Opening Remarks by H.E. Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN and UNDP Vice President at the informal virtual meeting with the Group of Asia-Pacific States Co-hosted by  Bangladesh Mission and UNDP on Friday, 29 January 

Excellencies, Mr. Steiner, Ms. Wignaraja, Distinguished Colleagues,

Good morning to you all.

I thank you for joining us today for this informal virtual meeting of the PRs of the Asia-Pacific Group with the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Achim Steiner.

We thank you, Mr. Steiner, for reaching out to meet with our Group and to share your perspective on UNDP’s work in the region, especially relating to Covid-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts.

The meeting is very timely, as we prepare for the First Regular Session (FRS) of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS next week. We already had a series of fruitful discussions with Assistant Administrator, Ms. Wignaraja, on important issues and priorities in the region. [Thank you Kanni] Today, we look forward to knowing more about UNDP’s operational activities in the field, especially its recovery journey this year, and its next Strategic Plan for 2022-2025.

Yesterday, the Secretary General shared his priorities of the UN. We share his concerns about fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, rising poverty and inequality, socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, climate change, and gender inequality.

These are global challenges, impacting our region as well.  Such challenges would require global response; and we have to show strong commitment to multilateralism, and to empower the UN. At the same time, we expect the UN system as a whole, including the funds and programmes, and its teams on the ground, to demonstrate action and delivery-oriented competencies and responsibilities. It needs to complement our national efforts.

UNDP as the largest UN development organization has a particularly important role to play in this regard. And this would largely depend on its ability to be a true partner at the national level; and specially now, as we grapple with the pandemic crisis, to help us emerge stronger out of this crisis.

Let me briefly share some specific thoughts on priorities as we confront the biggest crisis of our time, the Covid-19 pandemic.  And my dear colleagues, the Ambassadors, would surely add their thoughts as well:

First, we need to ensure equitable, timely and affordable access to quality vaccines for everyone, everywhere, to overcome the impending ‘Vaccine Divide’ within and among nations.  The UN system can play a critical role to mobilize access and distribution; and to rally support in favour of technology transfer for the local manufacturing of vaccines.  This would be cost and time effective.  Many of us have the production capacity.

Second, we are concerned about the rising trend in poverty, for the first time this century, due to the devastating impact of the pandemic. We must halt this rise, by better utilizing the tools at UNDP’s disposal; and preventing this health crisis to turn into a poverty crisis.  We need a new paradigm for collaboration in poverty eradication.

Third, the Covid-19 pandemic is turning into a migration crisis, especially for the APG region which represents major source and destination countries.  The pandemic has led to migrants facing job losses, salary cuts, and forced returns.  Remittances have fallen drastically.  These are having devastating impacts on our economies. We need bold and innovative policy support  to help national governments to address migrant workers’ crisis. 

 Fourth, the UN system must scale up climate actions to help the national efforts of the climate vulnerable countries. And that includes: ensuring climate financing, technology and knowledge transfer for carrying forward mitigation and adaptation efforts, greener and climate resilient recovery from the pandemic, etc. Progress in all these areas have been woefully lagging.

Fifth, it is critical to support MSMEs, tourism, and other export-oriented industries in the developing countries, especially the LDCs and SIDS. The disruption of the global supply chains and global demand shocks has posed an overwhelming challenge for export industries in our region. There needs to be concerted international efforts to recover from this situation.

Sixth, the LDCs and graduating LDCs need special support measures to tackle the pandemic-induced adversities and preventing any slide back. This year a record number of LDCs from our region are poised for graduation.  But their graduation prospects are overshadowed by the double jeopardy of the consequences of the pandemic and loss of LDC specific support measures. To overcome this situation, it is imperative to introduce an incentives-based graduation pathway for LDCs with time-bound support measures for graduating and graduated countries.

I will rest it there.  I am certain, my distinguished colleagues, will have more to add after we have heard from you, Mr. Steiner.

Over to you.