Ambassador Remco van Wijngaarden.
Dr. Surasri Kidtimonton, Secretary-General of the Office of National Water Resources.
Distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends.
Let me begin by thanking you Ambassador for hosting the joint briefing on the UN Water Conference.
Your government’s leadership together with the Republic of Tajikistan is vital in the lead up to the Water Conference and securing voluntary commitments to accelerate progress.
Water is intricately tied to all areas of our lives, just as it is vital for all life on earth. Yet this most precious resource is increasingly in short supply globally.
Many of us take freshwater for granted, while a quarter of the world’s population uses unsafe drinking water.
The planet’s water bodies are being polluted at alarming rates with the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into our oceans every minute, with majority of this coming from rivers.
That is why we need effective, integrated, and coordinated actions at all levels of societies with the involvement of politicians, businesses, scientists, and young people.
We need all stakeholders to work together on resilient, replicable, and lasting solutions to preserve our water sources under stress from human activities and climate change.
As the highest-profile water-related event at the UN in a half century, the Water Conference will be a perfect opportunity to address the global water crisis.
Its comprehensive dialogues will allow countries to change gears and accelerate much-needed actions.
Unlike the binding Paris Agreement on climate change and the upcoming Nairobi Agreement to end plastic waste, the Water Action Agenda adopted at the Conference will be voluntary.
However, its implementation will be a make-or-break decision that must be predicated on the operating principle of being action-oriented in a comprehensive manner.
This approach must underlie our collective vision for scaling up implementation, mobilizing resources and tracking progress.
Thailand has an important role to play in this within the region and we already seeing significant commitments in country in line with the Water Action Agenda.
Access to clean freshwater and sanitation is a basic human right anchored in SDG 6, and Thailand has made good progress on this goal, based on ESCAP’s analysis.
A robust evidence base is critical for effective water resource management and the country’s National Hydroinformatics Data Center collects data on a broad range of water-related issues from over 50 agencies nationwide. This supports closer coordination, forecasts, and disaster warning.
Thailand is also building capacity for advanced big earth data technologies for monitoring and evaluating progress on SDG 6.
In addition, it has joined a UN initiative to educate young people in schools about sustainable ancestral practices that utilize rainwater as a crucial freshwater resource during seasonal droughts.
Solutions such as this will be key to alleviating water shortages in the face of a changing climate.
Other locally owned solutions must advance water sustainability in both urban and rural areas, promote integrated water resources management practices, adopt nature-based water solutions, and deploy science-based technologies, including digitization.
Thailand is also engaging internationally through the Asia-Pacific Water Forum partnership.
Cross-national cooperation will be vital, going forward, as transboundary rivers basins like the Mekong account for 60 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources.
We need firm political commitments across nations within ASEAN and Thailand can serve as a catalyst for this.
UNEP will speak more to the transboundary dimension, including opportunities for closer cooperation and scaling up actions to prevent and reduce impacts on transboundary water sources.
As for the UN Country Team, we are prioritizing three broad areas of engagement where we bring to bear targeted policy advice, cutting-edge science, and our convening power on water management issues.
One involves supporting the responsible use of antimicrobials in aquaculture to help preserve freshwater sources while also improving public health. This is being led by FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives which will also support the strengthening of sustainable food systems in the country.
The second targets tracking plastic leakage and waste accumulation hotspots along the Mekong River to inform policies. 258 locations in Thailand have been identified using digital technology and young citizen scientists. UNEP’s leadership has been critical in generating the scientific knowledge as we leverage financial mechanisms for uptake and behavioral change.
And three, our ongoing waste assessments across 20 cities led by UN-HABITAT and UNIDO is translating into developing a pipeline of bankable projects in partnership with the Asian Development Bank and municipalities to fund sustainable solutions for waste management.
The UN Water Conference will flesh out these and other pressing issues in far more detail.
It will also map the way forward through actionable policies and interventions for the region and the entire planet.
Let me thank you Ambassador for your hospitality and leadership.
I am very much looking forward to hearing the latest from Dr. Surasri as he shares the government’s perspective in the run up to the UN Water Conference.