Prayut: 'Building back better'

Prayut: 'Building back better'

Never in our recent history have we faced a major challenge such as coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19). This pandemic is going to bring about drastic changes to our economies and societies, and will force us to adapt and change our way of life. We can no longer return to a “Business as usual” mode and must be prepared to embrace the “New Normal”.

I wish to take this opportunity to commend and extend support to every country in surmounting this crisis. Thailand is fully committed to controlling and responding to the spread of Covid-19 in the most effective manner. The Thai government has undertaken upstream, midstream and downstream measures, including screening and restrictions of international travel and the stay-at-home campaign. We have ensured adequate medical services, supplies and equipment; provision of accurate and transparent information to the public; as well as the promotion of community participation, including through the more than one million village health volunteers nationwide. Medical treatment for both Thai and non-Thai patients residing in Thailand along with remedial measures to alleviate social and economic effects have also been provided. The Thai government is confident that we can contain the outbreak, but we will remain vigilant while taking a step-by-step approach to ensure that we do not see a second wave of outbreak.

While we practise social distancing, we are not only keeping distance from one another but also from the environment and natural resources. Curbs on travel and tourism including the closure of national parks, seas and beaches have provided space for the environment to recuperate. It is now more evident than ever that human activities have greatly contributed to nature’s imbalance and its degradation. As we embark on our recovery from this crisis, we must bear in mind the importance of maintaining balance among economic, social, environmental and development activities with a view to reviving nature and ensuring a balanced and sustainable ecosystem.

The theme of this commission session underscores the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas which are of great significance to Thailand. Last year, as chair of Asean, Thailand took part in the advocacy efforts of member states to adopt the “Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the Asean Region”, which emphasises enhanced cooperation to prevent, reduce and manage marine debris by supporting innovation, enhancing research capability, applying scientific knowledge as well as promoting inclusive participation of all relevant sectors. Therefore, I hope to be able to carry forward cooperation on this matter with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) and its members. At the same time, the apparent restoration of nature that I referred to as we implemented measures to combat Covid-19, in particular the reappearance of various wildlife and marine species, should give all of us impetus to be more environmentally conscious as we move forward.

The Covid-19 crisis has gravely impacted national and global economies. It will also affect our endeavours to achieve the sustainable development goals or SDGs. But in every crisis lies an opportunity. I would like to encourage all of us to rethink and find new and sustainable ways to advance cooperation in various areas such as food and energy security, public health, the environment, employment, digital and supply chain connectivity, the facilitation of transport of goods and logistics and people-to-people connectivity.

In addition, utilising the full potential of the digital economy will help mitigate economic impacts and disruptions to the supply chain, especially for essential goods, medicines and medical equipment caused by the pandemic.

The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP), Thailand’s path to achieving sustainable development, underlines the balance between economic, social and environmental development. SEP emphasises a people-centred approach to development that leaves no one behind, which entails grassroots empowerment and returning opportunities to the people, particularly to the vulnerable. When individuals and communities are empowered, the society and country will be resilient and continue to grow, immune to future challenges.

In our efforts to build back better, Thailand stresses the importance of supporting local economies, digital development and the promotion of the agricultural sector by ensuring food security, strengthening community businesses and fostering sustainability of grassroots economies. Bio Circular Green Economy (BCG) is a business model that will help promote sustainable growth that is environmentally friendly and inclusive.

This year marks the United Nation's 75th anniversary, and the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a litmus test to multilateralism. In ensuring its continued relevance, the UN and the multilateral system need to evolve to better reflect the interests of member states. We must cooperate, listen and exchange more knowledge with one another. As the main regional forum, Escap plays a vital role as a platform for the exchange of experiences and best practices among countries. Covid-19 has clearly demonstrated that the effects of crises do not respect boundaries. We must, therefore, assist one another. Otherwise, we will all fail and will be defeated by this pandemic. The recent Special Asean Summit on Covid-19 demonstrated common political will and resolve of Asean member states to address this critical issue.

As we build back better, we must stand firm and united in our pursuit for sustainability. In moving forward together, we must survive today. Tomorrow, we must become stronger. We must leave no one behind as we advance toward the goals ahead. The clock is ticking for the remaining decade of action and delivery to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We must, therefore, accelerate our collective efforts to build back better, drawing upon lessons learned and intensify cooperation in order to pass on a sustainable world to future generations.

An adaptation of remarks by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha at the opening of the 76th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Thursday.

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