Thailand’s approach for sustainable development and building back better

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Synopsis: Thailand’s SEP offers a practical path towards achieving sustainable development in the post-pandemic world. 


The COVID-19 pandemic caused severe social and economic disruption and also changed the living standards of the people. It has also slowed down the global effort to drive forward sustainable development and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

To achieve global sustainability, Thailand came with homegrown development approach of “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” (SEP). This approach can serve as an alternative approach to achieve the SDGs and building back better without leaving no one behind in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What is Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP)? 

SEP is a philosophy that guides one’s inner thinking to immunize oneself from external shocks. Under sufficiency economy, one can consider going beyond one basic need as long as one’s existing means and capacity are not exceeded.  

What is the purpose of SEP? 

The purpose of SEP is to encourage oneself to be sensible and realistic. SEP can be applied to any sectors and any areas of operations and at all levels, i.e. family, local community, business and public organizations. 

SEP serves as a foundation, and compass for sustainability, based on three principles and two pillars.  

First, moderation, which entails producing and consuming within one’s capacity and avoiding overindulgence.  

Second, reasonableness, which is using one’s mental faculties to examine the causes and consequences of actions on one’s well-being, household and community.  

Third, prudence, which refers to risk management in order to be prepared for impacts from any disruptions.  

What are the two pillars? 

The two pillars are:

First, knowledge. It enables effective planning and execution of developmental activities. 

Second, ethics and values. It enhances human development by emphasizing honesty, altruism, and perseverance, with creating active, engaged citizens, and promoting good governance as the ultimate goal. 

What is New Theory Agriculture? 

To strengthen development efforts based on SEP, in the rural areas the “New Theory Agriculture” has been introduced. The initiative is to divide the land into sections for multiple purposes such as crops cultivation, livestock farming, fisheries, and water resources.  

Advantages: This ensures sufficient resources for household consumption and reducing reliance on food imports. It has increased agricultural productivity, income generation, and living standards. It has improved the livelihoods of communities nationwide. 

What are the applications of SEP in times of COVID-19? 

SEP has succeeded in alleviating Thailand to overcome many crises in the past and during COVID-19. Many people were able to continue their way of lives in unprecedented times through self-immunity. 

SEP has inspired numerous projects around the world. Thailand’s SEP-based development models are designed to assist developing countries to tackle the issue of excessive dependence on foreign aid. The objective is to build resilient communities by enhancing productivity in income and resources.  

What is the way forward?

Thailand used SEP to overcome the effects of COVID-19 pandemic and achieve the SDGs. Hence, SEP provides a practical and worthy development path that other nations can adapt to their specific contexts.

Thailand is ready to work with partners worldwide on cooperation for development and share the benefits of the application of the SEP as Thailand’s gift to the world.

Source: This post is based on the article “Thailand’s approach for sustainable development and building back better” published in The Hindu on 15th September 2021. 

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