With the global population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, addressing challenges in the agricultural sector to feed the growing population requires greater combined efforts from both the public and private sectors, Dr. Matthias Bickel, Project Director of ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) noted during the panel discussion ‘Stories from the Past for the Future towards Sustainable Development Goals’ held as part of the event celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Thai-German cooperation in January 2017.
Dr. Bickel added that the population of Southeast Asia stands at around 600 million. Forty per cent of the workforce is involved in the agricultural sector and contributes 15 per cent to the ASEAN Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The statistics not only reveal the central position this sector has in the region, but also clearly reflect, as Dr. Bickel said, that there is still room for more operational Public-Private Partnerships to capture all the synergy between the public and the private sectors.
Public-Private Partnership was initiated in 1999 through the UN Global Compact, when the global community decided to draw up a framework to use more private resources to also co-produce public goods.
Dr. Bickel compared Public-Private Partnership cooperation to a soccer game where the public sector sets the rules and provides referees while the private sector is the playing team.
“The public sector sets the scene and rules and makes sure that the rules are being followed. In areas of conflict, it also facilitates resolution as well as the production of public goods.
“The soccer team is the private sector. They keep the ball, they keep the economy rolling, they are engaged in day-to-day business, and they induce a real economic change that contributes significantly to the GDP,” he said.
Dr. Bickel cited the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), one of the Public-Private Partnerships in Thailand as an example. The SRP is a multi-actor partnership initiated and founded by the International Rice Research Institute and the UN Environment with 66 members from the private sector, public sector, NGO, and civil society with the objective of supporting one million farmers by raising their incomes and providing them with a better livelihood. Considered the world’s first sustainable rice standard, the SRP Standard on Sustainable Rice Cultivation sets an overall framework for sustainable best practice in rice production.
“I am very proud to say that last November, Thailand, led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives’ Rice Department, managed to get the first rice farmers certified globally with the so-called Sustainable Rice Platform Standard. This was the very first sustainably certified rice coming out of the global rice system in Ubon Ratchathani in the Northeast of Thailand.
“This was really a very good example how public-private partnership works on the ground and needless to say that it would not have been possible without great public support setting the scene and the private sector kicking the ball,” Dr. Bickel said.