Living creatures under the sea and ocean water are beautiful and diverse as you can see them in the few of my paintings under the theme of “Sea Life” series. I enjoy looking at them and painting them for use in promoting its’ conservation to safeguard the environment. No need really to emphasize that the health of marine lives depends on clean sea water and the healthy ocean environment. Therefore, I am concern to learn from the UN reports that marine lives are in danger not only from ocean pollution but also from being destroyed by human fishing activities and bioprospecting in the deep sea. It is worrisome to learn about the vulnerability of marine lives beyond national jurisdiction particularly in the seamounts, hydro-thermal vents and cold-water coral reefs. The United Nations General Assembly have been discussing biological diversity issues for some time now, and I also know that since 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, some member states have taken some action, according to international law, in trying to stop the destructive fishing practices that have damaging impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystem. The sustainable use of genetic resources is another issue of concern to International Community. It is good to know that governments are negotiating the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of these marine resources. This week, the Ninth UN Working Group on Marine Biodiversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction meets at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The expected outcome is to produce recommendations for a decision to be taken at the 69th Session of the General Assembly on the development of a new international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I think It is our duty to support this United Nations effort to protect and conserve bio-diversity of marine lives which I think is one of the most important activity in safeguarding the world’s environment.
It is good that Foreign Affairs Minister Seehasak Puangketkaew had clarified Thailand’s current situation to the international community through the United Nation’s stage. His stressing that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) work aimed to reduce social gaps while upholding people-centered benefits will create better understanding of the current Thailand’s new administrative efforts to prevent future conflicts. Mr. Seehasak addressed international community around the United Nations in New York last week at the High Level Political Forum Ministerial Dialogue. I agree with what he said that every country has different background and priority. I think that measures have to be found for more effective people’s participation, which is key to move the country forward to a new political and development environment and a better future. I am glad that he also mentioned that NCPO now focus on public participation in addressing the national agendas. Mr. Seehasak was hundred percent correct in saying that Thailand’s development would be impossible to achieve without the rule of law. That was the problem before military intervention two months ago when a large number of the people of all political spectrums demonstrated on the streets of Bangkok showing no respect for the law and the judicial system of the country. I am glad that he also informed the international community that Thailand now has a clear roadmap to democracy. I want to join the people who say that political reform must come before holding the next election. It is necessary to guarantee that there will not be corruptions in the newly organised electoral process such as vote buying and cheating in ballot counting. I am sure that the international community can see for themselves the problems that happen now in ballot counting in the recent elections in Afghanistan and Indonesia. Needless to say that I am happy to learn of the good reception that Mr. Seehasak received by the audiences after his speech. I urge the International community to leave Thai people to solve their own political problems without any negative outside intervention. There is no one route to ideal democratic process or good governance. Each country has to struggle to achieve that in their own way suitable to their particular political/cultural environment and people’s aspirations.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goal will not be achieved for women and girls unless discriminatory provisions are removed, women’s access to justice is guaranteed and discriminatory social norms and stereotypes are transformed. These are the challenges that face the members of UN Commission on the Status of Women who come together this week to attend it’s 58th Sessional meeting in New York. Together they will review progress in access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology and they will make an assessment of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work as well as their access to productive resources. Other important task of the Commission at this session is to evaluate progress and failure in mainstreaming gender perspective into development implementation and evaluation of national policies and programs. They will continue to work till the end of the session on the 21st of March. While the Millennium Development Goals were intended to be a global set of goals, it is important to remember that the implementations of the framework has taken place largely at the national level. Country reports have shown that there are some innovations, but there are also some limitations in many areas. For examples: report on gender and poverty focused mainly on female-headed households but do not say anything about gender inequalities in terms of income and consumption within households. And very few countries reported on the gender dimension of nutrition, water, sanitation and the environment. Even when legal frameworks have been strengthened laws are often poorly implemented which limits women’s access to justice. Reports have also indicated that persistence of deeply entrenched discriminatory social norms, stereotypes and practices that hold back progress on gender equality remain a significant challenge.
I do not want to be subjected to arbitrary interference with my privacy, family, home or correspondence by officials of any country where I live. For I do believe that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. It has always been comforting for me to know that my right to privacy is respected and guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights. But I am also aware of the danger to my personal security living in today’s digitised World and working in social media. My privacy and personal safety could be easily compromised in just an instant because of what I write or say online in an e-mail, Facebook or Twitter accounts. And, unknowingly one day, I could get a surprise visit by any suspicious state official who then get my computer confiscated as a result of a random surveillance activity by state authority. It is easy for our human rights to be violated through electronic surveillance, governmental interception of digital communications and collection of personal data such as medical records, banking activities or financial transactions. Today, we have good news on this from that United Nations that the General Assembly just adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The representative of member states have adopted new measures to end activities that violate people’s human rights to privacy, offline and online digital communication. They agreed to comply with the obligations under the international human rights law, and to find ways to establish or maintain existing independent, transparent, and effective domestic oversight that includes accountability in the surveillance and interception of communications and the collection of personal data. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to prepare and submit an official report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in digital age to the Human Rights Council next year at it’s 27th session in Geneva, and later to the 69th Session of the General Assembly in New York. I want to express my appreciation of the efforts of Ms. Pillay and the good work of her office at international level to defend human rights to privacy. But successful implementation of this important resolution depends on action by UN Member States. They should listen to her warning, which I totally agree with, that surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. People need to be confident that their private communications are not being unduly scrutinised by the State.
For those of us who believe in the work for justice and freedom for all people, Nelson Mandela continues to be our hero even after he is gone from us. He inspired me by the way he had lived his life. By the way he fought for human dignity and equal rights in his own country, South Africa. He had given a good example to me and to the younger generations to stand-up against racial discrimination, not only in their own country, but also, no matter where we live, in all the regions. From him, I learned an important lesson that failing is not something to be ashamed of, but that it is how one stood up after the fall to fight on to achieve one’s goal, is the thing that counts in life. His dismantling of the Apartheid System in South Africa was an unbelievable achievement. For me and my UN friends who worked at the United Nations at that time, we did not believe that such system could be eliminated in one generation. Yet, that was what he did, almost single handedly, with horrible consequences that brought him sufferings in his own life, and to his own family, in spending 27 years in captivity. Although he often said to those who praised him for this achievement, that he did not contribute alone, that there were countless numbers of people who had contributed together with him in the success in the elimination of the evil system of Apartheid. I am touched by his humility, and also his kindness towards all people, even towards those who had treated him badly during the early days of the struggle. His success in creating a new multi-racial South Africa under his leadership as their first elected President has much to be celebrated. I join friends in the United Nations System in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela who had made our World a better place to live.
The Budapest Water Summit began yesterday to focus on solving the problem of lack of access to clean drinking water around the world in the context of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. Country’s representatives come to Hungary for four-days of discussions to draw attention on water issues which effect the health and survival of millions of people all over the World . Experts predicted that by 2030, nearly half of global population could be facing water scarcity and demand could outstrip supply by 40 percent. New commitment for an urgent global cooperation and action can be based on the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Water management at community, country and regional level is key to success. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon urged us to take this opportunity to work together from wherever we are to solve the lack of access to clean drinking water supply because our security and life depends on them. It is the challenge of our life time when we are facing the disaster that happens on a daily basis from climate change such as hurricane, Typhoon and flood in low land areas around the world. Urgent cooperation and action are ongoing. Many have used information from reading the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Improved water management at community, country and regional level is key to our success. We have seen good work now being done in the Mekong River Delta, and the European Innovation Partnership on Water and in other region that can give us idea for global action and cooperation. The Budapest Water Summit Bulletin , the publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Canada, contains valuable background information for further global action and cooperation in this area which can be used as a follow up to this important World Summit.
We don’t hear much talk on whether there are any possibility left for a peaceful settlement of the Syria crisis in the United Stats these days. There were some street demonstrations against the U.S going to war with Syria, but their voices had been drawn out by the sound of drumbeat for a surgical strike and the “macho” talk of shooting missile into Syria to punish the Syrian leader who was accused of using chemical weapons against its people on August 21. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seemed to be the lone voice that ask the Obama Government to give peace a chance and to wait for the result of the UN investigation team. Today, I am happy to hear another voice for peace from Former U.S.President Jimmy Carter who called for ending of hostilities. The Carter Foundation made a proposal to hold a Peace Conference and to work with the United Nations in finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a press interview today saying that there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria . He spoke on behalf of the “Group of Elders” formed in 2007 by the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Members of the group includes former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former President Jimmy Carter. They condemned the use of chemical weapon against the people in Syria as inhumane and criminal act. They said that those responsible must be held accountable both individually and collectively. As a road to peace, they also proposed holding a Peace Conference called Geneva II as one non-violent possibility available to help in resolving the conflict which should include women in the process. Another action proposed by the Nobel laureates Jody Williams (U.S.), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Mairead Maguire (Ireland), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala) is to ask the U.N. Security Council to refer the case of the chemical weapons attack of civilian population to the ICC. These venues to a peaceful way for conflict resolution should at least be tried out before consideration of taking any military action that will end up killing and harming more people. It surely will expand the dimension of the war but I don’t think will end a regional conflict of this kind.
Before the Bangkok Flood of 2011, I did not realize that the rising flood water could force me to look seriously at the clean water supply and the scarcity of drinking water problems. I often take it for granted that water will always be there, available for me to use whenever I want. During the period of flood in the city, dirty flood water got mix-up with the municipality’s canal system which provide clean water for most households use. We were warned by the government not to use contaminated water for cooking and drinking. I had to go to the neighborhood store to buy bottled-drinking water, but I found out that the shelfs were all emptied. People began to stockpile cases of bottled-water at the first warning of flood. I was too late, and ended-up having to buy several bottles of soda water and beer to drink instead. Hard to believe that this could happen in the capital city of Thailand when we used to have plenty of water from the rain six month yearly. I never thought that it could happen to me when I came from New York to visit my ailing mother. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. Luckily the major part of that flood did not reach Sukhumvit areas where my mother lives. So I survived the crisis. But I know that many people in other flooding areas had suffered a lot. No one can survive without clean drinking for a day. And the Thai government emergency water distribution did not reach people fast enough. The experience have made me pay a particular attention to all discussions on the subject relating to clean water. The dialogues among government officials and water experts at the 2nd Asian and Pacific Water Summit held last month in Chiangmai provided valuable information on the problems of water resources management, and the distribution of drinking water when disaster hit. Asia and Pacific leaders came together to share their country’s experiences and to set a new policy on the establishment of water information system. They also focused on the inter-connectedness of clean water supply, food security, and sanitation, especially when a disaster strikes. Water availability at community level is most important for the survival of people, especially those who live in urban areas. In Thailand, we used to store rain water in earth jars or aluminium tanks for household use, but people don’t do that any more. They all rely on water coming out of the government water-pipe. I am glad that leaders in the Asia and Pacific region were aware of this problem. They unanimously agreed on the Chiangmai Declaration committed to promote efficient use of water resources, reduce water pollution, improve water quality, and protect sources of fresh water. The urban water security was included in the effort to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal access to water and sanitation by 2025. With climate change that we are facing today, nobody can wait that long. Scarcity of drinking water is a survival issues for most of us right now. For me, it is personal security and human rights issues.
I find the newly released UN-Habitat Report on State of Women in Cities (2012/1013) interesting to read. Women and men experience urbanization differently. Gender analysis gives us knowledge of how women have to deal with many forms of discrimination when coming to cities to find job. They often ends up getting low-paying job in the service sector, and in entertainment and sex-related industries with little opportunity for career advancement and life improvements. The report gives us a gender dimension on a city-productivity and better understanding of the relationship between gender and prosperity. Making city life safe for women is a challenging issue in urban development because women more than men are prone to become victims of violence in city streets, bus and train station. They also have to endure sexual harassment in their work place. The report suggests a review of policies and institutional framework relevant for mainstreaming gender concerns in city planning and management. The timing in releasing this report is good. It coincided with the 24th Session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat (15-19 April 2013) under the theme of “Sustainable Urban Development: The Role Of Cities In Creating Improved Economic Opportunities For All”, which must mean equality of service and opportunity for women and men. I want to emphasize that for women living and working in cities, personal security and reduction of crime are all the time their main concerns. City Administration must make sure that streets and public space are well-lit at night. And it must go hand-in-hand with effective crime prevention programs. Elderly women are vulnerable physically, when moving around the cities on their own. They need specific protection measures and appropriate assistance. Recruitment of more female police officers is one action that will help a lot, especially in making women feel more secure in city environment. We must work together to remove all barriers to women’s participation in management of community livelihood in a sustainable human settlement and development of cities.
I am looking forward to the outcome of this week’s International Media Roundtable Discussions in Nairobi, Kenya. When more than 200 ministers of environment, scientists, policy-makers, business leaders and civil society groups get together for six days (17-22 February), it is to be expected that they will come up with a new way to deal with the impact the environment problems have to all life on earth. I expect that they will give me new scientific information and ideas on how the world could work more effectively together to solve problems which have a profound impact to our life now and in the future. The focus of the roundtable discussion are on priority and emerging global environment issues based on an up-to-date information from scientific research on climate change for example. And experts on international environment crime surely could suggest new policy information on poaching or illegal logging that are related to cross border smuggling of weapons, drugs and people. I wait to hear the result of the cooperation between Interpol and governments to find solutions for this major threat to international security and environmental sustainability. Civil society and people around the world are worried about the world-wide rise of Endocrine-related diseases and disorders such as birth defects, genital malformations, fertility problems, adverse pregnancy outcomes, learning disabilities and cancers. WHO and UNEP have given us evidence of the impact that endocrines have on human health, wild-life population and environment. It is to be expected that the result of the roundtable discussion will give us new ideas on how to manage dangerous endocrine disrupters which is found in many industrial and consumer products. The world is waiting to hear the result of UNEP’s initiatives on vehicle and fuel efficiency, the completion of the phasing-out of lead fuel, the information on the impact of black carbon and small particles on our health and environment, and the new global management of mercury. While we wait for the outcome of this important UNEP-organized roundtable that coincided with the First Universal Session of the UNEP Governing Council, I must say that I am happy to see that there is more cooperation from the media to support action around the world that promotes sustainable consumption and production, the safeguarding of our precious natural resources and the environment.