It is a particular honour for me to be able to address the Commission during this High Level Segment today. The historic 60th Session of ESCAP, marking the 60th anniversary of the holding of the first session of the Commission in this city, Shanghai, also coincides with the centenary of the Red Cross Society of China. It is also 10 years since the United Nations General Assembly decided to grant full observer status in the General Assembly itself to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
This paved the way for the International Federation to make its distinctive contributions to the work done by States at the global and regional level on a wide range of priority issues related to economic and social development as a tool for meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people and the protection of human dignity.
When the Commission met for the first time, as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, it had eleven full members. It is now, as many speakers have noted, the largest of the United Nations' regional commissions, with responsibility for important work on behalf of 60% of the world's population. Even more importantly for the International Federation and its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Asia-Pacific region, that population contains over 800 million of the world's 1.2 billion poorest people, living in 13 least developed countries. It is also a region with some of the largest countries in the world, and the smallest.
The International Federation is profoundly concerned with the issues which these situations represent, and our statement today will address some of the ways in which we intend to work with ESCAP, its members and associate members, and other international organisations to help resolve them.
We are particularly pleased that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, has been able to be in Shanghai for this historic meeting. We see his presence as a substantive indicator of the wish of UN Headquarters to ensure that the work done in this region partners the work done in other regions. This is additionally important to the International Federation as a number of the regional countries in which we work to address vulnerability are also members of other regional commissions, and our message to both must be consistent.
One of the best ways of ensuring consistency is to ensure that our programs link to those of the United Nations system. Our experience has been that a particularly strong link can be made through the programs to fulfil the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Each of the eight Millennium Development Goals resonates with the International Federation's basic program guidance document, Strategy 2010 [http://www.ifrc.org/publicat/s2010/]. That global document is given its Asia Pacific regional relevance by the Manila Action Plan , which was adopted by 47 Asia-Pacific National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in November 2002 [http://www.aprc.net/map2002.htm]. Its directions were further affirmed by all States together with all National Societies at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2003 when they adopted the Agenda for Humanitarian Action - a blueprint document concerning the main vulnerability priorities to be addressed in the coming years [http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/5UDDDY/$File/Agenda_final-ANG.pdf].
The Manila Action Plan was first brought to the attention of the members of ESCAP members at the Asia-Pacific Population Conference in December 2002. Our statement, which was delivered by my colleague in the International Federation's Governing Board, Mr Tadateru Konoe of the Japanese Red Cross, spoke at the time of the complementarity of International Federation and ESCAP programs, and those of our members, in the fields of population and HIV/AIDS, and the parallel effort which must be waged against poverty, and against stigma and discrimination.
That message is no less urgent today.
It is clear, however, that none of this work can be accomplished by any one government, or any one organisation. Nor can it be accomplished by governments alone, nor by organisations alone. The need for partnership is critical, and it must be partnership which connects the talents and abilities of governments to the people in the communities most affected by the issues.
And, further, the connections established must be able to relate cross-sectorally to the interconnectivity of the issues themselves. In other words, it is not possible to defeat the HIV/AIDS pandemic without also addressing poverty, and without making a wholehearted effort to put an end to stigma and discrimination at all levels.
Similarly, it is not possible to move forward towards the targets in the Millennium Development Goal concerning poverty without also addressing the vulnerabilities on which poverty feeds. Our view in 2002 was that ESCAP had yet to bring together these different strands of the same campaign, and we believe this remains a challenge.
It is, in fairness, a challenge to most bodies in the UN family. This is why the International Federation has identified comprehensive action against these various issues in an interconnected way.
The base for our strategic approach is the needs of the most vulnerable, and with that the development of programs which build the capacity of the most vulnerable and the communities around them to address these needs. This requires, in some cases, the alignment of government programming in a way which allows the communities to participate in the planning of programs aimed at addressing their needs. It is also essential that the programs themselves should be delivered in a way which recognises the ultimate accountability of the deliverers to the affected people themselves.
In our view, the basic document prepared for this Ministerial Segment will benefit from further elaboration as ESCAP and its members work towards the ambitious goals which have been set for the management of poverty in an era of globalisation. This elaboration we would suggest, should include the views of communities and those at risk because of poverty. It should also include a more determined effort to establish the link between diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and poverty.
We in the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which comprise the International Federation stand ready to support this work with our perspectives. We will be bringing to you the benefits already available from regional cooperation within the Manila Action Plan and the global Agenda for Humanitarian Action. We also bring our role as auxiliaries to the public authorities in our countries, a role reaffirmed at the 2003 International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. This function, places mutual responsibilities on governments and their National Societies in the priority humanitarian fields in each country, and alongside these responsibilities we will support your activities within programs to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals.
We will also bring the attention of the ESCAP Secretariat and all regional governments, as well as donors from outside the region, of the way we see the struggle against poverty in all its forms benefiting from closer linkage to the Millennium Development Goals at national and regional levels. It might be useful if we offer an example today, especially as it is one which shows now national and regional programs can link the special vulnerability of Small Island Developing States to the MDGs.
The example we would offer is that of the program put forward with the advice and support of our National Red Cross Societies in the Pacific Region. The International Federation's Regional Delegation in Suva, with responsibility for all the island countries of the Pacific region, has linked its regional program priorities to the MDGs in its 2004 program document . I would encourage ESCAP and its members to take note of this methodology, which will be progressively introduced in other parts of the world if the Suva experience indicates that this is helpful.
No reference to the work of our National Societies in the Pacific region would be complete without mention of the importance we attach to the Mauritius International Meeting in August 2004 to mark ten years of the Barbados Declaration for Small Island Developing States. The International Federation looks forward to that meeting adopting concrete measures, particularly in the areas of disaster preparedness and response and in health. In the latter context, we are paying particular attention to work which helps remote communities connect to the best available health facilities and knowledge.
It will be clear from this statement that the International Federation shares fully the priority that ESCAP has given to strengthening regional cooperation in order to meet the challenges posed by globalisation. Like ESCAP and the UN system as a whole, the International Federation considers that globalisation must be accompanied by strengthening regional cooperation. But we go a step further, and also advocate for strengthening partnerships at all levels with those who best represent communities and people in need. It is our hope that you will be able to match the determination which is shown at the global level to work with communities and make use of the expertise of your auxiliary partners, your Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
This would be a fitting outcome from this debate, matching the intentions of the founders of ESCAP's parent, ECAFE, in 1947. It would also be highly appropriate because of the experience and strength of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as this centenary of the Red Cross Society of China shows.