Youth Voices on Thailand’s Draft Five-Year Plan for Social and Economic Development
Young people must be given the opportunity to be co-creators of solutions
Around 40 young people from across Thailand gathered in Bangkok on 9 April 2021 to discuss the draft 13th National Economic and Social Development Plan for 2023-2027.
In collaboration with the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), UNICEF co-organized a youth consultation workshop with students and youth leaders from diverse backgrounds, ranging between ages 15 and 24, to participate in discussing the directions and strategies of the draft 13th National Economic and Social Development Plan for 2023-2027. Participants include members of the Children and Youth Council of Thailand, young people with disabilities, young people from Juvenile Justice System, a Bad Student Group, Student Federation of Thailand, LGBTQ, academic and innovation youth networks and marginalized youth groups.
“Young people must be given the opportunity to be co-creators of solutions,” said NESDC Secretary-General Danucha Pichayanan in his address to students and youth leaders. “Today is a day of collaboration as youth will provide inputs to help build a sustainable Thailand. As our future leaders and key partners, your reflections on the needs of young people will help shape the path toward an economic transformation that is more sustainable, green and equitable for your generation and future generations.”
During the workshop, students and youth leaders were introduced to the draft plan, which sets out the development agenda and projects for Thailand’s social and economic transformation over the next five years. The draft plan focuses on preparing human capital, society and the economy for global trends and challenges, such as digital transformation, aging population, migration, employment, climate change and circular economy, as well as transforming Thailand into a high value-added economy and sustainable society for all.
The four areas for Thailand’s development include promoting a high value-added and green economy; increasing opportunity and equality in the business sector and access to quality public services, and reducing economic inequality; promoting sustainable living through a circular economy and low-carbon society; and promoting key enablers for a sustainable economic transformation.
“Thanks to the NESDC’s efforts in engaging broad sectors of society, including young people in the development of this draft plan, Thailand’s path to sustainable development will be more relevant and inclusive to the young generation,” said UNICEF Thailand Deputy Representative Severine Leonardi. “Young people play a crucial role in driving social progress and innovative solutions as they are the ones who will inherit the world we are now shaping. It is vital that young voices are heard and taken seriously and that they are part of shaping the policies that will affect them and their communities.”
In an interactive World Café format, students and youth leaders provided inputs on the four development areas. They identified development priorities that are most important and relevant to their lives, as well as those that they would like to be addressed in the future. They stressed the need for improved coordination, implementation and progress monitoring among government agencies in each development area.
On promoting a high value-added and green economy
Young people identified the need to promote tourism beyond major cities through a more interconnected transportation system and to promote sustainable tourism through eco-friendly practices and nature conservation. As Thailand is a leading country in high value agricultural and processed food products, young people highlighted the need for more comprehensive policies on organic farming and support for farmers’ entrepreneurial skills to boost local market competitiveness. They also emphasized the need for greater investment in research and development in technology and innovation in the agricultural, healthcare, renewable energy and manufacturing sectors to further improve Thailand’s competitiveness in the global market.
On increasing opportunity and equality in the business sector and access to quality public services, and reducing economic inequality
Greater access to quality education was selected as a priority by students and youth leaders. In particular, they called for equitable access to quality education among rural and urban populations and an education system which builds practical skills to better prepare young people for today’s labour market. Young people also highlighted the need for inclusive social and economic policies that ensure equal rights and opportunities for vulnerable populations, including young offenders and people living in poverty, those with disabilities and from minority groups, as well as for better social protection, upward mobility and access to quality public services such as healthcare. They noted that effective policy implementation would be critical for delivering on inclusive and sustainable development for all.
On promoting sustainable living through a circular economy and low-carbon society
Young people suggested that a national push for raising awareness on sustainable tourism, consumption and production among businesses and the general public is needed in Thailand, where consumption rates are growing rapidly. Better quality and accessibility of public transportation could help reduce the environmental impact from transport, especially as Thailand is a travel hub in Southeast Asia. In addition, the majority of farmers are still using traditional production methods that are harmful to the environment and contribute to rising levels of PM 2.5. Young people called for policy support for local farmers in making this shift to more sustainable production.
On promoting key enablers for a sustainable economic transformation
Young people stressed the need for more inclusive policies that leave no one behind, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. They proposed a shift from centralized governance to improve the delivery of public services and ensure that local needs are incorporated in the planning process from the start. To help boost workforce productivity and support the aging population, students and youth leaders highlighted the importance of critical thinking, soft skills and adaptability that are increasingly important in the labour market.
“I am very honoured to be here as one of the youth representatives shaping the direction of the draft 13th National Economic and Social Development Plan,” said Chatchai Karuna, a youth representative from a university network. “Although I am one voice among many, this plan will have a direct impact on me and all youth in Thailand over the next five years. Today, I get to share my ideas on whether this plan really reflects the needs of young people. I hope that our feedback will be incorporated into the plan, setting out directions and strategies that are inclusive to young people and truly respond to the needs and the challenges we are facing today.”
Achieving transformative change and inclusive economic and social development in Thailand is only possible if young people are involved at all stages, including in planning, implementing and monitoring of policies and national plans. Young people hold immense potential in driving the country’s development goals to reality if given support from the government, civil society organizations, and the private sector to deliver greater results for a brighter future.