Trans-Boundary (Environmental) Concerns

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Government and non-government organizations rely on Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy (SPP) as a platform for investigating and solving complex and wicked public problems. SPP is a depository and filter for policy ideas and for helping formulate feasibility studies that translate policy ideas into policy design options. This includes trans-boundary environmental issues.

In addition to leading climate change related projects, SPP is addressing the haze crisis occurring annually in northern Thailand and throughout the region. This issue, linked with the region’s history, culture, and deeply-rooted sociopolitical economy structures, is multi-faceted. For example, Siam/Thailand has built into its socio-fabric centuries of agriculture related fire-building traditions, as well as village-level rebellions against top-down government control. This haze problem must therefore be analyzed from various dimensions.

We at SPP are answering public policy related questions by organizing thoughts, so that solutions can be systematically created. Who is really to blame and fine for these fires; what are the root sources and the actual effects of this environmental destruction; and, so what? There are people who are explicitly causing this haze problem, and also those who are experiencing the pollution but not linking their contribution to the overall socio-ecological system.

How can comprehensive understanding of these layered facets be cohesively packaged and worked with collaboratively? Because solving these modern-day tragedy of the commons issues by enacting social policies meant for transforming people’s deep-rooted behaviors has risks and uncertainties; implications ultimately impact people’s health and the region’s overall ecological system.

Still, a button cannot be pushed that suddenly changes people’s behavior. Solving public problems rather requires sound public policies. New strategies blended with reliable historical knowledge and up-to-date research is required. Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy (SPP), for example, recently performed a comprehensive ten-year review of all haze related research projects and then proposed a short, medium, and long-term “Haze Free 2030” strategic plan for Chiang Mai’s haze control.

SPP sees this trans-boundary environmental issue from the inequalities point of view, which must be deliberated and managed with multi-level governance and sustainability strategies. Who is being left out of the overall conversation? We are working with partners in creating ‘mini-public’ platforms. These forums are mainly about stopping the finger-pointing, reducing or even eliminating top-down government commanding of people’s livelihoods, and about including citizens in the deliberation process so that informed public policies are created that leaves nobody behind.