Resident Coordinator's Keynote Remarks for the 68th Anniversary Lunch Talk of the Thai Journalists Association
05 March 2023
[As prepared for delivery]
Distinguished journalists, colleagues, and friends,
I am delighted to address you today on the 68th anniversary of the Thai Journalist Association (TJA), which is a testament to its long and illustrious history as well as to the importance of journalism in Thailand.
I would like to congratulate the prize winners. Their accomplishments highlight the professionalism and dedication of Thai journalists.
Let me also commend the new members of the TJA’s Executive Board.
At the UN, we are looking forward to continuing to work with you on Thailand’s green transition as the media has a key role to play in highlighting environmental and social issues that impact us all.
The strengths of the country’s media landscape is also demonstrated by the fact that Thailand is a regional hub for foreign media, including many prominent news organizations.
Journalists are critical to sustainable development, social cohesion and inclusion as their profession serves an invaluable social role in disseminating information, while also acting as a bulwark against shrinking civic spaces.
The media also plays a vital role in enabling civil society to advance the SDGs and the leave no one behind agenda. They do this through balanced reporting on local challenges, highlighting issues of social importance and promoting accountability and good governance.
That is why public trust in the media is very important and journalists can foster faith in their work and profession through factual, reliable and impartial reporting.
In today’s polarized societies worldwide we need to reduce divisions as well as “misinformation” and work together towards the common good for the benefits of everyone.
This approach, I believe, should entail highlighting not just what ails our societies but also our progress in transforming them in positive directions.
Many of these positive developments include the United Nations’ partnerships through its agencies with the media in Thailand.
UNESCO has been promoting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. IOM is working with the media to promote accurate and balanced reporting on migrants that respects their rights. OHCHR has been building the capacity of women journalists with a special focus on women’s rights and the safety of digital spaces.
We are keen to further deepen our engagement with you as the media will be key as the country progresses the green transformation by reporting on challenges and the solutions to them.
Thailand is well positioned to be a leader in sustainability thanks to the Government’s forward-looking development agenda and the private sector’s commitments to greening the economy.
The Government has set out to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century, revising its greenhouse reduction target from 20 per cent to 30 per cent below a business-as-usual scenario, in line with its net zero emission goal by 2060.
In real terms, this means Thailand’s emissions in 2030 will be lower than in 2020.
At the same time, the private sector is making its own progress and commitments.
Members of the Global Compact Network in Thailand or GCNT, which include many prominent businesses, have reduced GHGs by at least 8 million tons of CO2 a year, which is equivalent to 1.6 million cars being taken off roads.
In a global first, GCNT members recently committed to helping protect 30% of land and marine areas nationwide in alignment with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, including reforestation efforts to boost wildlife habitats and create new carbon sinks.
This shows that leading businesses nationwide increasingly recognize that biodiversity conservation must lie at the heart of business decisions. However, all businesses will need to take firm steps to ensure their operations do not harm the country’s biodiversity in any way either on land or underwater.
All these commitments by the public and private sectors are crucial in the current global context, where many countries are losing their hard-earned development gains.
For the first time in three decades human development has declined globally, according to UNDP’s Human Development Index, which measures nations’ health, education, and standards of living.
We are now back to 2016 levels with nine out of 10 countries having registered a decline in their HDI score.
This has been precipitated by a changing climate, the economic aftershocks of the pandemic, shortfalls in green finance, global supply chain issues and food shortages. Despite these challenges, however, Thailand has managed to sustain progress on many of the SDGs.
ESCAP’s evidence-based assessment, supported by government data, indicates that Thailand has made strong progress on a number of SDGs from infrastructure and industrial development to gender equality.
However, our analysis also tells us that acceleration is needed on other SDGs. These include protecting life on land and underwater; reducing inequalities; supporting sustainable agriculture; eliminating food losses; and building stronger institutions.
To that end, the UN Country Team with its 21 agencies is offering support through our Cooperation Framework with Thailand, which sets out our priorities in partnership with the Government, private sector, and civil society.
We are prioritizing three key areas. These are: one, supporting a transition to a green and low-carbon economy; two, speeding up a digital transformation to empower communities and people of all ages; and three, addressing inequalities to make sure no one is left behind.
To accelerate progress on these goals, UN is maximizing its convening power to bring bankers, investors, and asset managers to scale up green finance.
We’re leveraging our regional assets for cutting-edge evidence-based solutions for air pollution.
And we’re promoting human rights and gender equality based on the principle of leaving no one behind.
Thailand’s green transformation also requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, which means localizing the SDGs nationwide.
As part of this, the UN, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior (MOI), convened all the 76 Governors of Thailand in Bangkok last year. The Governors committed to sustained actions on the SDGs and climate across provinces.
This partnership is already yielding tangible results in the scaling up of waste segregation which will soon reach 12 million households.
Based on an independent third-party verification process, this will translate into more than 530,000 tons of CO2 reductions annually for the MOI. The carbon credits which were just approved by Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization, will allow local authorities to trade and generate economic value through cashing in carbon credits.
Let me give you three examples of our ongoing collaborations with the public and private sectors in support of the SDGs.
One, in the high-polluting aluminium and steel sector, the UNIDO, together with the Government, introduced scrap-processing smelters, regenerative furnaces, and carbon-absorbing solvents in the aluminium and steel industries.
These technologies are being scaled up to 40 per cent of aluminium and 70 per cent of steel plants.
Two, in the agricultural sector FAO and UNDP, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, are partnering with 300 small and medium-sized enterprises to identify low-cost technologies for cutting food waste and improving production chains in snack foods, fermented rice, animal products, fishery, and dairy.
By introducing and improving simple processes in monitoring and quality control these businesses have been able to reduce food waste by half and increase returns by over 17 per cent.
Three, in the tourism sector, more than 1,000 large and medium-sized hotels at tourism hotspots across the country have signed on to UNESCO’s Sustainable Travel Pledge to reduce the use of disposable plastics.
The MOI is also assessing the carbon footprint for Thai fabric produced by nearly 2 million women handicraft weavers and devising ways to reduce emissions throughout the lifecycle of products.
One solution lies in traditionally used natural dyes, which can boost circularity and eliminate environmental impacts.
This will place Thai fabric on the global stage while ensuring its competitiveness vis a vis fabric from other countries.
Young people across Thailand are increasingly engaged in the creative economy and we can leverage their can-do spirit for transformative changes.
To do that, we must continue to expand opportunities and create spaces for them to acquire skills and benefit from green jobs in support of the SDGs.
At the UN we have set up an SDG Youth Panel to serve as an advisory body for me and UN agency heads. This allows youth in the country to bring their voices into our decision-making processes.
From them I have learned that more and more young people around Thailand are environmentally conscious. Many are also engaged in a range of grassroots initiatives from creating meals from food waste for the needy to advocating for a ban on single-use plastics.
However, for young people to play a greater role in advancing the SDGs in Thailand, we will also need to raise awareness.
According to a recent survey undertaken with the NIDA, only one in five people in Thailand are familiar with the SDGs.
Awareness is even lower among young people, which may seem counterintuitive as youth are increasingly leading action on climate change.
That is why journalists like yourselves are so important.
Your work is key to shining a light on issues of sustainability and raising awareness of them among people of all ages.
With your help we can leverage Thailand’s thriving media landscape to turn the country into a green, low-carbon, inclusive and just nation, which serves as a beacon of sustainability in the region and beyond.
We at the UN will be happy to assist you in this and our doors are always open.