Remarks of the Resident Coordinator in Thailand at the Global Compact Network Thailand Forum 2020 on 31 Aug 2020

The remarks of the Resident Coordinator in Thailand at the Global Compact Network Thailand Forum 2020 on 31 Aug 2020

It is my great pleasure to be here today on behalf of the United Nations to address this esteemed gathering.

My sincere appreciation to the Global Compact Network in Thailand for convening this timely event. We are coming together at a crucial time as we continue to overcome the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crises and focus our collective efforts for sustainable development.

I take this opportunity to commend his Excellency, the Prime Minister, for his leadership in responding to this crisis. Thailand is globally cited as a success story because of how it immediately responded to the crisis through rigorous contact tracing led by health volunteers, the comprehensive awareness-raising campaign on social distancing, and support to the informal economy, which is predominantly women, so they can continue to support their families and children in this crisis.  

I would also like to congratulate the UN Global Compact on its 20 years of uniting business for a better world. As our key partner, we are grateful to the Global Compact Network in Thailand for its highest commitment and aspirations towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The theme of this conference reflects the important anniversaries of both, the United Nations at 75, and the Global Compact at 20 years. The world is changing rapidly. The world we know today is very different to the one last year!

Today, I offer three areas for reflection. First, forging robust partnerships with a shared responsibility for advancing the SDGs; second, building back better for a greener and more equitable new normal; and third, ensuring no one is left behind as the country moves forward.

Allow me to focus on partnerships – In the year 2020, we enter a decade of action that calls upon us to take concrete steps to accelerate progress on the Agenda 2030.  

Partnerships premised on the principles of collaboration and shared responsibility are imperative for sustainable development. This is an agenda that governments cannot deliver on their own. The private sector must play a central role in making the SDGs a reality. As business leaders, we count on your responsibility. The private sector is certainly about generating jobs – but it is also about leveraging your influence to find solutions to the development challenges of today.

And it’s not a huge investment we are looking at. UNESCAP has calculated that a further investment of 50 baht per person per day is needed to achieve the SDGs in Thailand. 50 baht per person per day to ensure Thailand’s future in terms of planet, people and prosperity.

I recently met with the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Bankers’ Association, the Thai Chambers of Commerce, and the Stock Exchange of Thailand, and I was delighted to learn about the focus on human-centred economic growth in which the people of Thailand are at the heart. Similarly, I had the privilege of meeting with Khun Suphachai last week, and he shared the important contributions made by the private sector in developing the skills of young people, and the valuable work of the Global Compact in driving new thinking in sustainability.

Recognizing the need for stronger collaboration, the UN stands ready to work with you by bringing to bear science-based solutions, global knowledge, and technical expertise. With a presence across 190 countries, we are determined to bring stakeholders together across sectors and across borders. For example, innovation and digitization are top priorities for the UN and we are honored to be working closely with Government to map the digital infrastructure to identify underserved areas, communities, and schools.

My second point of reflection for our collective work is building back better. We must make every effort not to slip into our old ways. This means anchoring our work in a greener and more equitable ‘new normal’. As you may know, economists from 53 countries strongly recommend that green, climate-friendly stimulus measures are best for an economic rebound offering the highest economic multiplier in both the short and long term.

I was impressed with the vision of His Excellency, the Prime Minister, outlining the ‘New World, New Way of Working’ and emphasizing the importance of engaging the public in policy development. I am also most encouraged that the Global Compact in Thailand is setting ambitious targets for their respective companies, with some aiming to be carbon neutral over the coming decade.

It is vital that we champion the cause of the planet with you, given the scale of the crisis and the pace at which global warming is advancing. Addressing haze, reducing CO2 emissions, moving to renewables, doing away with single-use plastics, are just some of the environmental challenges that will demand action from all of us together. 

On the UN side, we are partnering with you to contribute to direct and indirect reductions in CO2 emissions by 8%, and working with SMEs on green technology to reduce greenhouse gases, restore carbon sinks, promote e-mobility and waste management. We are also partnering with local governments to pilot community-led marine conservation strategies to protect biodiversity and expand business linkages between agriculture and sustainable tourism.

In partnership, together, we can even exceed our goals of building back better and set the trend for the region and the world.

My third point is that the COVID crisis has exposed the vulnerability of our social protection systems. People who were just above the poverty line have fallen steeply below, and our collective efforts must reach out to those who are left furthest behind.

We can, once again, learn from Thailand’s example. For instance, the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights is an important achievement, and it speak directly to the values of justice, equality, equity, and inclusion. The Action Plan ensures that the new economic environment recognizes that sustainable investments are the most successful.

Earlier this month, Your Excellency, you opened a coffee shop operated by people with disabilities at Government House, which destigmatizes and creates income for an often-under-represented group. The new normal will demand many more such actions to ensure that the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people, can benefit as part of building back better. We must ensure that everyone in the country has the opportunity to shape the Build Back Better agenda and participate equally.  

I have been particularly impressed with social entrepreneurs in Thailand. These are often young people using technology-based solutions for social good, and at the same time, contributing to prosperity for those in need such as the elderly, small farmers, and marginalized groups. These enterprises are often focused on people at risk of being left behind and are therefore key partners as we work towards the SDGs.

The presence of such an esteemed audience here today demonstrates a high level of commitment. But we must not be complacent, as much more must be done together. Awareness is the first step in taking action.

Looking ahead, as the Resident Coordinator in Thailand, I am driving the UN towards impactful partnerships for a better world. All of us must unite for our collective aspirations of making the SDGs a reality through partnerships, building back better, and leaving no one behind.

Your Excellency, the UN stands committed to supporting you, the people and business leaders in your efforts towards prosperity, peace, and planet.

The world has much to learn from Thailand – and the UN seeks to help partners here to promote those lessons far and wide.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Gita Sabharwal
Resident Coordinator
Ms Gita Sabharwal
United Nations