Statement by H.E. Rabab Fatima at the briefing on the work of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on 30 July 2020.

Madame Executive Secretary, Excellencies, Dear Colleagues – good morning.

I thank you, Madame Executive Secretary, for reaching out to us and for your comprehensive briefing. I am very pleased to note the many important developments in the region and the initiatives being undertaken by ESCAP.  I also thank my good friend, Ambassador Amrit Rai, for organizing today’s meeting.

This unprecedented crisis brought about by the pandemic has made it amply evident to us all, the critical importance of leadership and collaboration among governments and other stakeholders at the regional level.

Bangladesh deeply values its close ties to the region, and continues its efforts along with other partners, to strengthen regional processes during this difficult time. Under our chairmanship in May, the 76th session of the ESCAP adopted two important resolutions on addressing pandemics, and the conservation and use of the marine resources for sustainable development in the region. My Prime Minister had joined the session virtually. This demonstrates the importance that Bangladesh attaches to regional cooperation and to ESCAP’s work.  She highlighted some of the fundamental challenges facing the region and called for greater solidarity within the region and beyond to tackle those.

Indeed, we cannot emphasize enough the need to work more closely for taking regional cooperation in the Asia Pacific to new heights in order to emerge stronger out of the crisis. We have seen excellent level of cooperation and support between member states with the outbreak of the crisis.  That spirit of solidarity and cooperation will be imperative for ensuring effective response and recovery from Covid-19 in the region.

Let me take this opportunity to share three specific points in this regard:

First, to recover better, we must recover together. The 2030 Agenda can be our blueprint for fast-tracking the recovery with the mantra of “leaving no one behind”.  We welcomed the high-level policy dialogue held on Covid-19 and south Asia earlier this month.  We have taken note of the ESCAP’s report on South Asia that came out earlier this month. We appreciate the report’s forward-looking recommendations to harness the untapped potentials for ‘reigniting South Asia’s growth engine’ in the areas of intra-regional trade, connectivity, MSMEs, re-skilling of workforce, etc.  The special needs of vulnerable countries, such as LDCs as well as the graduating countries need to be factored in to ensure that no one is left behind.

Second, business as usual can no longer be the way as we go forward. We must break the cycle of ineffective past practices and build a new culture of cooperation for implementation of SDGs, climate actions, financing and other common challenges and issues facing our region. ESCAP’s APFSD platform can play a important role towards that end through knowledge and experience sharing in a wide range of areas including capacity development, unlocking trade potentials, connectivity, and data management.

Finally, the pandemic exposed our fragility and vulnerabilities to such emergencies and shocks.  To build resilience to such shocks and develop more sustainable response, it is imperative to close the gaps of inequalities and fragilities that have been exacerbated further by the pandemic. We can find many solutions within the region to tackle our challenges in the areas of education, health, job creation, and digital divide. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal during the SAARC Heads of Governments’ virtual meeting in March 2020 for establishing a sub-regional institution in Dhaka to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the South Asia is an example towards that end. ESCAP’s policy tracker is another such tool.  We need more of such new and pragmatic ideas bringing together the private sector, academia, and governments, to leverage the true potentials of regional cooperation.

Our region has immense potentials.  We need to further harness those and address common challenges to build back better a sustainable future for us all.

We will count on ESCAP to undertake more vigorous efforts to foster and strengthen regional and cross-regional cooperation and collaboration.  Bangladesh will be solidly behind ESCAP in its endeavours towards this end.

I thank you.