Sri Lanka chairs UNESCAP Commission

The Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona, chaired a diplomatic briefing by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in New York today. Senior diplomats of the 53 member States representing the ESCAP Member States were present at this vital briefing to share views on “Shared Prosperity, equity and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific”.
Underlining the increasing share of global trade, foreign investment and population of Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Kohona highlighted the role of UNESCAP in further catalyzing economic growth, coordination and assistance in the region. He emphasized that an interactive dialogue amongst Member States would enable UNESCAP members to develop a more coordinated voice so that the region could play a more central role in global issues.
UNESCAPS’s Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, provided a comprehensive overview of the commission’s current work. UNESCAP, which is collocated with 27 of the 30 UN agencies within the region inter alia, promotes “Green Growth” in countries of the region, provides technical assistance to promote sustainable development, and encourages measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. She also unveiled a recent initiative by UNESCAP to establish a multi-hazard trust fund for the region, a practical project of importance for post-tsunami Asia.




Complete Statement by Dr. Kohona

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Excellencies,

I am very happy to welcome the representatives of UNESCAP Members States to this special briefing by Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP. We are here to be briefed on the theme of “Shared prosperity, Equity and Sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific” and UNESCAP’s role in promoting this agenda. With global imbalances persisting and disparities increasing within countries and regions, against the background of Asia’s increasing economic role in the world, this is an important theme, notably on the road to Rio+20.

The Asia Pacific Region covered by UNESCAP is home to 4.1 billion people, more than 60% of the world’s population. It is the world’s fastest growing region. It will produce more than 50% of the world’s product by the middle of the century.  Dynamic trade growth, persistent foreign investment flows and rapid poverty reduction have been the common attributes of the Asia Pacific.  However the region is not without its challenges. As the economies in these regions expand, so do the social inequities and vulnerabilities within the states, as a result of inadequate income redistribution mechanisms. In light of this, many developing countries like Sri Lanka warmly welcome the work of UNESCAP, as it serves countries of the region through the provision of sound strategic analyses, policy options and technical cooperation to address key development challenges and implement innovative solutions. We welcome the increased attention being paid to Pacific Island countries by UNESCAP.

Sri Lanka, as the present chair of the UNESCAP Commission, is very happy to facilitate this meeting. I am grateful to Dr. Heyzer for sparing time to brief the representatives of UNESCAP member States in New York.

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, is the first woman to lead UNESCAP. Since assuming her post in 2007, she has positioned UNESCAP as a comprehensive platform for promoting regional co-operation among member states to achieve inclusive and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. She has also strengthened UNESCAP's capacity to support member states, using its convening and standard setting power, strategic analysis and technical assistance, to build the economic and social foundations for shared prosperity, social progress and ecological sustainability in the region. 

UNESCAP has already left its indelible mark in the field of development in the region, particularly when it comes to infrastructure improvements. The Asian Highway Project, which involved the construction of 141,000 kms of roads crisscrossing 32 Asian countries, was one of the crowning achievements of ESCAP. The project will serve to uplift the quality of life of many people as well as help link them with other Asians and Europe. The signing of the Inter Governmental Agreement on the Trans Asian Railway Network in 2006 has laid the foundation for another project that promises to build on the achievements of The Asian Highway Project. The benefits of these projects will reach to the distant future and facilitate the development of a new Silk Route.

However one of the biggest threats, that has the potential to erode the significant gains made by UNESCAP, is Climate Change. Recognizing the threat that Climate Change poses, and mobilizing action to mitigate its effects is a challenge. For example encouraging the use of renewable energy resources and supporting green growth initiatives are a few of the many measures taken by the organization to tackle this threat. Much more needs doing.

The regional dimensions of development are gaining in importance, and the role of the region as providing the vital link between global and national processes is being increasingly recognized and emphasized. In this context, Regional Commissions, including UNESCAP, have an important role to play.

I hope that this briefing would provide critical guidance and inputs for Member States on the regional dimensions of a large number of issues that we would explore during this session of the General Assembly. A successful dialogue amongst us member states would result in the ability of  UNESCAP member states to forge a more coordinated regional voice enabling it to play a more vital role in global issues.

I hand over the floor to Dr. Heyzer.

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