In the digital age and present context of the FourthIndustrial Revolution, we often hear about “big data” and the “Internet ofthings [IoT]”, which to some may sound highly technical and virtually digital.While Thailand is fully aware of the opportunities and challenges that comewith modernity, we also seek an all-encompassing human dimension of inclusivedevelopment, particularly during our year as chair of the Association ofSoutheast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is why we came up with the theme“Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”, to promote the “sustainability ofthings [SoT]”, which means sustainability in all dimensions.
Sustainable development is an overarching concept thatis directly related to SoT. However, the first aspect of sustainability thatusually comes to the mind of the public is environmental sustainability, whichis a significant component of the concept and part of the United Nations 2030Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). These 17 SDGs are simply grouped into five Ps, with the ultimate goalto save the planet, foster peace, create prosperity, enhance partnership andnourish our people.
With regard to the “planet”, fresh air and clean waterare among the basic, yet fundamental essentials for human beings and all othercreatures that share this world with us. Sadly, Mother Earth has been harmedand taken for granted by humans more than anyone else throughout history. Thefact that several SDGs give importance to the rehabilitation and conservationof our planet reflects the rising environmental concerns and the call for amore balanced development, widely known as the concept of “circular economy”,which is gaining ground globally.
Thailand recognises that enhancing environmentalsustainability is inextricably linked to social and economic development, andis one of the key conditions for sustainable development. We have, therefore,adopted measures to conserve, restore and manage our natural resources andenvironment in a more sustainable manner, and included these elements in our20-Year National Strategy Framework (2017-2036).
For instance, Thailand has launched the NationallyDetermined Contribution Roadmap on Mitigation (2021-2030) to ensure that wemeet our targets on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 25 percent by 2030. Some progress has been made so far. Last year, we managed toreduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 45.72 million tonnes, or 12 per cent,of the target of 7-20 per cent by 2020. Moreover, about 24 hectares of coralreefs and 880 hectares of mangrove forest were rehabilitated and the use ofover 435 million plastic bags was reduced since 2017.
Beyond our national undertaking, Thailand hasconsistently advocated cooperation on environmental issues with the globalcommunity to derive the long-term benefits. An example is our firm commitmentto the Paris agreement to address climate change. At the same time, Thailandhas been cooperating with all partners on the exchange of knowledge,experiences and best practices.
Sustainable development is a global agenda thatrequires concerted efforts, and Thailand is in the position to drive it forwardthis year. In addition to being ASEAN chair, Thailand is also ASEAN coordinatoron sustainable development cooperation, actively identifying thecomplementarities and promoting closer coordination between ASEAN and theUnited Nations. One substantial outcome is the “Complementarities between theASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for SustainableDevelopment: A Framework for Action”, which identifies possible synergy andmeans to strengthen ASEAN community-building, while attaining several SDGssimultaneously.
A recommendation from the complementarities reportthat will be realised fully this year is the establishment of the ASEAN Centrefor Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue in Thailand. The centre willbe funded by the Royal Thai government and will help coordinate activities andprojects related to the Complementarities Initiative, while linking up withsimilar centres in ASEAN member states to form a network of centres in supportof regional sustainable development efforts.
During its ASEAN chairmanship, one of the sustainabledevelopment agendas that will be addressed is marine environment. Thailand isgreatly concerned with the problem of marine debris and its impact on theenvironment. We truly believe that urgent action is needed. Researchers havefound a marine debris or “garbage patch” in the middle of the Pacific Oceanwith a size larger than Bangkok. This debris is eaten by fish, which is thenconsumed by humans, thus causing severe health problems. News reports of seaanimals, like whales and turtles, suffering from eating indigestible waste areonly a fraction of the annual 100,000 deaths of marine animals due to thisproblem. In addition, marine debris affects the promotion of environmentallyfriendly tourism and thus affects the contribution of the tourism sector tonational development.
Research by the Ministry of Natural Resources andEnvironment of Thailand found that rubbish that is thrown into the sea can travelall over the world. It is, therefore, imperative that we have a platform fordiscussions and collaboration to tackle the problem. Thailand is advancingpartnership for sustainability by starting with environmental sustainability,and will expand to other areas throughout the year.
The benefits of sustainable development are countless,but each country should embark on its own path and determination to achieve thegoals. In Thailand’s case, the sufficiency economy philosophy (SEP) was adoptedas its home-grown approach. This philosophy, conferred by the late KingBhumibol Adulyadej, proposes a “thinking process” consisting of three parts,analysis on the cause of the problem, identification of practical solutions andthe implementation of the selected solutions.
The SEP is mainstreamed in Thailand’s policy, both atthe national and international levels. It has been a guiding principle inThailand’s National Economic and Social Development Plans since 2002 and itsapplication to achieve sustainable development. Thailand has shared thisphilosophy with many countries as an alternative approach to achieving SDGsthrough the provision of training courses and the establishment of severalcooperation projects in Asia and Africa.
In conclusion, Thailand’s commitment towardssustainable development is steadfast, as is demonstrated in our pastachievements and contributions nationally and internationally. We are committedto do more. The agenda will be particularly important during our ASEANchairmanship and Thailand looks forward to working with colleagues in ASEAN andbeyond in a global partnership as set forth in SDG Goal 17.