Heads of government and other high-level officials from around Asia and the Pacific region have been convening in Bangkok for the 72nd session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), where they will debate regional cooperation and integration from May 15 to 19.
A ministerial roundtable will be held on May 18 with a focus on the theme of the 72nd session: science, technology and innovation for sustainable development, followed by a seminar on China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"ESCAP regards the Belt and Road Initiative as a historical momentum for Asian-Pacific countries in promoting infrastructure construction and software connectivity," Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the ESCAP, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
"We think it is a great opportunity for ESCAP and China to cooperate together," Shamshad Akhtar said.
On April 11, Shamshad Akhtar was invited to Beijing and signed a proposal on jointly boosting regional connectivity and the Belt and Road Initiative.
It stresses that the two sides will jointly plan concrete actions to promote connectivity and the Belt and Road Initiative, encourage countries along the route to align their policies and boost pragmatic cooperation.
The proposal is the first cooperation document on the Belt and Road Initiative between China and an international organization.
As for the incentive of signing this proposal, Akhtar explained, "we do believe that ESCAP, as a multi-dimensional organization, is consistent with the spirit of the Belt and Road Initiative, which itself is multi-dimension and multilateral in nature."
She said the ESCAP has a long-standing tradition in promoting cooperation and integration in the Asia-Pacific region, acting as a very honest inter-governmental platform to negotiate agreements of transport, energy, and ICT.
"ESCAP is an inter-governmental organization with more than 60 members, almost like an Asia-Pacific regional parliament, there is no other parallel mechanism like it."
"ESACP is not a political entity, but we need to develop strong political commitments, working with sub-regional organizations, and we need countries to work collaboratively," She added.
"We will have to use some kind of criteria to define what would be a high priority of the Belt and Road Initiative. Connectivity, of course, we would like to promote."
Belt and Road Initiative is about seamless connectivity, meanwhile, ESCAP is advocating seamless connectivity, for example, Asian roadways need to be connected with railways, dry-ports need to be connected with inland areas, and then all roads should lead to maritime seaports.
Furthermore, what ESCAP brings in added value is agreements, harmonization and standardization of laws and regulations, as well as electronic and paperless trade.
It is not only talking about cargo infrastructure, but also people-to-people connectivity, enhancing cultural communication and good values.
These are deep and varied elements that ESCAP offered for the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation.
The ESCAP not only advocated and promoted the Asian Highway Network, the Trans-Asian Railway Network, but also the Asian Energy Highway.
ESCAP brings dialogues on an inter-governmental platform, to promote development of an Asian power grid, to develop a network of sub-regional initiatives with a view to eventually realizing an integrated power market for the region, as well as urging the use of more renewable energy.
"There are a lot of overlaps between ESCAP's game plan and the Chinese game plan. Members of ESCAP are going to benefit from Belt and Road. On the other hand, ESCAP will play a special role as an institutional and regional broker for regional connectivity and integration," said the UN official.
"In addition, we are looking to China to champion the cause of greater regional connectivity, integration and cooperation for the mutual benefit of all the people of Asia and the Pacific region."