News Item

Vanuatu participates in 74th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

News 24 May 2018

Every year, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) holds a general meeting, the Commission Session, at which member countries are updated on the activities of the organization and receive and adopt reports, vote on resolutions and approve new programs.

This year, ESCAP held its 74th Commission Session from the 11th to the 16th of May 2018.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Ralph Regenvanu, led Vanuatu’s delegation to this meeting.

The delegation consisted of Ms Juliette Hakwa, Head of Monitoring and Evaluation Unit at the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) in the Prime Minister’s Office; Mr Brian Wabaiat, Senior Fiscal Policy Officer at the Department of Finance and Treasury in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management; and Mr Sanlan William, Head of United Nations and Economic Relations Division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Vanuatu Government only paid for the participation of one of these delegates, the rest were sponsored by the United Nations and private sponsors.

The theme for this year’s Session was, “Inequality in the Era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

The first segment of the 74th Commission Session was the Senior Officials segment which ran from the 11th to the 12th May 2018 and was attended by representatives from 53 member countries and nine associate members in the Asia and Pacific region.

This was an opportunity for members to exchange views, knowledge and experience on key trends and pressing challenges that affect sustainable development in the region, as well as approve new work programs of ESCAP.

During this segment Vanuatu made a number of interventions, in particular in the session on the Special Body on LDC’s (Least Developed Countries), LLDC’s (Land Locked Developing Countries) and SIDS (Small Island Developing States) on Saturday 12th May, where Vanuatu shared its experiences in localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its national development plan, “Vanuatu 2030: The People’s Plan”. “Vanuatu 2030”, or the Vanuatu National Sustainable Development Plan (more commonly referred to as the NSDP), is Vanuatu’s highest policy framework and identifies the country’s priorities for the next fifteen years.

The Vanuatu delegation highlighted the country’s experiences with extreme climate events and environmental hazards and in particular the economic and social impacts of TC Pam in 2015, including the ongoing recovery activities and the most recent Ambae volcano situation.

Emphasis was given to acknowledging how traditional resilience and response mechanisms have provided for relocation, exchanges, and sharing of resources in the times of crisis.

The recent example of the mass temporary relocation of the entire population of Ambae demonstrated the balance between traditional coping systems, state and humanitarian responses to disasters and highlighted the benefits of multi-stakeholder engagement to ensure peaceful outcomes.

The delegation also stressed that despite Vanuatu’s imminent graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2020 – which will mean losing the international economic concessions that come with such status — continuing special consideration should be given within the international community to the country’s continuing economic vulnerability to the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.

As part of the agenda “Sub-regional activities for development”, Vanuatu made a statement describing the activities UNESCAP is undertaking in Vanuatu with particular emphasis on the challenges highlighted in the “2017 Asia and Pacific Economic Social Survey”, and called upon development partners to align their work program to the national priorities of the Vanuatu Government.

The statement highlighted the importance of working with other countries and regional agencies such as UNESCAP to make progress using “best practices” and existing platforms such as the Samoa Pathway and Pacific Road Map for Sustainable Development.

The second segment of the 74th Commission Session was the Ministerial segment which ran from the 14th to the 16th May 2018 and which was attended by high-level representatives including the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the President of the Republic of Kiribati, the Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR.Mr Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, was also in attendance and was invited to deliver remarks during the opening session. On Monday the 14th of May, Minister Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, delivered Vanuatu’s country statement.

During the 74th Commission session, the Foreign Affairs Minister also conducted a few bilateral meetings with his counterparts in the Kingdom of Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, discussing bilateral cooperation including possible support towards the Vanuatu Government’s efforts in addressing the current situation in Ambae.

The 74th annual Commission Session of ESCAP was an important opportunity for Vanuatu to share experiences with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region on our shared progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and in particular how to design policies to alleviate inequality in the era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Vanuatu’s main contribution was to highlight how we have “localized” our SDGs by integrating them into the country’s National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP or “Vanuatu 2030”) and its monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

Source: Vanuatu Daily Post