Top Stories : Opening Statement by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific –  Regional Management Meeting Centara Grand Hotel, Bangkok 9 March 2017 between 08.30-09.15 a.m. News

Top Stories : Opening Statement by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific – Regional Management Meeting Centara Grand Hotel, Bangkok 9 March 2017 between 08.30-09.15 a.m.

Opening Statement

by

H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand,

at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific –
Regional Management Meeting

Centara Grand Hotel, Bangkok

9 March 2017 between 08.30-09.15 a.m.

 

Her Excellency Mrs. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator,

Mr. Haoliang Xu, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific,

Mr. Luc Stevens, UNDP Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Thailand,

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

1.            At the outset, I would like to thank the host for inviting me to this gathering – to share with you my thoughts and humble suggestions on “Global Challenges and the 2030 Agenda” and how to make the UN development system more effectively deliver its service. As the host country here in Thailand, let me also take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to you all to Thailand. Thailand is certainly proud to be a regional hub of United Nations agencies, international organizations and businesses. I am sure that, for many of you, this is not the first time visiting Thailand. So, welcome back!

 

A New Development Era : Global challenges and the 2030 Agenda

 

Distinguished Participants,

 

2.            For decades now, Asia-Pacific has been the center of attention. The region’s total GDP has almost been tripled during the past five decades. And the past fifteen years saw noticeable reduction of poverty. Yet, inequalities among nations or among people have been on the rise. Rapid urbanization has led to the overcrowding situation, insufficient infrastructure, as well as the rise of the number of the urban poor. Many societies including Thailand, are facing with aging population and labor shortage. Now more than ever, people leave their homes to seek better opportunities abroad. While migration has brought with it a multitude of related challenges - environmental degradation, climate change, and natural and man-made disasters -, these have made this world more fragile and people more vulnerable. Although not so much in the Asia-Pacific, extremism and xenophobia have been on rampage to haunt us. 

3.            These daunting challenges require thought-through solutions and collective actions. We could not continue business-as-usual. We need to change our mindset. As Albert Einstein once said “you cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

 

4.            This journey calls for a “sustainability mindset” and a people-centered approach. It involves governments, the UN system, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, the scientific and academic community. Indeed, it involves everyone, every single member of this planet.

 

Transforming the UN development system to remain relevant

 

5.            Against such scenario comes then a query. What role of the UN development system do we need in this new development context?

 

6.            Like any organization, the UN needs to evolve and to always strive for excellence. As we were often told in most business schools, “What has taken you here won’t get you there.” Being good is simply not good enough, we need to be great and we need to be going further together. But what and how? Three related points could come into the picture.

 

7.            Firstly, we need the UN system that does not impose but respond to the needs of people on the ground; the UN system that understands local contexts and realities; the UN system that does not readily judge, but seeks to help the host country overcome its constraints and difficulties. 

 

8.            Many in our societies still are mistaking the UN for an NGO.Even after over 70 years of the UN’s existence. If we follow social media not only in Thailand but also in other countries near and far, we will see negative rhetoric against the UN. Many feel that UN personnel do not understand local contexts but bring with them fixed mindsets or are being donor-driven.

 

9.            As a former Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations in New York, I fully appreciate tremendous efforts and contributions the UN system has made in maintaining peace and security, development, and human rights all over the world. But the UN may need to do more public outreach to sensitize the poor people on the issues on your agenda in making this world a better place. This is crucial. This kind of negative sentiment towards the UN, as you know, is not only rising in developing countries but in developed countries as well.  Multilateralism and the UN are being challenged and something needs to be done about it.

 

10.       Secondly, we need the UN system that can work in partnership with government as well as the private sector, academia, civil society organizations and communities. Of course, in any national development, national ownership and leadership is key. Government will need to take the leading role while the UN can support. For governments, UN services are expected to serve as an important tool to assist in addressing national priorities. Therefore, UN agencies have to find a balance between national priorities and UN agencies’ priorities. Actually, this is not difficult since national priorities are almost always consistent with internationally agreed development goals. Take Thailand’s vision, for instance, “Thailand 4.0”, which fully aligns with inter-governmentally agreed commitments. We are committed to build a sustainable society, that is the 2030 Agenda; an innovative society, that is the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; a resilient society, very much the Sendai Framework; and a low-carbon society of the Paris Agreement.

 

11.       The UN needs to also work more with the private sector. Resource mobilization from government only will not suffice to cope with current world challenges. Involving the private sector will be instrumental. In Thailand, the UNDP has been talking to the government on co-financing, and the result has not been quite successful so far, as we have our budget cycle and both sides need to work on mutually agreed projects. But we’re glad that we’re the contributor of around 400,000 to the UNDP country office here in Bangkok and also 800,000 or more to the UNDP headquarter in New York. Working with the private sector maybe your answer, as many Thai companies have invested abroad, have developed a global mindset, and are more readily engaged with global agendas, especially the 2030 Agenda. They also launched the Thai Chapter of UN Global Compact last year.  

 

12.       Thirdly, we need the UN development system that can work and coordinate more among the UN family. It is a good opportunity to take stock of UN agencies’ available resources, capacities, and knowledge. This brings up the same old issues of coordination among UN agencies including the UN regional commissions. Coordination is not only to ensure efficient implementation and avoid duplication, given each agency’s mandate and expertise. It is also key to effective planning, monitoring and flexibility to address new priorities and needs as well as maximizing resources. As home to the UNESCAP, Thailand would also like to recommend all UNDP and UN Resident Coordinator offices to coordinate closely with UNESCAP and to make the most use of its networks and experiences in regional development.

13.       With all that, a pertinent question is: What can Thailand assist the UNDP?

 

14.       We encourage UNDP to strengthen support for member States in the areas of South-South and triangular cooperation. It is practical, and economical, to import knowledge and best practices from within the region, rather than from afar. It also applies to mobilizing resources. Thailand, for example, is ready to share our knowledge and best practices in applying Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which we called in short “SEP”, as a practical approach to sustainable development with interested countries. We have initiated the ‘SEP for SDGs Partnership’ and there are more than 22 countries identified as ‘Friends of SEP’ today. UNDP is invited to explore a wide range of SEP applications and work with us to support interested countries through South-South and triangular cooperation. UNDP Country Programme Document for the period of 2017-2021 has incorporated the possible cooperation with the Royal Thai Government in this regard. Let us now put words into actions.

 

And this, Distinguished Participants, brings us to a concluding part of the statement.

 

15.       The success of UN development system in achieving the SDGs depends on how it manages to re-align its roles in the new context and to respond to national priorities and needs, as well as to engage more effectively with multi stakeholders. Thailand hopes to be able to count on UNDP’s partnership in implementing our development plans including the SDGs. With national capacities aside, as ASEAN’s coordinator with the UN on SDGs, Thailand also reaffirms our willingness to work with the UN development system, all stakeholders and partners in order to leave no one behind.

 

16.       I wish you all a productive meeting and a pleasant stay in Thailand.

 

Thank you.

 

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