged with LDC Governments in the region. Now we are working closely with the Government of Bangladesh to jointly organize the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs in June this year.

We stand ready to use all possible means to assist graduating countries in better understanding the graduation process and plan for a smooth transition.

Again, congratulate the Government of Bangladesh on your achievements.

Thank you very much.

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Introduction of the Theme Study at the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 10:17
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Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered unprecedented and synchronized health, social and economic crises, causing severe challenges to hard-won development gains in Asia and the Pacific and beyond.

The 2021 theme study, “Beyond the Pandemic: Building back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific,” brings together cutting-edge research and policy analysis across multiple sectors and sets out a five-point ambitious policy agenda grounded in regional cooperation.

Please allow me to highlight four critical interconnected policy areas:

First, broadening social protection.

The economic impact of the pandemic has laid bare the gaps in social protection across the region.

Informal workers and other vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, older persons and migrants within countries, have been negatively impacted with many being pushed back into poverty.

The experience across the region is that countries that have invested in social protection have responded better to the pandemic.

Social protection is a wise investment and helps countries better manage crises like COVID-19.

I am pleased to recognize that ESCAP’s member States have launched the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific to address the gaps and help countries emerge from the crisis stronger. 

Second, investing in a sustained recovery.

Governments across Asia and the Pacific deployed trillions of dollars for emergency health responses and to support households and firms with unprecedented fiscal packages and economic stimulus.

These fiscal and monetary policies, along international fiscal assistance, lead us to project a rebound in the region’s GDP growth rates in 2021.

However, building back better requires countries to align stimulus packages with the Sustainable Development Goals, while delivering jobs, income and economic demand.

Creating the required fiscal space for financing the pandemic recovery and the SDGs requires a multi-pronged approach – public expenditure and taxation reform, removal of unnecessary subsidies and implementing innovative bond instruments.

We need to further promote international and regional cooperation to combat tax avoidance and evasion and harmful tax competition, as well as to act on debt relief, which should involve writing down debt in the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

Third, keeping trade and information flowing.

The pandemic has strained the region’s ability to sustain international trade and ensure continuity of transport links. At the same time, it has positively highlighted the criticality of digitalization.

The adoption of ad-hoc restrictive measures and regulations led countries to experience policy uncertainties and temporary border closures and trade barriers.

The pandemic also exposed the yawning digital divide, especially across the Least Developed Countries and Pacific island developing States.

The good news is that coordinated regional and subregional approaches have largely prompted a restart to cross-border connectivity.

This regional cooperation is poised to make supply chains more resilient through various measures such as the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade, the digitalization of regional transport networks and sustainable freight, and the ongoing implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative.

Fourth, Protecting environmental health.

COVID-19 is believed to be zoonotic in origin. These types of infectious diseases are on the rise globally as humans, domesticated animals and wild animals come into more frequent contact.

By understanding these dynamics and protecting the health of ecosystems, opportunities for future pandemics can be minimized.

Planetary health is an analytical concept that is used to ensure the health of human civilizations and the natural systems on which they depend.  

Ensuring planetary health requires a series of issues to be addressed, such as the unsustainable use of biodiversity, land-use change, pollution, climate change, as well as weak legislation and enforcement of measures to deal with them.

We need to forge regional cooperation to raise climate ambition, ensure biodiversity and ecosystems measures and better manage the consumption of wild animals and the wildlife trade, and move toward a more circular economy.

The Theme Study proposes a five-point policy agenda for the Asia-Pacific region to build back better from COVID-19.

  1. Enhance regional cooperation – establish or mobilize existing sectoral mechanisms to help governments recover from this pandemic and plan for future crises
  2. Build universal social protection along the life course – Embed social protection in national development agendas and allocate the necessary resources.
  3. Ensure sufficient fiscal space – reorient spending away from non-developmental areas, reform taxation to mitigate inequalities and explore innovative financing instruments.
  4. Promote trade facilitation, digitalization and harmonization, and fully embed social and environmental concerns into global supply chains.
  5. Protect environmental health - adopt a regional agenda for planetary health, and implement the institutional, structural, economic and behavioural changes needed to better manage human and environmental health.

I look forward to your recommendations and guidance to implement the policy agenda into action to build back better in Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you, Chair.

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Policy Statement at the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Submitted by EKASEMSU on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 20:57
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Honourable Chair,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

Welcome to the seventy-seventh session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

It is both an honour and privilege for me to greet so many distinguished delegates and colleagues from across our region.

At this point in time, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has touched each one of us and overshadowed every conversation.

This health crisis, together with measures to mitigate its impacts, have deeply affected countries of Asia and the Pacific, both economically and socially, over the past year.

The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific is at stake.

The ongoing roll-out of vaccines in the region offers hope for recovery.  Yet no country will be fully secure when others are still fighting the pandemic.

We must ensure that the vaccines are affordable and accessible to all if we are to recover better together.

Excellencies,

Since the adoption of resolution 76/2 on regional cooperation to address the socioeconomic effects of pandemics and crises in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP has mobilized its resources, together with UN system and in tandem with member States, to strengthen the resilience of health care systems.  

We launched the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific.

Despite limited fiscal space and debt burden, governments have instituted fiscal and monetary stimulus programmes.

We supported country efforts in the issuance of sovereign bonds and operationalization of private-public partnership networks for ensuring a sustainable economic recovery.

ESCAP worked with member States to overcome supply chain and connectivity disruptions resulting from border closures.  

The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, which entered into force in February 2021, is an important step forward.

Increased use of digital technologies has likewise allowed delivery of public services in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Climate change continues to be a crisis in the backdrop of this pandemic.

We have worked with member States to advance long-term solutions, including national roadmaps for energy transition; geospatial and modelling applications for disaster management; and the use of geostationary satellites for air pollution monitoring, among other things.

These policy actions have been presented in our studies on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 as well as this year’s theme study and considered in our regional conversations and high-level dialogues.

Excellencies,

Allow me to highlight four priority areas that are necessary to ensure a recovery in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for your further deliberations and guidance.

The first priority area is to integrate health risk management into our socio-economic policies and strategies.

Governments need to build resilient health systems and universal health care coverage together with communities and relevant stakeholders.

The social protection policies must be scaled up to include informal sector workers, persons with disabilities and older persons, as well as vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population.

A second priority area is sustainable financing that prioritizes investment in resilient economies through targeted fiscal and monetary policies.

We need to create fiscal space and explore alternate sources of innovative financing.  

Public debt sustainability concerns need to be addressed.

I welcome concrete steps taken towards the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and targeted debt relief efforts that would provide much-needed liquidity, especially for the vulnerable developing countries.

Regional connectivity with built-in resiliency is the third priority area for facilitating risk-informed development.

There is a clear need to promote digital trade and contactless trade facilitation.

In our region, coordinated regional and subregional approaches have facilitated cross-border transport connectivity.

Restarting our economies also requires governments to proactively harness investment, tourism and the creative economy, as well as energy and digital connectivity.

The fourth priority area is ensuring that a post-COVID-19 recovery is stronger, cleaner and greener.

It is high time for governments to adopt a climate and environmentally responsive approach in line with the Paris Agreement.  

Let us now urgently invest in renewable energy, energy efficient production system, green infrastructure and ecosystem restoration.

As we move towards recovery, our efforts must take into account the aspirations of all countries, including the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, of Asia and the Pacific.

Excellencies,

More than ever before, the full potential of inclusive and networked multilateralism should be tapped.

International development cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, must be further harnessed.

Knowledge sharing, technical and research capacities should be strengthened.

Collaboration with subregional organizations to promote cooperation throughout Asia and the Pacific could form the foundations for an effective regional response and build back better in a post-COVID-19 era.

Excellencies,

I am honoured to have the presence of many Heads of State and Government to guide our course of action.

We count on your strong leadership and commitment to solidarity and trust.

I thank the Royal Thai Government and all member States for their unwavering support for ESCAP work and the successful convening of the seventy-seventh session of the Commission.

As we approach our seventy-fifth anniversary next year, let us forge a common agenda to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to advance sustainable development through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

I wish you a very successful Commission.

I thank you, Chair.

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Asia-Pacific leaders at annual UN policy forum call for greater regional cooperation to build back together from COVID-19 pandemic

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 17:00
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G/16/2021
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) opened its 77th session today in Bangkok with a strong call for strengthening multilateralism, international development coordination, and collaboration with subregional organizations to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific is at stake,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, who noted that the health crisis, together with measures to mitigate its impacts, have deeply affected countries of Asia and the Pacific, both economically and socially, over the past year.

However, “the ongoing roll-out of vaccines in the region offers hope for recovery,” she said. “Yet no country will be fully secure when others are still fighting the pandemic. We must ensure that the vaccines are affordable and accessible to all if we are to recover better together.”

Ms. Alisjahbana highlighted that ESCAP is taking steps to help its members build back stronger from the pandemic by advocating for strengthening social protection systems and enhancing sustainable financing, promoting digital trade, and investing in cleaner and greener solutions.

“As we approach our seventy-fifth anniversary of ESCAP next year, let us forge a common agenda to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to advance sustainable development through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific,” she said.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said while many ESCAP members were charting a course towards a strong recovery from the pandemic by committing to net zero emissions and green growth, millions of people across the Asia-Pacific region remained highly vulnerable and at risk.

“Together, let’s build a strong recovery from the pandemic, relaunch the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, and create cleaner, greener, and more inclusive economies and societies that provide opportunities for all,” he said in a written statement.

The session is being held under the theme, ”Building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.” The study prepared for the meeting finds that throughout the region, countries have suffered abrupt economic contractions, interruptions to trade, broken supply chains, and the complete collapse of international tourism – leading to widespread job losses and increases in poverty. The report finds that broadening social protection, investing in a sustained recovery, keeping goods and information flowing, and protecting environmental health will be key to emerging stronger from the pandemic.

In his address to the region’s leaders, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand underlined the need for national and global cooperation to build resilience to meet future crises. “COVID-19 has brought home the realization that building back better requires immediate action and a whole-of-society approach that places people at the centre of our efforts in all aspects while ensuring no one is left behind,” he said. “I wish to reiterate Thailand’s readiness to support the work of ESCAP in bridging regional cooperation and forging partnerships as well as exchanges of experience and best practices, especially on locally-driven development approaches, among countries in the region.”

The President of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, called on all leaders to follow the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, which offer a blueprint for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic. “Our collective action has the potential to lay the foundation for long-term cooperation and for a future that offers more opportunity, more equality, more security and more prosperity,” he said. “By working together, we can turn what has been a global setback into a springboard to a better future.”

In his remarks, the 76th President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Munir Akram, highlighted the need to focus on inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery. “The pandemic has laid bare the inherent inequalities and vulnerabilities of our global system,” he said. “It is only by addressing these issues that we can build back better and enable developing countries to unshackle the potential of their people, the majority of which is living in the ESCAP region.”

Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, was elected Chair of the session. In his address, he added that recovering from the crisis will require innovative solutions and urgent collective efforts that no country can do alone. “To achieve greater results in such a diverse and complex region we must strengthen our collaboration both at regional and subregional levels. Only through joint efforts can our countries turn our region into a zone of peace, cooperation and development.”

Seventeen Heads of State and Government spoke today during the ministerial segment. In all, 52 of the Commission’s 62 members and associate members are expected to attend the session this week.

For more information, visit: www.unescap.org/commission/77

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Asia and the Pacific countries convene at UN forum to build back better together from the COVID-19 pandemic

Submitted by CBOONTHA on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 15:09
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N/10/2021
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Heads of States and Heads of Governments, senior officials and other stakeholders from across the Asia-Pacific region are set to take stock of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and scale-up regional cooperation in response to the pandemic, as the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) gets underway next week.

Held under the theme “Beyond the pandemic: building back better from crises in Asia and the Pacific,” the session will also review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing States.

Members of the media and the public are invited to participate in the proceedings, which will be held online from 26 to 29 April at: www.youtube.com/unescap.

Highlights:

Opening of the Ministerial Segment

When: 26 April, Monday, 1300 (GMT+7)

Key speakers:

  • H.E. Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan  
  • H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
  • H.E. Mr. Taneti Maamau, President of the Republic of Kiribati  
  • H.E. Mr. Sadyr Japarov, President of the Republic of Kyrgystan  
  • H.E. Mr. David Kabua, President of the Marshall Islands
  • H.E. Mr. Battulga Khaltmaa, President of Mongolia
  • H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan
  • H.E. Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan
  • H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan  
  • H.E. Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh  
  • H.E. Mr. Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan  
  • H.E. Mr. Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia  
  • H.E. Mr. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji
  • H.E. Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
  • H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka  
  • H.E. Mr. Prayut Chan-o-cha (Ret.), Prime Minister of Thailand
  • H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly
  • H.E. Mr. Munir Akram, President of ECOSOC
  • Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP 

General Debate: Building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific

When: 27 April, Tuesday, 10:00 (GMT+7)

Keynote addresses

  • Ms. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister, New Zealand; former Administrator, United Nations Development Programme; Patron, Helen Clark Foundation
  • Mr. Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organization (TBC)

27 April, Tuesday, 14:00 (GMT +7)

Keynote addresses

  • Mr. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization
  • Ms. Mari Elka Pangestu, Managing Director, World Bank
  • Mr. David Wallerstein, Chief Exploration Officer and Senior Executive Vice President, Tencent

Subregional Perspectives: Building Back Better from Crises through Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific

When: 28 April, Wednesday, 10:00 (GMT+7)

Key speakers:  

  • H.E. Dato’ Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General, Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • H.E Mr. Tenzin Lekphell, Secretary-General, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation 
  • H.E Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour, Secretary-General, Economic Cooperation Organization
  • H.E Mr. Mikhail Myasnikovich, Chairman of the Board, Eurasian Economic Commission
  • H.E. Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
  • H.E Mr. Vladmir Norov, Secretary-General, Shanghai Cooperation Organization
  • H.E Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary-General, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
  • Mr. Andrey Smorodin, Director, Greater Tumen Initiative

For more information and a full copy of the programme, visit: www.unescap.org/commission/77

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