Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am greatly honored and pleased to address the opening of this very important conference on ASEAN Environmental Year 2003. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I warmly welcome all the distinguished Ministers and delegates from the ASEAN, our friends from China, Japan and the Republic Korea, representatives of the diplomatic corps, UN organizations, NGO community and private sector to our ancient and historical capital of Siem Reap, the land of wonderful Angkor temples. I hope that you will take this rare opportunity to visit many sites, especially Angkor Wat which is the remarkable architecture of human art.
Cambodia is proud and honored to host this important meeting. This event reflects the positive results of our efforts in integrating Cambodia into the regional and international community. I am certain that this meeting will enable us an excellent opportunity to review our region’s accomplishments over the past three years, since our first meeting in Brunei Darussalam in 2000. Our meeting will also provide us with a forum to draw lessons and experience for our future direction “work together towards sustainable development” in the region.
We are conscious that the decisions we make today will have consequences for the whole region and the long future. Inevitably and unavoidably, environmental interests span borders as well as generations. This reality was again emphasized in recent international gatherings – at Doha, and more recently at Johannesburg. Environmental sustainability is a global challenge intimately linked with globalization and responsible multilateral trade and exchanges. All nations have responsibility for the destiny of the world and common worldwide obligations to resolve environmental issues, since “environmental security ” is clearly as important as economic and political security.
At the 1s Greater Mekong Sub-region Summit in Phnom Penh in November 2002, given the concern for our shared future, the Royal Government of Cambodia highlighted some elements that we must promote to help ensure sustainable development and poverty alleviation in the region. These include the followings:
First, implementation and expansion of afforestation and reforestation programs;
Second, the careful management of the natural resources within the region; and
Third, the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
We all stand to gain or to lose depending on whether our environmental management is appropriate or not. Like many other nations, Cambodia has committed itself to the implementation of socio-economic development plans, environmental protection measures and other reforms to alleviate poverty and to ensure sustainable development. Despite facing extreme difficulties and challenges resulted from the legacy of many years of internal conflict, we have achieved good and encouraging progress in stabilizing our society and promoting environmental protection, appropriate natural resource management and in the overall taking major steps forward in poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Indeed, in this new era of globalization we, the nations of ASEAN, must establish more comprehensive frameworks and mechanisms for fruitful cooperation in our shared environment. In this regard, cooperation, that we have to work on, must not be limited just within national framework, but it must be cooperation within regional framework at large.
The Johannesburg Summit of 2002 highlighted some important commitments and implementation initiatives which very much address the needs and priorities of the ASEAN countries. We in ASEAN are committed to pursuing sustainable development across the region – as clearly stipulated in the “ASEAN Vision 2020 “, which highlights “A concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring society”. The vision also calls for a clean and green ASEAN with fully established mechanisms for sustainable development to ensure the protection of the region’s environment, the sustainability of its natural resources and the high quality of life of its people. In particular, the Hanoi Plan of Action calls for the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development. Indeed, these are key initiatives towards poverty reduction and sustainable development in our region.
As you may already know, the recent Informal Meeting of the ASEAN Environment Ministers in November 2002 in Vientiane made further progress toward implementation of specific actions to address the urgent environmental issues that our region are facing, including trans-boundary haze pollution and other regional actions to follow-up after the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The informal Ministerial Meeting also initiated a dialogue within the framework of ASEAN+3 on common environmental issues and future environmental cooperation. Therefore, we need to work more closely to ensure synergies, better resource mobilization, improved coordination and cooperation in order to protect our environment and at the same time enhance economic and social development for our people.
The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly believes that sustainable development along with the sustainable use of natural resources cannot be achieved if poverty issues are not seriously addressed and overcome. Success in poverty reduction requires time, effective policy, well-laid plans, and comprehensive and realistic action programs. Moreover, this task requires political will, implementation passion as well as social forces mobilization in order to achieve the set goal. In this sense, there is the need for broad and radical reforms in key natural resources management sectors such as forestry, fisheries and land, which are major assets of the nation. Our Second Five Year Socio-Economic Plan 2001–2005 stresses that: “A balance must be achieved between economic, cultural and environmental objectives and between economic efficiency of resource use and equity”. To achieve such a balance, we have launched important strategies including: (i) prevention of environmental and resource degradation caused by policy distortions and market failures; (ii) establishing and implementing the legal framework for natural resource management; (iii) enhancing human resources capacity for natural resource management; and (iv) design and implementation of a land management framework that makes adequate provision for the poor, including local community access to common property resources.
Thus far, we have already made considerable progress in forest protection and management, fishery and land management, with high priority given to the needs and concerns of local communities.
We also clearly understand that peace, security and stability are a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for the country’s march towards democracy, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. At present, Cambodia is making its intensive reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts to eradicate poverty and improve the living standards of the people. We are undertaking these tasks in an era where the themes of “sustainable development” and “environmental security” have come into the forefront of global consciousness. Having paid high attention on these issues, we strongly support the building up of innovative partnerships among government, private sector and civil society in financing development projects, as called for in Johannesburg. We need enhanced support from the wealthier countries for our efforts in achieving sustainable development. More importantly, an enabling environment for development, open opportunities, fair trade, equitable partnerships and democratized international relations are the key factors for ensuring that developing countries get appropriate benefits from globalization and for being the ownership of self-sustaining, long-term development of their countries. All these are the voice appealed by developing countries at the 13th Non-Aligned Movement Summit held on 24-25 February 2003 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to ensure that poor nations will be able to overcome and not fall victim to the challenges of rapid globalization.
I am optimistic that this meeting will be an excellent opportunity for us to assess the status of the implementation of our joint commitments and initiatives. Your presence here today demonstrates our shared commitment to cooperate and to together, move toward sustainable development and clean environment across ASEAN.
Once again, let me wish our honorable delegates from all countries and organizations every success in this meeting. May you all have a pleasant and memorable stay in our country, especially in this wonderful city of Siem Reap of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Of course, I encourage you all to enjoy and soak in the history of our most famous heritage – the Angkor Wat!