"Green Development"

Speech by Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn at the Ambassadors Club in Berlin, 8 June 2016

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Ms Feilcke-Dierck,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is a saying in Thailand that goes: "A life without friends is a life without light." With that thought in mind, let me say that I am very pleased about the invitation from our Thai friends!

I have great admiration for all that His Royal Highness has done over the last 70 years. Thank you for telling us about the Royal Projects. I am pleased to hear that you currently have an exhibition showcasing the projects.

Since these projects were launched in 1969, Thailand has achieved a great deal: The productivity of the agricultural sector in Thailand has increased considerably and food prices have fallen, so that rural poverty has been reduced and the problem of hunger has been tackled. Just in the period from 2000 to 2013, there was a huge fall in poverty: from 42.6 per cent in 2000 to 10.9 per cent in 2013. Thailand owes this achievement very much to the commitment of His Majesty and his concept of a "sufficiency economy".

This year we are celebrating 60 years of partnership between the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Thailand. Thank you very much for the splendid cooperation that there has been with your Kingdom during this time.

Since our cooperation began in 1956, we have together implemented over 200 projects for a total volume of more than 1 billion euros. Since then our two countries have gone through some significant changes and this has also changed our partnership too.

During the first decades of German cooperation with Thailand our priority areas were vocational training and rural and agricultural development.

And so it was that, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Thailand and Germany cooperated on improving meat and milk production through the Thai-German Livestock and Farming Project "Chiang Mai". This project later became a cooperative.

In the nineteen-eighties and nineties, Thailand then worked successfully with the BMZ on substituting drug crops with other agricultural products such as vegetables and coffee. The substituted products gave people a legal way of earning a living and helped fight drug-related crime.

As Thailand transitioned to become an emerging economy and an industrialised country, the focus of our cooperation moved more and more towards making growth environmentally and socially compatible.

As you all know, Thailand is now an upper-middle-income country. Within the next decade Thailand hopes to become a higher-income country. As a result of this, Thailand has now itself become active on the donor side of development cooperation. That is why we have developed new forms of cooperation:

In 2008, Thailand and Germany embarked on a Partnership for Sustainable Development and since then our two countries have been engaged in joint development cooperation efforts in third countries. The objective of this partnership is to pass on the shared experiences of Thai-German cooperation to the least developed countries in the region and to promote the ASEAN integration process.

Let me mention one example of this triangular cooperation: At the initiative of the Thai side we have become involved in passing on to our partners in Timor-Leste lessons learned from the Thai "sufficiency economy" approach so as to support the agricultural sector and rural development. This way the experience gained from long years of Thai-German cooperation in the area of rural development can live on.

Another important form of cooperation for sustainable development in Asia is regional cooperation between Asian states and cooperation with regional organisations.

We have quite a bit of experience with that kind of cooperation in Europe. And we have come to realise that regional cooperation and integration bring with them a lot of challenges but also – and above all – they bring opportunities!

For example, sustainable development and climate protection are only possible on the basis of cooperation. Climate change does not stop at national borders.

But regional integration is a process that needs to be worked at. It remains – as we have also come to realise in Europe – a constant challenge. And we are there to support our partners in Asia with assistance through German development cooperation as they seek to address these challenges.

That is why regional organisations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are important partners for us in our cooperation with Asia. Thailand plays a key role in ASEAN.

The priority areas of German cooperation with ASEAN are protecting the environment and the climate, and regional economic integration.

For example, we are supporting ASEAN through the project "Promotion of Renewable Energies in the ASEAN region". This is a programme aimed at helping ASEAN member states to improve the general conditions for renewable energy.

Thailand too – just like Germany – is putting a strong emphasis on developing renewable energies. That is living green development!

The agricultural and food sectors are important for the economies of the countries in the ASEAN region. Almost 45 per cent of paid workers in ASEAN countries are employed in these two sectors. That is why we are helping countries to implement the national food security guidelines they have established for themselves. In Thailand we are cooperating very closely with the Department of Agriculture on this topic.

We welcome pan-Asian integration because we see Asia as a region of the future. Half of all humanity lives in Asia. And by 2030 there will be an additional half a billion people living in the Asia-Pacific region alone. That is the same as adding another Europe. There will be half a billion more people who need a good education.

Asia has impressively dynamic economies. The whole continent has been remarkably successful in reducing poverty. This economic development is likely to continue. The average growth rate forecast for Asia is almost six per cent. That is a growth rate we in Europe can only dream about right now.

But Asia is also a continent of contrasts:

Some Asian emerging economies are economic and political heavyweights, and are helping to shape the international agenda. Other countries that are plagued by violence and fragility are in danger of slipping behind.

Although per capita income has risen in almost every country in the region, so too have inequalities. According to the IMF, Asia is the region with the greatest social inequalities in the world.

And, in addition to that, Asia is already producing more than half of all global CO2 emissions. Meanwhile energy demand is set to double by 2030; because there are still 500 million people in Asia who have no access to electricity.

At the same time, however, Asia is also feeling the negative impacts of climate change:

  • Floods and heat waves have become more frequent both in Asia and in Europe over the last few years. The consequences for the population, the economy and nature are devastating.
  • Crop yields are falling; economic productivity is down; water is getting scarcer; infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and dengue fever are on the increase.

As you can see: Asia has an enormous need for "green" or – to put it another way – sustainable development. And the world needs Asia in the fight for a stable climate, for more sustainability and for a fairer world.

A compass in this regard is the 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This Agenda is not just some paper or other, it is a Pact on the World’s Future. It represents a global transformation towards sustainability.

For the first time ever all the countries in the world have agreed to work together to create opportunities for the future: for a decent life for all people in this world and for development that does not push our planet beyond its limits.

Germany is working on implementing the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals at three levels: First in Germany itself. Second we are supporting the implementation efforts of our partner countries. And third we are working at the international level to make sure that global conditions are development friendly.

Another compass for what we are doing is the Paris climate agreement, which was signed last year by 196 countries. By 2050, we want to have reduced global emissions by 40 to 70 per cent. Decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions is the vision. That is a green revolution!

A revolution that is urgently needed. Because climate change is destroying livelihoods. Beginning in those places where the people are least able to protect themselves against the impacts on their lives. That is why we are helping to stop climate change. Germany will double its contribution to climate finance between now and 2020 – bringing it to 4 billion euros. The lion’s share of the funds (90 per cent) will be channelled through the BMZ. For example, the BMZ is supporting many partner countries in transitioning to climate-friendly development paths.

Both these compasses have in common that in each case sustainability must become the standard – in agriculture and in rural development, too. In other words, we must ensure that our efforts to supply the world with food and agricultural commodities are sustainable in every way – the environment, the economy, society – all must be sustainable.

Let me finish with another Thai saying:

"Friends with whom you can spend time together are easy to find, but it is harder to find people who are always there for you."

Thailand and Germany have found friendship together. The good and successful cooperation of the last 60 years shows that. And I am pleased to be able to work with you as partners for sustainable development on shaping the global transition to sustainability.

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