Forty-five students and staff from Social Science and IRGA majors from Mahidol University International College attended the Second Edition of the Asia Pacific Day for the Ocean on November 8, 2019 at the United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok.
Hosted by The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the main goal of this event was to build a shared understanding on opportunities to protect the ocean and all forms of life below water through sustainable fisheries, sustainable shipping and elimination of marine pollution, through enhanced regional collaboration.
The event was kickstarted by the speeches of international delegates including Ms. Armida Alisjahbana, the Executive Secretary of UNESCAP; H.E. Mr. Semi Koroilavesau, Minister for Fisheries of Fiji; and H.E. Francisco de Assis Morais e Cunha Vaz Patto, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Portugal. The highlight of the opening session was the speech delivered by youth representative Ms. Ralyn Lilly Satidtanasarn. This 12-year-old environmental activist has captured the audience with her campaign against single-use plastic in Thailand.
The student participants had the opportunities to attend three sub-sessions assigned with the following themes: sustainable fisheries, sustainable shipping, and the blue economy. In these sessions, numerous speakers from all fields were involved including policy-makers, governments, NGOs, private sector entities, universities, and research institutes. The general aim of these sessions was to promote the sustainability of the ocean. Nevertheless, apart from learning about the ocean conservation, students also learned about how international trade is interconnected with marine environment. Ms. Pin-anong Weesapen, one of our student participants, said “I’ve come to the realization that our lives are intertwined with the ocean as the majority of international trade is still being conducted by shipping.” The concept of sustainable shipping might be unfamiliar to many people but the session has demonstrated that sustainable development in maritime transport is essential to our region due to our globalized economy.
Another student from Myanmar, Ms. Tun Pa Pa Kyaw, attended the session on the blue economy, which focused on the issues of plastic waste and marine litter through presentations by speakers from many UN agencies and NGOs. Ms. Tun Pa Pa Kyaw said that “the phrase that caught my attention during my time there would be turning plastic waste into resources.” The aim of this session was to discuss the impact of marine litter and introduce various new methods of recycling. “I believe that more public awareness is raised on the use of environmentally unfriendly plastics after this Ocean Day,” said Ms. Tun Pa Pa Kyaw.
MUIC is one of the three academic institutions that represented the voice of the youth in this Asia and Pacific Day for the Ocean, held in Bangkok. Our student participants were encouraged to ask questions and voice their opinions and thoughts on the matter that concern the ocean environment. This was a valuable opportunity for MUIC students to participate in such an event. Besides the knowledge students gained from the speakers, participants also had opportunities to interact with the UNESCAP delegates from all over the world through discussions and Q&A sessions.
At the end of the event, the concluding remarks by Mr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director of the Environment and Development Division of the UNESCAP, highlighted the urgency in the region to take action on the protection of the ocean by arguing that this task belongs to everybody and we have to act now before it is too late to save our ocean
Some of our students’ reactions:
“What I enjoyed most about the Pacific Ocean Day with ESCAP was that we students were encouraged to participate within the whole event. We were able to ask questions or say our opinions and thoughts” (Ms. Marie Kuschik, exchange student from Germany)
“This event, for me, highlighted the concept of leaving no one behind and how not only that the ocean depends on our actions but our lives and well-being on the ocean as well.” (Ms. Pin-anong Weesapen, IRGA major)
“I love how the youths are given places, and that their voices are actually heard in this conference” (Ms. Tun Pa Pa Kyaw, Social Science)
Written by Dr. Natanaree Posrithong
Faculty Member, Social Science Division