Envisioning Transformative Social Justice
24 July 2018 at Dusit Thani Hotel
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which built on the principle of “leaving no one behind” and emphasized the holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. Goal 16 recognizes that the rule of law constitutes the foundation of and is instrumental to the sustainable development of all nations.
In light of Goal 16, the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) as a member of the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program Network of Institutes (PNIs) acknowledges the importance of investing in and engaging a broad network of people—not only limited to authorities with law-related backgrounds but also users and people affected by law enforcement—in promoting the rule of law and development in Thailand. The learning platform is designed to bring about like-minded people that share mutual appreciation for the rule of law in all its complexities as an essential determinant of the success of achieving sustained, equitable, and inclusive growth. As such, the first collaborative effort between the TIJ and the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at the Harvard Law School, the Rule of Law and Development Program (RoLD Program), was launched in 2017 as a platform that serves as a bridge of knowledge and that links individuals to form a network of change makers.
As one of the showcases in 2017, the RoLD fellows initiated three pilot projects in order to tackle emerging policy problems as follows:
- A case study of Nan Province: the promotion of effective natural resource management and law enforcement schemes to ensure peaceful cohabitation between humans and forests
- The introduction of a fair-debt model to create a more just, inclusive, and equitable society
- The adoption of the “Regulatory Sandbox” framework to establish appropriate legal structures for newly-emerging businesses and technologies
Sharing the same recognition, the 2018 RoLD Program and its fellows have continued their contribution to society by addressing prevalent social and legal issues in Thailand through the lens of rule of law and justice in order to examine problems and to form policy recommendations that are conducive to change regarding the following topics.
Fostering a Culture of Lawfulness: A Way Forward for Thailand
It has been acknowledged both at the domestic and international level that rule of law is the fundamental factor in achieving sustainable development goals. The promotion of rule of law, however, should not be limited only to the scope of “law” itself; rather, it needs to be mutually reinforced with the promotion of a “culture of lawfulness.” This is because law can function as a good controlling mechanism only when the people in the society are willing to respect the law. Such willingness, however, occurs only when the culture of lawfulness is ingrained in the society. At the same time, good law plays an important part in establishing good culture. Hence, it could be concluded that the element of law and human factor need to be given equal emphasis in building a framework for the promotion of sustainable development. Rule of law and a culture of lawfulness thus are complementary concepts; the lack of either could destroy the equilibrium of development, which ultimately is the obstacle to achieving SDGs.
Culture of Social Reintegration in Thailand
Currently, Thailand has one of the largest prison populations in the world, which is partly due to unsystematic rehabilitation and reintegration programs that lack an offender-centric approach. Without effective pre- and post-release interventions that seek to engage key actors from every dimension of society, recidivism rates will continue to rise, thereby endangering public safety and impeding sustainable development. From this, long-term commitment with respect to the rule of law and international human rights standards on the part of policymakers and practitioners in Thailand is required to strengthen the voices of vulnerable former inmates and to dispel the social stigma that serves to aggravate their disempowerment, exclusion, and discrimination. Ultimately, this will provide a “second chance” with equal access to basic social infrastructures and livelihood opportunities for these former inmates.
Financial Inclusion for a Future Economy
According to the Bank of Thailand’s 2016 survey, the key impediments faced by Thai households in accessing loan services were (i) poor financial positions/insufficient formal incomes, (ii) lack of confidence in contacting banks due to fear of rejection, and (iii) complicated application processes. Without access to formal loans, many households turn to informal loans offered by loan sharks, who often impose illegal interest rates and conditions and utilize unlawful debt-collection
practices. Alternative credit scoring serves to address these impediments by (i) utilizing alternative data to better assess an applicant’s creditworthiness, (ii) proved in overseas market to have increased loan application approval rates, and (iii) streamlining the application process. However, the availability of good digital data is crucial to the success of alternative credit scoring. As Thailand is moving towards a digital economy, which will generate an abundance of good digital data footprint, it is important to ensure that no one is left behind.