The SDGs have guided the national development agenda, with the National Commission on Sustainable Development (NCSD) to oversee SDG implementation. However, the implementation has been slow with many of the plans and policies lacking integrated coordination among line ministries. While the policies are well in place, the implementation on the ground is the opposite. Many development projects violating human rights and harmful to local livelihoods and the environment are being promoted with no proper and participatory environmental impact assessment conducted prior to project commencement. The participation of CSOs, other groups and those marginalised is very limited. No CSOs engagement mechanism has been institutionalised to ensure the concerns and needs of communities are heard and addressed. At the same time, there are insufficient mechanisms both at the national and local levels to ensure transparency, accountability and participation of the implementation.
National planning, implementation and budget commitments
SDGs have been mainstreamed in the policies and plans with budget allocation of each line ministry. These many plans fail to address the systemic barriers which are the root causes of the problems; and lack inclusive and meaningful participation of CSOs and communities and even the vulnerable groups in which the plan serves. This has led to the plans being implemented, but not responding to the needs and in many cases it has created the problem itself --take the Bang Ra Kham case where the area is a flood-prone area and with the plan implementation the area has faced extreme drought, affecting local communities. No transparent and accountable mechanism in which CSOs can engage, to ensure the plans deliver and the budgets utilise in an effective way and responding to the community needs. There has been a recent attempt to integrate gender and climate change into the national budgeting but its implementation has yet to be assessed.
Progress since last VNR
CSOs have been attempting to advocate for inclusive and meaningful participation of CSOs and other groups in the national VNR and SDGs implementation processes, even before the first VNR, but it has not been recognised. CSOs as an equal partner for development have not been recognised. Additionally, the implementation of action plans has remained a top down and centralised process without addressing the root cause of the problems faced by communities, take the economic zone, water management plans and a forest-climate related plan to conserve the forest but violating the communities’ rights to access resources and causing communities to lose their lands and livelihoods, as examples. CSOs have also called for an integrated and coordinated approach among relevant government agencies even before the first VNR, but it hasn’t been reflected in the implementation.
Key communities who face being left behind
The following communities have not been inclusively and meaningfully engaged in the planning, decision making and monitoring processes of policies and plans, and many of them have faced different difficulties in maintaining their livelihoods, losing their lands, rights to development violated and even being charged and arrested; and many of them have been facing human rights violations especially during the Covid-19 pandemic: women & girls, children, young people, Indigenous Peoples, older persons, persons with disabilities, peoples in the Deep South of Thailand in which the muslims are the majority, sex workers, LGBTIQ, small scale farmers, traditional and small scale fisherfolks, and peoples working in the informal sectors.
How have you engaged across communities?
The Thailand HLPF Alliance members have been working with different groups and facilitated the discussions and comments on the Covid-19 responses, VNR process and SDGs implementation, through physical meetings, focus group discussions, interviews, using participatory methods and tools. Knowledge and updates on SDGs plans and policies, as well as on international agreements, have been provided with exchanges on implications to the local and each constituent’s contexts. We have engaged them in the local and national dialogues with relevant governments, advocacy and mobilisation and movement building. The key challenge has been during the Covid-19 pandemic in particular. Many communities have difficulties in accessing online technologies and using online tools. Scheduling the time for online discussion has also been another challenge, as many of them have to volunteer to be at the community/village entrance or check point during the Covid-19 pandemic. To ensure we have included their voices, we have used different online participatory tools. We have contributed to ensure the access to online discussion i.e. accessing the internet, setting up sub-zoom stations where community members can attend zoom meetings in one location, using traditional communications tools e.g. telephones, and mailing.
Overview of climate change
Thailand is highly vulnerable to climate impacts. The majority of the population has been engaged in the agricultural sector of which farming and fishing activities are not just the main source of their living, but their livelihoods and culture. Severe changes to the climate have been observed including unpredictable rainfalls, longer periods of droughts and severe floods, unpredictable storms and seawater currents causing damages to the fishing gears, strong heat and sunshine affecting their health and livestocks.
Civil society priorities
-A mechanism is to be set up to ensure inclusive and meaningful engagement of CSOs and different groups in planning, implementing and monitoring SDGs at all levels.
-CSOs role as an equal partner in development must be realised and supported. Laws and restrictions that limit and control the functioning of CSOs must be removed.
-The implementation of plans/policies/development projects must respect human rights, and reflect gender aspects, environmental balances and distributive benefits for the local communities.
-The Recovery Plan has to address the systemic barriers and ensure long-term measures respond to the needs of different groups.
Civil society engagement
The official policy dialogues with relevant governments were conducted when CSOs organised their meetings. The dialogues organised by the government were mainly for information sharing and more of a one way communication with a number of presentations whereby comments from CSOs were limited due to time constraints. However, informal dialogues with relevant officials were regularly made in order to get some updates and exchanges. The dialogues at the local and provincial levels were mostly initiated by CSOs.
The SDGs, targets and indicators were translated into Thai language which can also be accessed online. Hard copies have been distributed but quite limited to those participating in meetings. The academic communities have also provide comprehensive analysis on what statistical data remains lacking in fulfiling the SDGs. CSOs have also organised different meetings to discuss the SDGs of their particular interests, at all levels. It has been realised among CSOs that local communities have been well aware of sustainable development as their livelihoods and practices are in line with sustainable development, even though they are not speaking SDGs language.<