Your Excellencies Ministers of Environment of the People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors of the Republic of Finland, Republic of Korea, and Kingdom of Sweden to Cambodia,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen distinguished national and international guests,
It is my honor and great pleasure to be in the opening of the 3rd Environment Ministers’ Meeting of the Great Mekong Sub-region held in Phnom Penh, the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. This important meeting is a great opportunity for the GMS countries and development partners to jointly review past progress and remaining challenges to seek solutions that bring common and mutual benefits among the GMS countries. I am extremely pleased to meet Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen who have key role in promoting development and ensuring environmental sustainability in the region.
Indeed, the substantive progress we have made relies on some key factors, including economic and political stability in the region as well as timely policy responses of the country members and strong support from development partners that have led to such dynamic investment from both public and private sector. In this spirit, we should continue to explore new mechanisms to strengthen and double our cooperation for the sake of the region’s common causes and mutual benefits to bring about peace, stability and prosperity to our people. We have already moved a step forward with firm commitment to create favorable environment for business development and to realize long-term sustainable growth for our people and the region. Within this context, the Royal Government of Cambodia firmly believes in the relationship of inter-benefits between states and states in the region.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my appreciation of the close environment cooperation in the region, which has been gradually strengthened and deepened over recent years. I believe that many of our implemented activities not only contribute to the region’s integration effort and strengthening of cooperation, but also narrow development gap in the region. In this regard, we are proud that key challenges are placed on the agenda of this meeting. I would like to encourage all participants to share comments and ideas based your past experiences and lesson-learned to narrow down the most appropriate solutions to the current challenges and lay out measures to create more opportunities.
We clearly recognize that environmental issues have become a hot topic in global agenda. The issues have emerged from many factors, in particular energy security which is one of the most important challenges that require comprehensive and tentative consideration as energy is vital for economic growth and social development, but also poses great environmental risk. Therefore, this meeting presents a good opportunity for all of us to discuss and share the experience of our achievement so far and take common measures to tackle challenges ahead of us to attain economic development and sustainable environment, and more specifically to tackle climate change based on the common vision of regional cooperation.
Cambodia and other GMS countries carefully balance the need of economic development based on the potential of existing resources, in particular, natural resources and water resources in the Mekong Basin and the need of maintaining a sustainable environment. From 2000 to 2009, annual average GDP growth of the GMS countries is 9.5% which is consistent with Cambodia’s average growth of 10.6% per annum between 2003-2007. Through this we could foresee that the whole region will face increase in energy demand in the future. Obviously, for the last few years, the Royal Government of Cambodia has made utmost effort to overcome the global economic crisis, as such Cambodia achieved economic growth of 6% in 2010 with poverty rate dropping to 27.4% in 2009, thanks to its development of the energy sector.
In brief, the development with environmental sustainability is the key goal of Cambodia and countries in the region. This concept could be materialized as long as the development gap could be narrowed down, and member states have mutual understanding for common interest. At the same time, we must jointly formulate policy, plan and programme to integrate transparently environmental aspect into sectoral development, coupled with political will to implement legal standard and to mobilize resource from member states and international communities, which are key factors to attain goals of sustainable development. Moreover, investment in infrastructure, energy, transportation and telecommunication in individual member countries should be carried out with the aim of narrowing development gap between urban and rural areas, which can contribute to the improvement of land usage and protection of natural resources, and development of human resource for ensuring continuity and balance of income generation opportunity. These tasks will enable us to minimize pressure on the environment and natural resources and to promote growth in trade and economic diversification. In parallel, the progress made in rehabilitating and building physical infrastructure and development of clean energy will provide a cost effective alternative which is an economic gain while the assurance of environmental sustainability is a social gain.
Indeed, Cambodia has commenced the quest for green development mechanisms since 2008 to respond to challenges and existing opportunities through developing transportation and energy sector along Southern economic corridor including environmental management and protection. Green development could be an effective solution to climate change as well as regional economic development in the future, maintains investment stability in agriculture, industry, energy, and tourism, transportation sectors, and reduces the adverse impact on ecological system and environmental risk and hazard. I can confirm Cambodia has always cautiously balanced the economic and environmental value for all of its investment projects. Energy investment has been supporting the development of agriculture, industry and tourism sectors. Along with this, I think the development of clean energy is a strategy toward strong integration for Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and ASEAN as well.
In general, Cambodia’s green development effort has been linked to development in GMS, ASEAN, East Asia, China, Europe, and North America. In this context, Cambodia has a strong ability to grab opportunity for agriculture development which is a crucial sector in national economic development. However, at the same time, we also need to guarantee good and favorable investment environment such as political stability and virtuous operation and management capacity to ensure growth among the member countries. In this sense, we should know that the growth of one GMS country can create huge benefits and revenue for other GMS countries; and the growth of each GMS country will bring about prosperity to the whole GMS region.
In the meantime, all member countries have to strengthen cooperation and coordination over water resource management in the Mekong river which is a matter of life and death for the people of Cambodia and the region. Ignoring environmental risks such as climate change can lead to a tremendous impact on water usage and supply, communication infrastructure, food and energy security and biodiversity which, in turn, worsen the pain for each society and the whole region. In this context, we need to recognize the vital importance of the protection of environment and natural resources. Moreover, environment protection and natural resource management are a top priority and pre-requisite for sustainable economic and social developments based on the appropriate, equitable and just usage of natural resources and environmental services.
To this day, through past challenges and our opportunity to jointly address them to ensure green economic development and sustainability of environment in both Cambodia and the GMS, Cambodia is ready to contribute to the universal effort in taking charge of the fate of human beings and to continue to address issues that could have detrimental effects on the environment and natural resources based on technical framework, agreements, and regional and global policies. In this sense, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to call on GMS countries to continue your effort in improving and developing scientific knowledge of national-level and regional-level economic operation and trade so that the environment sustainability can be assured. Also, we should focus more on narrowing development gap via technical assistance programs, technology transfers, trainings, and acceleration of GMS development toward the common vision which is prosperity, peace, and sustainable environment by ensuring that no GMS country has been ignored. Along with this, I believe that, maintaining this mechanism structure will further drive our sub-regional cooperation, reinforce solidarity, friendship and cooperation among neighboring countries, and deepen integration among all member countries to narrow the development gap.
Again, I would like to praise and show my great appreciation of the cooperation, exchange of information and experience, and joint project implementation in the GMS within the economic cooperation framework and principle of sustainable development. At the same time, I would like to thank the international community and development partners for supporting economic development plans and activities in the GMS region by ensuring the protection of environment and management of natural resources are taken into account. In this opportunity, I would like to appeal to development partners to provide more assistance to ensure sustainable development and rapid poverty reduction in each GMS country.
Finally, I would like to wish THE THIRD ENVIROMENT MINISTERS MEETING of GREATER MEKONG SUB-REGION fruitful result with new insightful ideas for addressing challenges ahead to attain economic development and sustainable environment based on joint perception of the regional cooperation.