‘Seize moment’ to recover and rebuild better, UN deputy chief urges Asia-Pacific nations

The United Nations

Confronting major setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic, countries in Asia and the Pacific “must now seize the moment” to rebuild and recover better together, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General said on Tuesday.

Addressing the eighth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, convened by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Amina Mohammed, highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“[They] show the way to inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies that respect people and planet”, she said.

Ms. Mohammed urged countries for a new a new social contract as they recover, which ensures access to basic services, quality healthcare and education, and social protection for all

She also underscored that women’s full political and economic participation “are fundamental”, calling for decisive steps to prevent and end all forms of violence against women and girls.

Alongside that, the reduction of civil space must be addressed, and rights of all people – including the most vulnerable and marginalized – must be protected, she added, calling also for a greater effort towards carbon neutrality.

2030 Agenda the ‘compass’ for harmony

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of ESCAP, also noted the importance of the 2030 Agenda as a “compass” for transforming societies in the post-COVID-19 era.

She called on countries to enact policies that “create harmony” between health, economy and environment.

“As we prepare for sustainable and resilient recovery, let us remember that the SDGs are our compass and can continue to play a force for good in transforming our societies in the post-COVID-19 era”, Ms. Alisjahbana added.

“[We are] committed to strengthening…multi-stakeholder partnerships at the regional, subregional and national levels to recover better together”, she said.

COVID vaccine a ‘global public good’

Munir Akram, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), called for treating the COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good, warning that inequality in access to the vaccine would not only erode international solidarity and cooperation, it would also delay global recovery.

“The virus could roam and return”, he warned.

Mr. Akram also highlighted that the pandemic exposed weaknesses of countries and societies, with “the most vulnerable suffering the most”.

To recover better, he outlined three key fundamentals: availability of adequate finance; significant investments in sustainable infrastructure; and full utilization of science, technology and innovation.

“Structural obstacles” that impede global growth and exacerbate inequality must also be addressed, the ECOSOC president added, urging equitable trade, taxation and technology regimes, to enable developing countries to achieve sustainable production and consumption.

A train passing a ‘trolley’ – a makeshift rail cart made with wood or bamboo – in Manila, the Philippines.

Region’s progress towards SDGs

Held between 23 to 26 March, the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) is an annual inclusive intergovernmental forum for countries to deliberate regional progress towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda as well as a platform to prepare for the high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council.

This year, the Forum focuses on sustainable and resilient recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also reviews countries’ progress on several SDGs, including on ending hunger, healthy lives, decent work, reduce inequalities and partnerships for the global goals.

The opening day, Tuesday, also saw the launch of a joint ESCAP-UN Development Programme (UNDP)-Asian Development Bank report, Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind, which identifies options for recovery and building resilience in the region.

Also on the agenda are several side events, on topics ranging from statistics, impact of and recovery from the pandemic, climate action, combatting various types pollution, and engaging diverse stakeholders in sustainable development.

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