UN pol­icy fo­rum opens with re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity for shared pros­per­ity a prime goal for Asia-Pa­cific

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UN Asia-Pa­cific Chief calls for sus­tain­able, in­clu­sive and job-gen­er­at­ing growth

The United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (ES­CAP) opened its 70th an­nual ses­sion in Bangkok last Thurs­day with its gaze fixed firmly on the decades ahead as the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary out­lined a range of pri­or­i­ties for in­clu­sive growth and re­gional sus­tain­able devel­op­ment in the post-2015 devel­op­ment agenda.

Speak­ing at the open­ing, United Na­tions Un­der-Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral and ES­CAP Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “With lit­tle more than 500 days left to the end of the 2015 dead­line for achiev­ing the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals (MDGs), no re­gion has done bet­ter than Asia and the Pa­cific. But with 743 mil­lion Asia-Pa­cific peo­ple still des­per­ately poor, there is no room for com­pla- cency.

“The key to clos­ing our devel­op­ment gaps and achiev­ing our devel­op­ment goals is eco­nomic growth,” Dr. Akhtar added. “But we can­not af­ford growth at any cost. To build the fu­ture we want, growth must be sus­tain­able, in­clu­sive and job-gen­er­at­ing.”

Ad­dress­ing the ses­sion’s theme of ‘Re­gional Con­nec­tiv­ity for Shared Pros­per­ity’, United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon stressed in his state­ment, de­liv­ered by Dr. Akhtar: “Boost­ing con­nec­tiv­ity across Asia and the Pa­cific will en­able coun­tries to op­ti­mize their strengths and syn­er­gies, sup­port­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and shared pros­per­ity.”

Dr. Akhtar em­pha­sized that Asia-Pa­cific’s eco­nomic dy­namism to date had been pri­mar­ily driven by in­di­vid­ual economies, but that fu­ture suc­cess would de­pend on the ex­tent to which the coun­tries of the re­gion were able to in­te­grate and co­op­er­ate for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

“En­hance­ment of re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity across the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion re­quires po­lit­i­cal will and co­op­er­a­tion, to explore what is achiev­able and op­ti­mal, to de­velop con­sen­sus on con­ducive ap­proaches and how we en­gage, and to put in place a game plan for how this will be achieved,” stated Dr. Akhtar.

ES­CAP’s 2014 theme study ad­vo­cates a more in­te­grated and trans­formed ap­proach to con­nec­tiv­ity as a re­gional pub­lic good, and calls for ex­ploit­ing the in­ter­de­pen­dence and syn­er­gies of five el­e­ments con­sti­tut­ing the new driv­ers of Asia-Pa­cific growth: trade and trans­port net­works; ICT net­works; en­ergy net­works; peo­pleto-peo­ple net­works; and pro­mo­tion of knowl­edge­based economies.

In­au­gu­rat­ing the 70th ES­CAP Ses­sion, Deputy Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary for the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs of Thai­land, Mr. Manasvi Sriso­dapol also re­flected on the theme: “Only through re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity can wealth and devel­op­ment be spread from re­gion to re­gion which is why the work of ES­CAP is so crit­i­cal to mem­ber States in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.”

In open­ing re­marks, Prime Min­is­ter of Bhutan Ly­onch­hen Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay and Chair­man of the 70th Com­mis­sion ses­sion high­lighted the com­plex­ity of chal­lenges faced by the re­gion and the time­li­ness of the sub­ject un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. Ad­vo­cat­ing for a par­a­digm-shift­ing in­te­grated ap­proach to­ward re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity for at­tach­ing a fu­ture of shared pros­per­ity, he rec­og­nized ES­CAP’s theme study as a use­ful ba­sis for agree­ing on a road map to strengthen shared link­ages.

Sim­i­larly, in open­ing state­ments, the Prime Min­is­ters of Ti­mor-Leste, Kay Rala Xanana Gus- mão and Tonga, Lord Tu’ivankano ex­pressed sup­port for ES­CAP, while stress­ing the im­por­tance of re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity and shared pros­per­ity.

In line with this, the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary also high­lighted the per­sis­tence of in­equal­ity: “In­equal­i­ties jeop­ar­dize the so­cial co­he­sion and sta­bil­ity of so­ci­eties. The “in­equal­ity trap” risks in­ten­si­fy­ing so­cial ex­clu­sion and cre­at­ing a group of the “bot­tom bil­lion” that would be left be­hind.”

To re­duce in­equal­i­ties of out­come and op­por­tu­nity, Dr. Akhtar ad­vo­cated a com­bi­na­tion of mea­sures in the re­gion, in par­tic­u­lar re­dis­tribu­tive poli­cies, the en­hance­ment of so­cial pro­tec­tion, and the pro­mo­tion of pro­duc­tive and de­cent work, es­pe­cially for youth.

Dr. Akhtar ended with: “Shared pros­per­ity calls for shared re­spon­si­bil­ity and shared ac­count­abil­ity.”

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