Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development
28- 31 March, 2022
Theme: Building back better from COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific
Ladies and Gentleman
- First of all, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and on my own, I would like to congratulate Executive Secretary of UNESCAP and her team for convening this Forum. This gathering of high level policymakers has a great significance for all the countries which are suffering from COVID-19 pandemic and facing challenges of achieving Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.
- This is the seventh year since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and by 2030 we have to achieve our targets. In this context, the deliberations in this Forum are expected to be very helpful and valuable to address the interconnected sustainable development issues of today’s world and determining ways forward to tackle them at the earliest.
- The SDGs are our global commitment to end poverty, protect the environment and achieve peace and prosperity by 2030. However, it has become very challenging in the present context of global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Nepal is committed to achieve SDGs and it is at the center of Nepal’s development vision and priorities. We have mainstreamed the SDGs into our national plans and programs. In addition, we have localized it at the provincial and local level’s planning and budgeting processes. Similarly, arrangements have been made for the budget coding to the development programmes in accordance with the SDGs. Furthermore, necessary policy and institutional architectures has been created to make the implementation of SDGs more systematic. Various SDGs committees have been formed in order to institutionalize and facilitate the process of SDGs implementation.
- Other important stakeholders such as the private sector, non-governmental sector, civil society, community, and development partners have been mobilized in attaining these all-inclusive goals of sustainable development.
- May I take this opportunity to share our achievements to date. The progress review of the SDGs shows that Nepal has made significant progress in achieving the SDGs before the COVID-19 pandemic due to continued efforts of the Government. We have made some significant achievements in key areas.
- Poverty has been reduced; significant progress has been seen in access to education and in gender empowerment, and reduction of inequality. Moreover, access to basic drinking water, roads and energy has been improved and satisfactory increase has been seen in access to overall health facilities.
- However, much remains to be done to achieve the Agenda 2030 and it is not possible for the government alone. There is need of coordination, cooperation and partnership among the private sector, non-governmental sector, civil society, community, development partners and other stakeholders.
- Nepal has been graduating from the LDC status in 2026 with the transition period of five years. Therefore, we are in the process of preparing a robust graduation strategy for ensuring a smooth, sustainable and irreversible graduation. We are confident that the successful and sustainable graduation will also help to achieve SDGs by 2030.
- We all know that the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has had multidimensional effects on the Agenda 2030. It has negatively impacted our livelihood, public health and social security systems and the economy. The economic growth rate has become negative by 2 percent points in the fiscal year 2019/20.
- The revenue growth rate has shrunken and poverty and unemployment rate has increased. Along with that, the gap between the rich and poor has widened. Because of the negative impacts of this pandemic on key sectors of national economy such as industry, tourism, trade, employment, etc., the achievements in SDGs has become more challenging.
- The Government of Nepal has implemented the necessary policies, strategies and programs to mitigate these negative and potential other impacts on the sustainable development. Almost 93% of the people above the age of 18 years has been vaccinated. To minimize multifaceted impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, Nepal is in the process of preparing recovery strategy.
- The current dismal situation must be tackled by reviving the economy through the building back better approach. Stimulus packages for economic recovery are needed in short, medium and long terms for resilience building interventions. Ensuring social protection is another critical factor for the recovery.
- The tourism sector also needs to be uplifted to reel from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Digitization of the public sector, digital means of education in public schools, prioritizing MSMEs, rolling out and providing vaccinations to all are some of the interventions needed for the recovery. Moreover, risk-informed and climate-smart development cooperation is vital to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. Financing for SDGs is also highly required.
- Development endeavors need to be tailored as per the country’s needs rather than treating it with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Partnerships need to be strengthened to build national capacities and address health emergencies and ensure the delivery of quality health services and infrastructures. Regional cooperation and collaboration also needs to be enhanced.
- Bold policy choices and investments in governance need to be made for the countries to build back better of the situation. Immediate response efforts need to be linked with medium and longer-term sustainable development requirements and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
- In attaining all these goals, it is significant that we ensure gender equality as the COVID-19 crisis seems to also have exacerbated the number of gender-based violence cases across the globe. Prioritizing mental health and introducing policies conducive towards is urgently required. Issues of economic, social and environmental spheres need to be addressed to attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- Finally, a renewed sense of urgency and accountability in our collective efforts is critical to achieve SDGs, and to ensure that “no one is left behind’ and the “furthest behind is reached first”. I urge to the international community, development partners and stakeholders for international cooperation in accelerating SDGs implementation and building back better. The present COVID-19 global crisis demands a genuine commitment to save lives of the people of the world. I highly appreciate the global initiatives and support measures taken in response to COVID-19 pandemic and to achieve SDGs and look forward to similar supports in the future as well.
I thank you all.
Saloni Pradhan Singh
Member, National Planning Commission of Nepal
30 March 2022