Governments of Asia and the Pacific meeting Thursday at their annual regional assembly agreed to pursue coordinated and decisive actions, as well as reinforce regional and global cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Endorsing a resolution at the 76th Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (CS76), governments declared profound solidarity and vouched to provide unimpeded support and technical assistance to those most affected, particularly in developing countries with weaker health systems and vulnerable populations.
“Governments and leaders are grappling with a wide range of challenges that risk recent progress in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. Many countries are charting a solid course toward COVID-19 solutions, but millions in the region remain highly vulnerable and at risk. We have an opportunity to build back better on the foundations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres opening the meeting.
“When addressing this health crisis, countries face an unprecedented dilemma: the need to balance measures to contain the pandemic against those for socio-economic recovery. In order to support countries in building back better, refocusing our work is necessary,” underscored United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Ms. Armida Alisjahbana. She further highlighted three priority areas – supporting economic recovery, protecting people and enhancing resilience, and restoring supply chains and supporting small and medium enterprises, while urging countries to align policies with environmental protection and climate action.
“Regional and international cooperation is vital to cope with the mounting pressures caused by COVID-19, particularly technical support and unhindered supplies of medical equipment and essential items,” said the Chair of the seventy-sixth session, H.E. Mr. Md. Nazmul Quaunine, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to ESCAP.
Several leaders from around the region addressed the session: Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand delivered a statement on behalf of the host government, while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji and Prime Minister Kausea Natano of Tuvalu, who also spoke on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, delivered statements from their capitals. Foreign Affairs Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar of Mongolia, who chaired the 2019 session, opened the meeting and recalled the work of the Commission over the past year.
While voicing grave concerns about the complexities and growing threats of COVID-19 on sustainable development, all leaders expressed their optimism that recovery will provide the opportunity to strengthen resilience and build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific region.
Deliberations this year focused on the theme ‘Promoting economic, social and environmental cooperation on oceans for sustainable development.’ Towards this end, countries endorsed a resolution to conserve and sustainably use oceans and marine resources in the region. The resolution calls for countries to strengthen regional cooperation and redouble efforts to reduce marine pollution, improve ocean data and statistics, and support sustainable maritime connectivity. Countries also agreed to boost public-private and civil society partnerships in the sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism to increase economic benefits for small island developing States and least developed countries.
The Commission also encouraged small island developing States to take full advantage of their blue economy, especially in the fisheries and tourism sectors, to foster their sustainable development.
For the first time in history, the annual United Nations regional assembly was held on a fully virtual platform. The online session drew active participation from over 264 delegates representing 54 of the Commission’s 62 member States and associate members along with 8 additional observer countries.