September 4 – 8, 2023, Kunming City, P. R. China – The Presidents’ Forum of Forestry Universities/Institutes in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) witnessed Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn, the Executive Director of the Mekong Institute, deliver a keynote speech and a presentation, outlining strategic approaches to integrate forestry into the region’s development and cooperation for sustainable growth.
In his keynote address, Mr. Suriyan emphasized the pivotal role of sustainable forest management in the GMS, highlighting the importance of forests in climate change mitigation. He called for enhanced cross-border cooperation to address issues like illegal logging and wildlife trafficking. He also stressed the need for continuous capacity building and knowledge sharing among forestry institutions.
Mr. Suriyan also highlighted the upcoming GMS Summit in late 2024 in P. R. China, an ideal opportunity to elevate the profile of the forestry sector and its role in sustaining growth in the GMS.
He expounded his points during Session 2 of the forum, outlining three essential work streams to sustain growth in the GMS. These are as follows:
- Promoting a Green and Resilient Economy: Fostering environmentally sustainable practices in supply chains, transport, agriculture, and energy.
- Ensuring Natural Resource Functionality: Safeguarding water, forests, biodiversity, and ecosystem services that underpin livelihoods and economic activities.
- Enhancing Preparedness and Response: Building capacity to address extreme shocks, climate change impacts, and transboundary issues like haze and ONE Health.
“Under the work streams, MI recognizes strong linkages between the forestry sector and the GMS cooperation and integration, which goes much beyond a sectoral development and cooperation but also contributes to sustaining growth in the GMS,” Mr. Suiryan explained.
He discussed the possible linkages between forestry and GMS cooperation & integration. Key areas include forestry research and education, advocacy for co-benefits in economic development and sustainable forest management, addressing transboundary issues, and facilitating access to development funds and green financing.
Mr. Suriyan recommended two key approaches to effectively integrate forestry into GMS cooperation and integration: first, by enhancing synergies through regional cooperation and aligning forestry with the Three Cs concept (Connectivity, Competitiveness, Community); and second, by emphasizing the role of forestry in regional economic corridors and special economic zones.
He mentioned areas for cooperation and partnership which include policy advocacy, research, capacity development, technology adoption through South-South/triangular cooperation, pilot projects, area-based activities, and integration into regional initiatives like GMS regional economic corridors and smart cities. Promoting industry-led initiatives is also encouraged to advance forestry-related goals in the GMS.
In closing, Mr. Suriyan conveyed the Mekong Institute’s eagerness to collaborate with all stakeholders to support sustainable growth in the GMS and integrate the forestry sector into the broader regional cooperation and integration efforts.
Around 100 representatives including presidents and deans of universities and institutes from GMS economies and regional international organizations convened during the forum.
MI’s participation in the forum helped further set the stage for meaningful discussions and cooperation in the field of forestry and regional development in the GMS.