Resident Coordinator's Keynote Speech for NIC-NIDA Conference — Working towards SDGs, BCG and Inclusive Growth in the Global Economy
18 August 2022
[as prepared for delivery]
Professor Tippawan, NIDA President, Dr Preecha, Chairperson NIDA Council,
Distinguished guests, colleagues and friends,
I am delighted to address you at this important conference where we will greatly benefit from all the views and insights presented by the participating scholars, academics, experts, professionals, and university students.
Let me thank NIDA for its valuable collaboration with the UN over the years and for giving me this opportunity to share my views from a UN perspective on topics that are crucial to inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Thailand’s aim to achieve the SDGs by means of its Bio-circular-green-economy model with a focus on inclusive growth is extremely important and closely tied to the UN’s broader global development agenda.
Inclusive growth and the attainment of the SDGs are key elements of long-term sustainability and critical for a bio-circular-green transformation in the country.
Thailand will benefit greatly from that transformation and enjoys a distinct edge in its progress towards it premised on the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which also underpins the UN’s goals.
Just as the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy has been a longstanding pillar of Thailand’s transformative aspirations so has the United Nations been a close partner in those endeavors.
As you know, the United Nations has worked closely with Thailand for over 75 years, partnering in achieving inclusive and sustainable development in all its dimensions.
Our Country Team consists of 21 UN agencies that work in tandem with the Royal Thai Government, provincial administrations, the private sector, and other stakeholders, including NIDA.
The collective goal of all these UN agencies and their partnerships is to accelerate progress on the SDGs based on our Cooperation Framework with Thailand.
We at the United Nations are committed to leveraging the bio-circular green agenda to achieve the SDGs.
An analysis of the SDG progress for the country shows that climate-related goals with a specific focus on life on land and under water, sustainable consumption and production need acceleration. Far more work will need to be done to lower green house gases, boost resilience, protect biodiversity, manage waste, and increase inclusivity.
To that end, the United Nations is lending support with an integrated policy approach while leveraging science-based solutions for improved climate action.
We are supporting innovation and a digital transformation in line with the aims of Thailand 4.0.
We are working to leave no one behind and enhance human capital.
And we do all this by providing cutting-edge and evidence-based analysis, while maximizing the United Nation’s convening power to bring the private and the financial sectors together, towards reducing carbon emissions, greening the supply chains and fostering sustainability.
Let me give you some specific examples of what we are doing in country to partner with Thailand in its journey in support of the bio circular green transformation.
One: the UN is supporting the reduction of carbon emissions in high-polluting industries, including SMEs by introducing the best available technologies in partnership with the Ministry of Industry. These clean technologies include scrap-processing smelters, regenerative furnaces, and carbon-absorbing solvents to green value chains.
UNIDO has also been undertaking assessments in 40 companies to introduce resource- and energy-efficient measures. These assessments lead to interventions for reducing waste and overall environmental footprints.
They are being replicated across other companies and are easily scalable. Our pilots have already been taken up by 70% of the steel and nearly half of the aluminum industry.
Second: we are working on improving waste management, which is another urgent priority.
UNEP, UN-HABITAT and UNIDO, in partnership with provincial administrations and cities, have been conducting waste management assessments at 20 hotspots to inform policy and practices.
The assessments show that three-quarters of waste ends up in landfills and dumpsites that are nearing saturation.
In addition to piloting methods of segregating, collecting, and processing waste, we are also raising awareness about the need to reduce household and industrial waste, increase recovery and improve recycling.
Third: the UN is deploying smart agriculture to address food losses and boost food security.
FAO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture is working with Thai farmers to introduce precision agriculture practices, which save resources, protect the environment, and enhance productivity.
These pilots can be scaled up because nearly half of Thai farmers are using digital technologies.
With more than 12 million people around the country depending on agriculture, including many small-scale farmers, this is a key focus for climate action and sustainable food systems.
Fourth: the UN is partnering with the private sector including SMEs through the GCNT as they are key to accelerating advancement of SDGs.
SMEs which comprise majority of the companies, shows that they have an essential role to play in the BCG transformation.
With that in mind, the UN will need to work much more closely with SMEs to scale up engagement through the private sector along both horizontal and vertical value chains.
Most of the Global Compact in Thailand has committed to carbon neutrality by 2050 and the private sector reduced its carbon emissions by 7 million tons, or 2% of the country’s total GHGs, in the last year.
Fifth: we’re working on human capital development based on our principle of leaving no one behind.
The BCG economy requires not only targeted policy processes and technological innovations but also inclusive skills development and greater inclusion for marginalized groups.
As a result, one of our targeted demographics is youth with the aim of bringing them front and center in policy dialogues and decision making.
At the same time, we’re addressing systemic barriers that continue holding back women, people with disabilities and others from fully participating in the sustainable economy.
Finally, we’re piloting technologies for boosting health and wellbeing across Thailand.
In a pilot project,we’re using science-based evidence to better understand the sources of air pollution, which can cause or worsen all manner of diseases.
The UN leverages its regional assets through ESCAP to access satellite imagery and undertake chemical fingerprinting of smoke. This enables us to understand in real-time the exact sources of air pollution, its levels of toxicity and health impacts.
We learned that most harmful air pollution in Thai cities is caused by smoke from seasonal biomass burning and industrial emissions.
Analysis suggests that air pollution impacts women more than men with a statistically higher rate of illness, death, and pregnancy-related complications.
This is a pressing health concern, and the UN is taking this partnership to support 10 provinces to develop strategies to reduce air pollutants.
At the same time, we have been working on telemedicine initiatives to bring much-needed medical resources to communities without easy access to them.
One example of this is a collaboration between WHO, Ministry of Health and Chiang Mai University in Lampang Province whose aim is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension.
Groups of trained volunteers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, are collaborating with village volunteers to provide basic treatment and counselling on healthy lifestyles to people with chronically high blood pressure.
This is an essential undertaking as many villagers, especially in remote areas, lack regular access to modern medicine.
As you can see from these examples there are challenges on multiple fronts, but there are just as many opportunities.
Leveraging partnerships with the Government, provincial authorities, the private sector, financial markets, and young people alongside a whole host of other stakeholders, we can accelerate progress on the SDGs through targeted policies and science-based solutions in support of Thailand’s BCG transformation.
In closing, I would like to express my thanks to all the distinguished scholars, and university students who are participating in this important conference.
I am very much looking forward to continuing to engage with all of you as we work towards achieving SDGs and fast tracking the BCG model in Thailand and across the ASEAN region.