Thai diplomacy extends to Global South
published : 17 Jan 2023 at 04:00
newspaper section: Oped
At last week's virtual summit organised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to gather input from members of the Global South, Thailand diligently reached out to the world's developing and less developing countries with a holistic approach focusing on human security and balanced development.
India, as the current G20 president, pledged to consult not just the member countries but also with other members of the Global South, whose voices often go unheard. Thailand appreciated India's invitation to join the summit. Fresh from the success of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) 2022 summit, Bangkok is using the G20 platform to promote its development models and ideas, known as the Bio-Circular Green (BCG) Economic model, that aims to construct a better global environment for sustainable growth and prosperity. Since the meeting, the Thai idea has increasingly gained traction within the international community beyond the Asia-Pacific.
That explains why Thailand, which was represented by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, proposed a three-pronged approach to create so-called Global Human-centric Development, echoing the theme that has been used as a rallying point for the current G20 chair with an agenda focused on human-security and resilience. Both Mr Modi and Gen Prayut pledged to work closely together to enhance the role of the Global South at the G20 summit later this year.
Thailand posits that the global community needs to come up with a better and more comprehensive approach that can effectively tackle three major global crises: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Otherwise, post-pandemic growth will be sluggish and lopsided. From the Thai perspective, the BCG model would be suitable. At Apec 2022 in November, the Bangkok Goals on BCG became the first joint document to be unanimously agreed upon by all economies that attended the Bangkok meeting. Prior to the Bangkok meeting, given the war in Ukraine and the rivalries among the great powers, no one expected it would be possible to have such a consensus, including the leaders' joint statement, which contributed to the success of Apec 2022.
At the virtual summit, Thailand also urged all developing countries to maintain the momentum of the successful outcomes of the recent COP27 meeting in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, in December. The country has vowed to fight climate change, aiming to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and net zero emissions by 2060. The Thai government has reiterated this commitment time and again.
Truth be told, Thailand was among the few developing countries to have set forth a specific agenda to tackle climate change. The first priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that the country will be able to achieve net zero emissions and neutrality by 2050. The second is focused on the critical issue of loss and damage, which Bangkok deems pivotal to help less developing countries affected by greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.
Furthermore, Thailand also reaffirmed the urgent need to mobilise climate finance and invest in the development and deployment of affordable low-carbon emissions. A mechanism is needed to provide funds and resources to help developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Thailand is no exception.
Most importantly, officials at the Ministry of National Resources and Environment have been instructed to practise transparent reporting to ensure the efficient utilisation of information. Indeed, the major industrial establishments should pursue a similarly transparent approach. Finally, Thailand is also committed to implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This enables countries to voluntarily cooperate with each other to achieve the emission reduction targets set out in their respective countries.
The final approach that Thailand has put forward for consideration by the G20 chair has to do with ways and means to promote resilience to deal with future uncertainties and crises. The biggest war in Europe since World War II has already disrupted global supply chains of all commodities, such as the ongoing food, fuel, and fertiliser crises. In developing economies, inflation and higher prices of daily commodities have seriously threatened the livelihoods of millions of households and human capital.
As such, developing countries must further improve supply chain resilience and crisis management. As one of the countries affected by the continued war in Ukraine and to prepare for the post-Covid-19 era, Thailand has been eager to promote the BCG model, which has resonated well with India.
While there have been negative impacts from Covid-19 outbreaks over the past three years, the country has been able to overcome them with relative success, especially in the tourism, health, and export sectors.
In addition, Thailand is currently serving as the chair of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), where India is the key driver. Thailand will continue to work with India to strengthen other pivotal issues focusing on infrastructure, maritime security, energy and digital connectivity in the Bay of Bengal region. These elements will also be addressed by the G20 chair.
In a related development, last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also launched an official campaign to bid to host Expo 2028 in Phuket. Thailand's chosen theme, "Future of Life: Living in Harmony, Sharing Prosperity", aims to showcase the new Thailand that is filled with innovative and collective solutions. The theme also aligns well with the BCG Economy Model and the country's national development strategy to make Phuket one of the healthiest cities for sustainable living and the world's top medical tourism destination.
One caveat is in order. The Year of the Rabbit will be an extraordinary year as the country is undergoing several new developments as it moves forward toward economic recovery. It is also the year of a general election, which could have unpredictable repercussions. Thailand has a toxic history of political conflict and democratisation. Furthermore, the global geopolitical and geo-economic landscape has been shifting radically with unknown consequences. Therefore, if the stability and predictability of the past years cannot be maintained, whatever the justification may be, all bets could be off the table.
For the time being, all things considered, it is hoped that authorities concerned in all government agencies, both current and incoming, will be able to work in sync with one another in line with the pledges that have been made both at home and abroad. Failure to do so, at this critical moment, will turn Thailand into "Toyland".
A veteran journalist on regional affairs
Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist on regional affairs