สุนทรพจน์ : คำกล่าวเปิดการประชุม โดยนายธานี ทองภักดี รองปลัดกระทรวงการต่างประเทศ ในพิธีเปิดการประชุม Asia – Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development ครั้งที่ ๖ ศูนย์ข่าว กต.

สุนทรพจน์ : คำกล่าวเปิดการประชุม โดยนายธานี ทองภักดี รองปลัดกระทรวงการต่างประเทศ ในพิธีเปิดการประชุม Asia – Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development ครั้งที่ ๖

Opening Statement by Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, 
Deputy Permanent Secretary, 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, 
at the opening session of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2019
at ESCAP Hall, UNCC, Bangkok
27 March 2019 
 
*************
 
Mr. Chairman,
Ministers, Excellencies,
Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed,
Executive Secretary, Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
1. Permit me at the outset to convey my Foreign Minister’s regret for not being able to join us this morning due to unforeseen circumstances. 
 
2. On his behalf and that of the Government of Thailand, I would like to warmly welcome all participants to the sixth session of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD).  
 
Mr. Chairman,
 
3. As long as there are still children who cannot go to school, people who cannot afford to go see a doctor, and people who cannot get decent work, then we have not yet realised sustainable development.
 
4. It has now been 4 years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. Only eleven years remain till 2030 but, given our current rate of progress, the risk of leaving people behind is substantial. We therefore must step up our efforts to reach those who are the furthest behind. And in doing so, we must always have a sense of urgency and remind ourselves never to be complacent. 
 
5. Our Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed remarkable economic growth over the past two decades. This has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Still though, inequality persists and is on the rise. 
 
6. Look at education, for example. Despite making substantial progress in primary education, a gap remains throughout the Asia-Pacific region. An ESCAP study found that, while gross enrollment rate for higher education in the Republic of Korea reached close to 97 percent in 2014, the rates in other countries may be as low as 3 percent. These inequalities repeat themselves within countries, depending on many factors, among which are financial constraints, access to transportation, limited educational institutions, disabilities, ethnicity, and immigration status. Education is a key building block in everyone’s life. If we have early access to quality education, then the chances increase that we will have gainful employment and will also learn how to make good decisions that affect our lives, such as those concerning health and nutrition or even who to elect to represent us in politics.
 
Mr. Chairman,
 
7. Over the past 4 decades, Thailand has made a lot of progress in social and economic development, moving from a low-income country to an upper middle income country in less than a generation. Poverty has declined substantially over the last thirty years from 67% in 1986 to 7.1% in 2015.  However, the GINI index of Thailand fell only gradually from 43.8 in 1988 to 36 in 2015. This implies that inequality issues continue to pose significant challenges to us.
 
8. Let me share with you Thailand’s efforts in addressing inequality.
 
First, the Government has sought to empower people at the grassroots level. We have substantially strengthened what we call the Village Fund scheme. More than 70 billion Baht has been allocated to over 79,595 village funds. This has created over 200,000 activities and projects covering over 13 million members of the village funds. These funds aim to reduce household debt and enhance productivity in various sectors such as farming and community tourism, among other things. Through participating in the work of the village funds, people can also take part in the decision-making affecting their own lives and their communities; and by doing so, they will develop a sense of belonging and ownership. Empowering communities is in fact vital to sustaining development and strengthening democracy, transparency, and good governance.
 
Second, Thailand has continued to rely on the public-private-people partnership model. The Government has engaged the private sector to assist in social development, for example, in partnership schools, community development, community tourism, and product development for local communities, among many other things. The so-called Nan Sandbox in Nan Province is a good public-private-people partnership model that aims to revive forest areas from land which had been depleted by maize cultivation. It is being spearheaded by the private sector, together with the community and supported by the Government.  
 
Third, we will strive to create a better ecosystem for sharing. Recently, the Social Enterprise Act was passed to encourage the work of social enterprises in Thailand. Under this new law, social enterprises will enjoy tax benefits. The rationale here is that the Government alone cannot solve inequalities. We, therefore, need to take a whole-of-society approach. We are now heartened to see that more and more social enterprises have been set up in Thailand to tackle social issues. These social enterprises are often run by able and passionate young executives. The power of these young minds and their dynamic activism cannot be underestimated. Thailand will be organizing a side event tomorrow featuring a number of Thai social enterprises, one of them, for example, being Siam Organic - a social enterprise set up to address the problem of farmer poverty through innovative organic products with global appeal. Their actions directly and indirectly help to promote SDGs 1, 2, 3, 10 and 12. So please join us at our side event tomorrow to see with your own eyes how social enterprises can be forces for social change and impact. 
 
9. This year, our Leaders will meet in New York in September at the High- Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The Asia-Pacific region will have much to share with other regions of the world. While we have success stories in the area of economic growth, our success stories on addressing inequalities will even be more appealing. 
 
10. This year also, Thailand is the Chair of ASEAN; and our theme is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. In this regard, we would like to call on the countries of the Asia-Pacific to also advance partnership for sustainable development, not only among countries in the region, but also beyond. On our part, Thailand has been a strong partner for the UNOSSC, which reopened its regional office at ESCAP in 2017. Thailand also actively participated at BAPA+40 in Argentina last week to share our sustainable development experiences. We in the Asia-Pacific region will also have to support the reform of the UN Development System, which will benefit all developing countries. We have to share our good practices, experiences, and homegrown approaches to sustainable development. Thailand will set up an ASEAN Center for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue by November this year to promote the sharing of best practices on sustainable development. Also a SEAMEO Center on the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy will be set up to share our Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, on which Thailand has relied as our “Guiding Light” towards the path of sustainable development.  
 
Mr. Chairman,
 
11. Inequalities will not go away easily. Empowering our people and communities, enhancing public-private-people partnership, and creating an ecosystem for sharing will help to narrow the gap. Stronger cooperation and partnership, exchange of best practices, sustainable business models and home-grown approaches will help lead to sustainable development, leaving no country and no one behind. 
 
12. Instead of only enhancing our national competiveness, we should challenge ourselves to race to enhance our ability to share, our ability to give, and our ability to make lives better for others. As Governments, we have that mandate and responsibility. As human beings, making our lives meaningful to others is the only way that our limited time in this world will be worthwhile. 
 
13. I wish you all a productive and meaningful meeting and a pleasant stay in Thailand. Thank you.