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Bangkok - 08 Dec 2020

News Number: G/59/2020

The 4th South Asia Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Maldives' Government virtually from 2 to 3 December 2020, brought together over 450 participants from governments, think-tanks, and civil society organizations from eight South Asian countries.

Preceded by the South Asia People’s Forum on SDGs, the Forum reviewed the status of SDG achievements and the actions taken by the South Asian governments towards resilient and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including Bhutan and Pakistan, that will present their second Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2021.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, advocated greater action on strengthened social protection and financing economic recovery through innovative financing strategies, accelerating digital transformation and greening recovery through the use of clean technology. She also reiterated the commitment of ESCAP in continuing to work closely with member States and other partners in the region.

H.E. Mr.   Mohamed   Aslam, Minister of   National   Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, the Maldives, summarised the devastation caused by the pandemic on the Maldives economy, including loss of jobs of over 22,000 people. He called upon the South Asian countries to join hands and foster sustainable recovery to achieve the SDGs through meaningful partnerships and collaboration in addressing the challenges faced by countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAARC Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, further highlighted cooperation initiatives such as the SAARC Emergency Fund to curb the pandemic's impact and urged member states to put SDGs at the center of all policy making and recovery planning. He also complimented ESCAP for its work on COVID-19 and for establishing the portal of the South Asia Network (SANS) on SDGs.

H.E. Mr. Tenzin Lekphell, Secretary-General of BIMSTEC, emphasized the need for aligning plans with the 2030 Agenda and urged member states in South Asia to work together to address the impact of the pandemic and achieve the SDGs.

The Forum serves as a subregional preparatory process for the 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) to be held in March 2021, on the theme of "Accelerating action and delivery of the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific." Inputs from the Forum will also feed into the HLPF to be held in July 2021. The forum was followed by a special event on Disaster and Climate Resilience in South Asia with the participation of environment ministers of five South Asian countries.

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