The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) marked its 70th Anniversary at the opening of the annual Commission session in Bangkok today, with its Executive Secretary reflecting on the extraordinary transformation of the region, and underlining the importance of regional solutions to support the global development agenda.

“Seventy years ago, ours was a region devastated by conflict. Political instability was rife, poverty and famine were endemic, and social tensions widespread,” said United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar. “Today our region accounts for over a third of the world’s output, and we are on track to make up half of global GDP by 2050. We are driving global growth, global trade and increasingly, science, technology and innovation. Poverty has fallen to 15 per cent in 2012, down from 50 per cent in 1990.”

Dr. Akhtar highlighted that ESCAP has, over the years, reformed and reinvented itself to serve the needs of the region, finding multilateral solutions to regional problems. “With unwavering commitment to UN principles, we promote multilateralism, inclusiveness and openness, and these principles are still pertinent today as we look to the future and address growing inequalities.”

In a video message to the 73rd Commission session, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated ESCAP on its 70th Anniversary: “This dynamic institution is at the heart of the largest trading hub in the world. Asia and the Pacific are also leaders in science, technology and innovation. At the same time, many challenges confront this region which is home to half the world’s poor, and I applaud ESCAP’s effort to reduce poverty, protect the environment and realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The 73rd session is being held under the theme ‘Regional cooperation for sustainable energy,’ and places particular emphasis on how greater economic cooperation and integration in the region can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. ESCAP’s new theme study proposes an energy transition – a shift to low carbon, non-polluting energy generation and increased energy efficiency that brings the benefits of modern energy to all.

In his address, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand General Tanasak Patimapragorn emphasized Thailand’s ongoing commitment to support the work of ESCAP, noting that through 70 years of partnership, remarkable success has been achieved in economic growth and social development, while acknowledging that many challenges still remain including inequality, climate change and natural and man-made disasters.

President of Palau Mr. Tommy Remengesau, highlighted that climate and oceans are the two most important priorities shared throughout the Pacific, and called on the international community to take leadership and action to protect the world’s oceans. He underlined that ESCAP is an important platform for gathering support and commitment towards a sustainable future for the region.

Prime Minister of Tuvalu Mr. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, who was elected to Chair of the session, added that the greatest challenge of our time is indeed climate change, particularly for vulnerable island countries like Tuvalu, and that the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved, unless the issue is effectively addressed. He stressed that the challenges of climate change, energy security and ocean degradation, are too difficult, if not impossible for individual countries to address, and that ESCAP provides a significant platform to support regional and international cooperation.

More than 430 participants from 48 member States and Associate Members are attending the 73rd Commission session this week.