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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

27 March 2023


Excellency Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Royal Thai Government,

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to warmly welcome you to the tenth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development. In many ways, this is a watershed year for our collective journey towards sustainable development.

Since its inaugural session in 2014, the APFSD has become our region’s most inclusive forum for discussing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Every year, governments, civil society, the private sector and academia gather to compare notes, review progress and lead the way in implementing the 17 Goals.

This year’s Forum is at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda.

We have the opportunity not only to take a long, hard look at our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals but also to assess whether this progress matches with the ambition countries set for themselves for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia-Pacific region.

The assessment that ESCAP has undertaken to support the discussions that will be presented in the course of this meeting make for uncomfortable reading.

At the current rate of progress, we are decades away from achieving any of the Goals.

In some of the most critical areas, such as climate action, we are actually going backwards or regressing, leaving communities and economies constantly under threat.

It is no wonder that the Secretary-General has spoken about rescuing the SDGs. Without a steep change in our region, the slim chances of achieving the SDGs will simply evaporate.

This view of the SDGs does come at a time of compounding crises. Never have development gains been at such constant risk of being swept away by unprecedented storms, prolonged droughts, fast-spreading epidemics, or looming food, finance and energy crises.

The lack of progress on the SDGs is not caused by the pandemic or the recent crises. It is the lack of progress on the SDGs that left us with punishing consequences of a riskier world.

To emerge from these depths, we simply have to go to where it all started: Protecting our people, especially those furthest behind, ensuring gender equality, shock-proofing our economies, and preserving our planet. These all lie at the very core of the 2030 Agenda.

Nevertheless, governments have shown that transformations, sometimes sweeping changes guided by the SDGs, are possible.

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Our SDG Progress Report, released last week, captured some heartening examples of policies and initiatives by countries from around the region. In fact, it is the case that many countries that started the furthest behind having been making the most progress relative to everyone else. This should inspire in us hope for accelerating our march towards a sustainable future for all.

Across the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) that will be showcased this week, we see several innovative solutions for overcoming some of the most stubborn challenges of our region, from reducing inequality to building resilience and reversing environmental damage. They show the leadership we need to navigate in this time of turbulence.

Our SDG partnership report with UNDP and ADB points to clear solutions for confronting the multiple crises and regaining ground on the SDGs, from transforming agriculture towards climate resilience to accelerating a just energy transition and increasing the fiscal space and public investment towards the SDGs.

High impact initiatives also exist around the region to deliver on the SDGs together, some of them rooted in our intergovernmental processes.

They are those that help green energy to be connected across our region, to return clean air and blue skies to our cities and people, to accelerate business transitions to the economy of tomorrow, and to promote disability-inclusive development, to name just a few.

In tandem with the regional UN development system and Resident Coordinators, we are also bringing some of the global outcomes, from the Transforming Education Summit and the Food System Summit, to the region and finding a way to embed them into national plans and strategies.

Identifying such game-changing solutions must be the absolute focus of our discussions this week. And we hope to amplify them as world leaders gather at the High-evel Political Forum for Sustainable Development and at the SDG Summit in September of this year.

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Our countries and people are not new to crises. If there is a lesson learnt from past dangers, it is that there is so much we can achieve if we work together.

I am delighted to see so many people attending in person again after far too long. While challenges are mounting, our region has the innovation, ingenuity, drive and resolute commitment to delivering a better life and a more sustainable future. 

Thank you

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