Thailand shares Experience on Sustainability for Developing Nations

26 September 2017 Thailand

Thailand has been a pioneer in development theory for some time. Resulting from the contemplation of the relationship between man, the environment, and the economy more than half a century ago, the work of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej eventually became formalized as the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy -- SEP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated. Such Philosophy broke significant grounds and brought into question some aspects of conventional thinking on the progress of nations. It advocates reasonableness, moderation, and prudence, together with the two underlying conditions of knowledge and virtues. SEP calls for a holistic, balanced approach to growth, contrasting the more mainstream emphasis on profit and simple performance matrices. SEP is based on local wisdom that leads to sustainable outcomes, be it one's own happiness from achieving the right balance in the 4 areas of social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being.

As a country that has adopted the SEP in its development policies since the 9th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2002-2006) onwards, Thailand's economic performance has been well-recognized, with major indicators measuring the human conditions rising over time. More than 23,000 villages in Thailand currently apply SEP in their community-based development and around 9,000 SEP villages develop into learning centers serving as living museums of SEP across Thailand.

Economic and social recovery resulting from extensive application of the SEP in Thailand following the Asian financial crisis of 1997 led to the recognition of the wisdom and ideas behind SEP at the international level, Ministry of Foreign Affairs reveals. As evidence of this, UNDP produced the Thailand Human Development Report 2007: Sufficiency Economy and Human Development, which stated that the King's Philosophy had 'great global relevance during these times of economic uncertainties, global warming and unsustainable use of natural resources'. The principles of SEP were regarded by many countries as relevant to the global financial crisis in 2008.

With continuous efforts to refine its principles and practices at home and the country becoming an aid provider since 2003, Thailand has increasingly played its role as a development partner with other countries to share its home-grown development approach and best practices. SEP is now shared in the region and beyond, from Southeast Asia to Africa and as far as South America, with various government agencies and academic institutions, led by Thailand International Cooperation Agency - TICA (an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), providing monetary support, human resource development, expertise and support in kind. These include Annual International Training Courses, the Thai International Postgraduate Programme and the Buakaew Roundtable International Study Visit programme as well as engaging actively on Development Projects with the application of SEP with other countries through the South-South and Trilateral cooperation models.

TICA has demonstrated how the fundamentals of the SEP have no geographic or environmental boundaries as well as the fact that its components can be applied to tackle a range of environmental issues, from desertification to flooding, as well as to ensure food security. At present, Development Projects based on the application of the SEP have led to tangible outcome in 10 countries; the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Cambodia, Lesotho, Chile, Tonga, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste (a trilateral cooperation between Timor Leste - Germany - Thailand).

Building upon its sizable base of cooperation, the Royal Thai Government has been materializing its initiative on "SEP for SDGs Partnership", especially the concept of sustainable community development model based on the application of SEP, to more places globally. So far, there has been a great deal of interest from 16 partner countries throughout Asia, Africa and Central America, and progress has been made on plans and activities in some countries. In addition, Thailand is looking ahead to further strengthen the future of Sustainable Development through "SEP for SDGs Youth Partnership" that aims at engaging young people around the world to take part in the application of SEP to realize the SDGs. The UN Volunteers (UNV) is the first organization under UN auspices to co-organise a conference with Thailand in June 2017 to share knowledge on youth volunteering for SDGs, including SEP, among countries in the ASEAN.

These efforts would certainly contribute to the enhancement of Global Partnership called upon in SDGs' Goal 17 which will facilitate the achievement of the other 16 Goals. As part of our efforts to promote the knowledge and pragmatic approaches toward sustainable development, Thailand is honored to be the first country to be featured in the "South-South in Action" series of publications by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). The report, which highlights the SEP concept and application as well as Thailand's commitment to global development cooperation, was officially launched on 12 January 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.