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Inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources

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20 May Inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources

World’s largest companies gather at inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources to pledge commitment to end haze by committing to sustainability

Sustainability is a shared responsibility, and businesses, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should do their part to do the right thing. This was among the key themes at the inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR). For the first time in more than 15 years of battling the annual haze, major stakeholders across the resource sector supply chain convened in Singapore to acknowledge and discuss the often controversial link between the resource sector and haze.

Organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), the dialogue on 20 May 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, kept the recurring haze problem as the “bull’s eye”, but sought to address the wider issue of sustainable resources. It was attended by 277 participants from the agribusiness and resource sector, including traders, financiers, and NGOs, who discussed the scope of the problems and stressed the need for greater commitment and public-private partnerships to clean and green up the resource sector.

Setting the stage, SIIA Chairman Simon Tay said in his opening remarks: “The haze has been a recurring problem for the region. Today, the problem has surpassed previous bounds with air quality hitting 400 PSI in 2013, and a likely early onset of the haze this year. Nothing done so far is enough. We face an unbounded problem.”

“But the agro-forestry plantations and products should not be demonised. The real need is to make the industry and major players sustainable. Beginning now and working cooperatively and consistently in the years ahead, we hope to make a positive contribution to the sustainability of the resource sector,” he added.

Leading the dialogue was a line-up of 16 speakers and panellists that included key government policy makers, such as Singapore’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Indonesia’s Special Staff to the President for Climate Change, Mr. Agus Purnomo. Both shared Singapore’s and Indonesia’s vision on sustainability and the haze respectively.
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Mr. Agus Purnomo, Special Assistant to the President of Indonesia for Climate Change; Head of the Secretariat of the National Council on Climate Change, Indonesia, addressing delegates at the Singapore Institute Of International Affairs’ inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, 20 May 2014

The dialogue also provided a platform for a healthy exchange of ideas, and turned the spotlight on companies who have taken the lead in their own field to be more sustainable. Challenges of going green were also shared candidly among some of the world’s largest resource companies such as Olam International, Wilmar International, Unilever and Sime Darby. Local companies, represented by the Singapore Business Federation, are also jumping on the bandwagon of sustainability, with more local SMEs adopting best practices.

The financial industry also featured prominently in the discussion. In the last panel of the dialogue, experts from Citi, Credit Suisse and HSBC highlighted the importance of responsible financing of the agro-forestry sector. They shared how Singapore as a regional hub for investment, trade and finance could influence the developments on sustainability within ASEAN.

SIIA Executive Director Nicholas Fang said: “We aim to grow this annual conference, and hopefully each year, we will be a step closer to solving the haze problem. While our focus this year is to encourage sustainable resourcing in the long term to solve the problem of transboundary haze, we hope the conference will one day tackle larger environmental issues such as climate change and global warming.”

Assoc. Prof. Tay was encouraged by the turnout of participants and quality of insights. He added: “This is the first cooperative effort to bring all stakeholders together across the supply chain, different commodities, and many countries. The haze clearly shows us that environment is not confined by borders. Our cooperation also needs to transcend borders.”

The SIIA is committed to stopping the haze through campaigning for the sustainable use of resources. It will convene a meeting in November later this year with NGOs and experts to monitor efforts on the haze. The SIIA is also working on establishing a website to make emerging information relating to the haze, and potentially, relevant and reliable maps, publicly available.

For more information on what SIIA has done on sustainable resources and the haze, please refer to the SIIA Special Report, From the Haze to Resources: Mapping a Path to Sustainability.

ABOUT THE SINGAPORE DIALOGUE ON SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES (SWR)

The Singapore Institute of International Affairs aims to establish the region’s leading Dialogue on sustainable resources. The Dialogue will focus on sustainable management of resources from plantations and forests in the region. It will also address broader issues of climate change, the nexus between environment and trade, investment, finance and corporate social responsibility.

This high-level Dialogue will involve key stakeholders including government policy makers, business leaders in relevant sectors and non-government experts. The Dialogue also aims to leverage public opinion and help improve business practices. This is in the hope that government, corporations, and other stakeholders across borders and sectors will be able to implement appropriate agroforestry and sustainable resource management policies and actionable plans. For more information, please visit http://sustainableresourcesdialogue.org/ 

SELECTED MEDIA REPORTS

1. Trans-boundary Haze: Collective victims, collective responsibility – Tempo.Co.

2. Singapore: Companies must accept responsibility in addressing haze crisis – Mongabay.com.

3. Trans-boundary haze Bill ‘not shrouded in secrecy’ – The Straits Times.

4. Countries need to cooperate for anti-haze laws to work: Balakrishnan – TODAY.