Opening Remarks by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the Special Informal Briefing on Enhancing Regional Cooperation in the Asia- Pacific Region, (13 April 2016)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me welcome you all and thank you for joining us today at this informal briefing session on enhancing regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

We are delighted to have with us Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific - the most comprehensive of the UN’s five regional Commissions.


The Asia-Pacific region is home to nearly two-thirds of humanity. Its population is expected to reach 5 billion in 2050, two-thirds of which will live in cities.

Poverty eradication and reducing inequalities remain overarching challenges for the Region even as new opportunities are opening up by an expanding middle class, a trend which some have described as the one of the biggest seismic shifts in history.

Nevertheless of the 896 million people live in extreme poverty around the world 550 million of them are in the Asia Pacific region - 390 million in South Asia alone. This is according to recent figures from the World Bank.

There is much disparity in sub regional connectivity and integration within the Asia Pacific region. For instance, economic integration is much more advanced in East Asia, mainly because of manufacturing supply chains linked to global markets. South Asia, on the other hand, is one of the least integrated sub regions of the continent.

The promise of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – established specifically to promote regional economic cooperation – has yet to translate into reality.

The potential of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and SAARC Agreement on Trade In Services (SATIS), that aimed to encourage regional trade and economic cooperation, has also not been fully realized.

South Asia’s intra-regional trade accounts for just 5% of its total trade, compared to 25% in ASEAN.

This, despite the fact that this sub-region has the world’s largest working-age population, hosts a quarter of the world’s middle-class consumers and possesses great geopolitical significance.

Another regional entity, the Economic Cooperation Organization has been unable to fully harness the energy of its member states. Its long-term promise of development of transport and communication infrastructure, trade and investment and effective use of the region’s energy resources remains unmet.


It is axiomatic to say that greater connectivity and economic integration enhances prospects of growth and shared prosperity. There is no doubt that it can significantly boost comprehensive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Promoting regional integration and connectivity is therefore one of the top priorities of my Government. A peaceful neighbourhood – a goal that we have been pursuing – will benefit the entire region.

Greater regional connectivity and modernization of transportation, is one of the seven pillars of the long-term development strategy outlined in our “Vision 2025”.

The recently launched China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a critical component of China’s 'One Belt, One Road' initiative – is the most concrete and ambitious example of our commitment to enhance regional connectivity.

The plan embraces a comprehensive package of a slew of infrastructure and development projects, estimated at US $46 billion.

It entails greater connectivity and trade linkages between Pakistan and China through networks of transport, information, communication and energy infrastructure.

It also envisions creation of special economic zones, industrial parks and energy generation projects to boost economic growth, development and employment generation.

This development strategy and framework offers new opportunities for Asia's transformation and prosperity.

It will bring huge economic and development benefits not just for China and Pakistan but also for the region and beyond.


Pakistan also supports regional energy integration and acknowledges the importance of developing regional energy strategies to achieve energy security.

We feel that transit facilitation measures for oil and gas pipelines, and other energy resources including access to international markets, should be promoted in accordance with the region’s interests.

As part of this drive, we are actively pursuing regional projects, including:

We are also engaging with SAARC and ECO with a view to advancing, promoting and realizing the purposes and objectives of these sub regional organizations.


With our national focus on this goal, we enthusiastically support the regional economic cooperation and integration agenda of ESCAP.

We also support and contribute to the Commission’s integration approach, which is based on four pillars; integrated market, seamless connectivity, financial cooperation and addressing shared vulnerabilities and risks.

Dr. Akhtar will brief us on the efforts of the Commission in advancing this cooperation and integration agenda.

She will present findings of a detailed background report on regional economic cooperation and integration, highlighting regional trends in integration and market integration, connectivity, financing infrastructure, and risks and vulnerabilities.

As many of you also attended the luncheon briefing by Dr. Akhtar on regional activities related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Financing for Development, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan, we now have the opportunity to understand and exchange views on how regional economic cooperation and integration complements and supports achieving the sustainable development goals in our region.

I now invite Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary ESCAP, who is the senior most Pakistani serving at the United Nations, to give her briefing.

Her talk will be followed by an interactive session, where she will be able to respond to some of your comments and questions.