Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, at the 2nd High Level ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development, 10 February 2020

Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, at the 2nd High Level ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development, 10 February 2020

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Opening Remarks

           by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai          

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand

at the 2nd High Level ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development

10 February 2020

Jean Durieux Room, Charlemagne Building, Brussels


* * * * *

At the outset, allow me to thank Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen for taking the initiative for this moment of silence. Thank you very much for the sympathy and condolences. And I can assure you that there shall never be such thing, repeating itself again in our region, not to mention only in Thailand.

Madame Co-Chair, Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen,


All my Colleagues from ASEAN and also from the EU,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.  At this very outset, allow me again to thank Madame Co-Chair and her team from DEVCO for the excellent arrangements and the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation in Brussels. I recall co-chairing the inaugural Dialogue with ex-Commissioner Mimica in 2017 in Bangkok, which opened up a new chapter on sustainable development cooperation between two organisations that have placed people at the centre of their policies. And this Dialogue thus remains an important policy platform for advancing the joint efforts of ASEAN and the EU towards realising the SDGs, and inculcating a sustainability approach in our respective policies. I am therefore very pleased to be part of it once again here, in partnership with the EU.

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

2.  ASEAN has embraced sustainable development as a strategic priority to ensure that the Community we build is people-centred, leaves no one behind, and looks to the future; and of course, to support the UN 2030 Agenda at the global level. Thailand is proud to serve as ASEAN Coordinator on Sustainable Development Cooperation and to work with other ASEAN Member States in reaching out to friends and partners around the world in our common bid to achieve the SDGs. Indeed, for a number of years now and particularly throughout Thailand’s Chairmanship, ASEAN Member States have been working together to ensure that our region is moving forward with sustainability in all dimensions, what I like to call the “Sustainability of Things”, or SOT. Our commitment is clearly reflected in the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on Partnership on Sustainability, adopted at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok last year.

3.  Sustainability requires effective partnerships and mechanisms. ASEAN has been partnering with the UN to promote the “Complementarities Initiative”, where we seek to identify and enhance complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030 global Agenda. Our efforts have been further boosted with the launch of the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue or (ACSDSD) at the 35th ASEAN Summit and the Complementarities Roadmap at the ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok last November, which will help to ensure continuity of our sustainability efforts for the long-term.   

4.  And with regard to reaching out to friends and partners around the world, ASEAN has adopted what is called the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. This document presents ASEAN’s strategic thinking on the state of play in the wider region and identifies areas for promoting closer cooperation with external partners, including on sustainable development. 

5.  The EU is of course a key partner not only of ASEAN, but also of the global community of nations in advancing the sustainability agenda.

6.  And this is because, first and foremost, ASEAN and the EU are bound together by shared values and common interests. One of these is our belief in regional integration, which makes us “natural partners”. The EU by its nature and ASEAN by its vision also share the same value of “putting people first”. Thus, our sustainable development cooperation comes very naturally.

7.  Our respective integration processes have brought about regional stability and growth that benefit our peoples. For ASEAN, per capita income in the region has grown remarkably, some 33 times the level at its founding in 1967. ASEAN has also become the 6th largest economy in the world and has the potential to become the world’s 4th largest economy by 2030.

8.  At the same time, ASEAN, and the EU alike, is currently facing various challenges and uncertainties, from a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape to climate change, from erosion of trust in regionalism and multilateralism, to transformative economic and social changes from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the 4IR.

9.  With regard to the SDGs, ASEAN has made remarkable progress on several goals, such as poverty eradication and the promotion of clean energy. However, the region still lags behind on some goals, such as climate change and addressing inequalities. The region also continues to face new unprecedented challenges, such as the current outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus 2019, which is a test case for the realisation of SDG Goal 3, which is good health and well-being. Indeed, this public health challenge, if not addressed effectively, can threaten the hard-won gains of development.  

10.  ASEAN and the EU therefore need to strengthen our collaboration to ensure the continuity of decades-long integration and development efforts as well as progress towards sustainable development.   

11.  This brings us to the key question: “How can ASEAN and the EU enhance our partnership to move forward sustainable development and the SDGs?” The answer is certainly three-pronged.  

12.  First is by taking a “people-centred approach” to our development cooperation. Regional integration can either narrow or increase development gaps, depending on our policies. I believe human capital development is a key equaliser in addressing this double-edged sword of integration. ASEAN is now seeking to enhance skilled and competitive work force to meet the rapid changes of the labour market, including the improvement of technical and vocational education and training. The EU can work with us on this matter, including through promoting the quality of TVET, or the technical and vocational education and training, and providing apprenticeship opportunities in Europe.

13.  Furthermore, ASEAN attaches great importance to the empowerment of women and young girls to enhance their full potential as the driving force of growth and development in the region. As the current Chair of the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network, or AWEN in short, Thailand hopes to promote a network between women entrepreneurs from ASEAN and the EU and create a platform for exchanging best practices between the two sides.

14.  Second, ASEAN and the EU can enhance our partnership by working together to promote green, innovation-based growth. While the EU has the European Green Deal, ASEAN is stepping up our actions to promote green and sustainable economic growth. Thailand, for example, is applying the “Bio-Circular-Green Economy” or BCG Model to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. And at the heart of this development model is the “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy”, or SEP in short.

15.  In the ASEAN context, the region seeks to promote green financing mechanisms, including through the launch of the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility or ACGF. We welcome the EU’s contribution, which will not only help ASEAN meet infrastructure needs, but also promote our shared value of sustainable and green development. In addition, to take forward our partnership on sustainable infrastructure, ASEAN and the EU should work together to identify possible links and synergies between MPAC 2025 and the EU’s strategy to connect Europe and Asia through “Connecting the Connectivities”. And we should seek to safeguard such connectivity from the challenge of transnational crimes and other cross-border challenges, perhaps by enhancing our border management cooperation.

16.  And as for our cooperation on climate action, combating marine debris is ASEAN’s top environmental priorities, and we see great potential for ASEAN-EU cooperation in this area. This will help support the implementation of the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region and its Framework of Action.  

17.  And the third prong, ASEAN and the EU can enhance our partnership by promoting multi-stakeholder partnerships to scale up resources, ownership, and actions. In this regard, I wish to propose the “PPPP” or “4Ps” approach, which stands for the “Public-Private-People and Partnership”. This newly launched ACSDSD in Thailand can also be of use here. Furthermore, South-South and Triangular Cooperation that draws upon enhanced partnership between the public and private sectors can also play an important role in promoting sustainable development. Volunteerism is another way to engage our peoples, especially the young generation who are the future of the ASEAN Community and the European Union, to be part of our joint cause for sustainable development.

18.  I stress that the private sector needs to be engaged in the sustainable development agenda. This means not only the major enterprises, but also MSMEs, which are integral to the economic development and growth of ASEAN, contributing between 30-53 percent to each ASEAN Member States’ GDP. And here, ASEAN is working together to ensure financial inclusion for our MSMEs and I hope that our friends from the European finance institutions at this Dialogue today, and that is EIB, KfW and AFD, will explore the possibility of supporting their access to finance, including through enhancing financial literacy and the development of alternative finance, such as FinTech.    

Now Ladies and Gentlemen and Colleagues,

19.  Achieving the SDGs is certainly a major task that requires strong political will, massive resources, and the inclusive engagement and shared sense of ownership of all stakeholders in society. Now this global commitment may seem ambitious, but through close partnership, nothing is beyond reach.

20.  Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the EU, once said:

              “Beyond differences and geographical boundaries there lies a common interest.”

21.  Had he lived up until today, he would add this: “Common and beyond-common interest, there lies common destiny of mankind with five pillars of the SDGs being the keys of attainment. And that is people partnering for peace, prosperity, and the sustainability of the planet”

22.  Our ASEAN-EU meeting today is testimonial to such precious joint efforts for this end goal of the five Ps. And in a nutshell, we are doing just that to exemplify a healthy mutually reinforcing inter-regional partnership on sustainable development between ASEAN and the EU

23.  Let’s salute to that. I thank you