Thailand given sustainable development role

Thailand remains one of the world’s largest rice exporters. Source: Wikimedia

Thailand has been appointed as a coordinating nation to the United Nations on Asean’s sustainable development, with the aim of pushing forward more development with a focus on people rather than profits.

Asean foreign ministers’ retreat in Vientiane made the appointment. Thai minister of foreign affairs Don Pramudwinai said Bangkok’s stance on sustainable development would play an important part in Asean’s development. Asean has agreed to put a central focus on its people, increasing participation from all sides, reducing the development gap and promoting social inclusion.

Thailand has been pushing to increase cooperation to establish a joint stance, prior to holding negotiations with trade partners, to allow Asean to determine the direction of negotiations, pushing for maximised benefits to the 10-nation bloc.

Thailand’s Kenan Institute Asia, founded in 1996, said it was ready to step up efforts to assist sustainable development in Thailand and elsewhere in Asean.

The non-profit organisation is set to play a major role in three areas: ageing, urbanisation and climate change, arguing that these “mega-trends” would define Asean’s future.

“The mega-trends are affecting every country,” said Piyabutr Cholvijarn, vice chairman of the institute. “Any society will thrive if these three key challenges are addressed.”

In Thailand, the longer life span plus lower birth rate was increasing the “elderly” population, aged 60 and over, towards 12 million by 2020, Piyabutr said. More health services would be needed while most of the elderly would not be able to support themselves financially, Piyabutr said. A study on urbanisation by Thailand’s Mahidol University showed the urban population increased rapidly from 36 per cent in 2011 to almost 48 per cent last year, leading to safety, accommodation, infrastructure, health and economic inequalities. The trend is similar across the whole of Asean.

The region was prone to natural disasters, many linked to climate change, requiring all countries to cooperate, he said.

“Our focus is linked with SDGs [United Nations’ sustainable development goals], but we just cannot extend our reach to cover all the 17 goals. We will put emphasis on what we are capable of,” said the institute’s chairwoman Jada Wattanasiritham. She added that assisting this was a focus on education, aimed at equipping the younger generation with knowledge to adapt to technological changes.

“The mega-trends must be addressed. But everything needs to start with education. We need to begin this with youth. With good education, they will have the right mindset about what they should do for others,” she said.

Cooperation with the University of North Carolina and other academic institutions has convinced the institute of the importance of helping public and private donors’ missions to do good deeds for society, she said.