Urban Nexus

Third National Dialogue on the Urban Nexus in Thailand // Strengthening Collaboration and Access to Financing to Support Integrated Resource Management in Thai Cities

Over 70 participants attended the Third National Dialogue on the Urban Nexus in Thailand on 3 May 2018 in Bangkok, organised by ESCAP in partnership with GIZ Nexus, making it the largest gathering of Thai policy-makers conducted through the Urban Nexus project to date. The Vice Governor of Chiang Mai, Mayor of Korat and Chief Resilience Officer of Bangkok joined key policymakers from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Bureau of Budget and National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), as well as representatives from several line ministries, international organisations, academia, the private sector and NGOs to discuss strengthening cross-sectoral cooperation and inter-governmental coordination to promote integrated resource management in cities.

In the opening session, Dr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director, Environment and Development Division, UNESCAP, stressed the importance of embracing cities as drivers of opportunity for global development. Platforms, such as this national dialogue, provided the space to improve our understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different government levels. Dr. Christine Falken-Grosser, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, emphasized the growing need for improved communication between the local and national level. The national level could assist the local level by providing more financial and other support for urban services and infrastructure. The private sector, international and bi-lateral organizations could also play a stronger role. Additionally, Ms. Sunisa Boonyobhas, Director, Spatial Development Planning and Strategy Office, NESDB, explained the linkages between Thailand’s 20-year National Strategy (2017-2036) and its Twelfth National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP) (2017-2021), both of which align with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Session 1: “Fostering of Horizontal and Vertical Integration to Promote Integrated Resource Management in Thailand”

Setting the context for Session 1 “Fostering of Horizontal and Vertical Integration to Promote Integrated Resource Management in Thailand”, Ms. Ruth Erlbeck, Project Director of GIZ's Urban Nexus Project, emphasized that the urban nexus approach required a shift from a sectoral to a cross-sectoral, integrated approach. It challenged existing structures, sector policies and procedures to promote the protection and use of water, energy and food/land in a balanced manner. Ms. Erlbeck also noted that while the project cities of Chiang Mai and Korat had been able to fund some nexus projects using municipal budgets, more funds and financing were needed to support costly cross-sectoral infrastructure.

Session 1 highlighted entry points for advancing integrated resource management in Thai cities, and addressed challenges and solutions needed to connect policies, practices, organizations and institutions horizontally and vertically to work across sectors and jurisdictions to optimize resource efficiency.  Representatives from Chiang Mai (Vice Governor Kris Thanavanich) and Nakhon Ratchasima (Mayor Suravut Cherdchai), the two cities from Thailand participating in the GIZ Urban Nexus project, shared their experiences on operationalizing the nexus approach through their panel participation. Bangkok’s Chief Resilience Officer (Dr. Supachai Tantikom) presented planned activities and impact of the 100 Resilient Cities Program of the Rockefeller Foundation in relation to the nexus approach. The moderated discussion actively engaged the audience to identify strategies to strengthen governance frameworks to increase uptake of the urban nexus concept in Thailand.

Session 2: Financing Urban Nexus Projects in Thailand

Session 2 explored opportunities for cities to finance cross-sectoral infrastructure projects, with a focus on improving access to national support. The Bureau of the Budget, Mr. Sommai Lakananuruk, Senior Advisor, Bureau of the Budget, started the session with an overview of resources available to promote integrated resource management in Thai cities. This broader presentation was followed by two, consecutive discussions using a case studies to examine challenges and opportunities to fund nexus projects in Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima Municipalities. Mr. Assanee Buranupakorn, Secretary to the Mayor, Chiang Mai, discussed the challenges and progress with financing rehabilitation of the Mae Kha Canal in Chiang Mai. To rehabilitate the canal, 800 million Thai Baht (20 million EUR) are needed. Mr. Netiwit Roengsukpipatthana, Director of Sanitary Engineering Division, Korat City described the different challenges the city has been facing with promoting renewable energy specifically for use at the waste water treatment plant. There was fierce competition to access existing funds, such as Thailand’s Oil Fund and Environmental Fund, and international funding sources. Changing and uncertain government policies had made it even more difficult.

Dr. Winij Ruampongpattana from the Ministry of Finance explained that PPPs must meet specific criteria, have a solid plan and align with existing national plans, and further noted that the Ministry of Interior announced a new Act, and Korat’s project was shifted from a PPP to be considered under this new Act. Other panelists and participants suggested the cities to consider private sector support, blended financing and private-public partnerships (PPP).

Session 3: How the Urban Nexus Approach Contributes to Achievement of the 2030 Agenda and Related Global Initiatives

Session 3 examined how integrated resource management in cities links to the achievement of global agendas in Thailand. Panellists representing all levels of government, academia and interested international organisations reflected on the normative, regulatory, institutional and fiscal frameworks needed to support an integrated approach and facilitate the implementation of global sustainability efforts. The implications and significance to cities in terms of follow-up and review were deliberated upon.

The importance of including training institutions and the academia in the process of introducing innovative cross sectorial technologies in order to make their dissemination and acceptance sustainable was strongly emphasized. This “exercise”, introducing and adjusting “state-of-the-art technologies” should not be left to the cities or ministries at national level alone. Research and training institutes should deal with new technological approaches and hence make the young generation acquainted with them.

Ms. Charinee Suwannatat from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), explained how different SDGs are overseen by different Ministries. Other participants discussed how the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda provides a universal agenda connecting cities from around the world. It is evident that cities have a role in each of the 17 SDGs. This is important, because it’s not in cities’ mandate to participate in negotiating global agendas. At the national level, although many Ministries have road maps on energy, climate change, biodiversity, waste management, etc., the level of understanding varies. Data remains an issue, and it is difficult to measure progress when one does not have a baseline.

The Third National Dialogue on the Urban Nexus in Thailand took place on 3 May 2018, in Bangkok and was organised by ESCAP in partnership with GIZ. The National Dialogue was held under the project “Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: The Urban Nexus”, financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ in partnership with ESCAP, ICLEI and the two nexus partner cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).

Conclusions

Key points raised from the dialogue

  • Although cities are key drivers of national growth and development, and can contribute to implementing global agendas, support from the national level, international and bi-lateral organizations, private sector and academia is needed to leverage the potential of cities to achieve global initiatives. The urban nexus approach, which by its nature promotes integration, can support bringing relevant agencies and sectors together.
  • Urban Nexus Project Partners - GIZ, ESCAP and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability - can help facilitate the national dialogue process and identify opportunities for integration.  However, for cities in the long run to be enabled, institutional structures must be strengthened, and national level agencies must acknowledge and support the needs of sub-national authorities.
  • Cities should consider a variety of funding sources for project implementation, including blended financing, PPPs, resources from donor countries and additional provincial support.
  • Certainty and consistency in national policies is needed to attract investment in innovative projects.
  • Behavior change is important and should not be overlooked. People and communities will work to meet environmental targets when they believe it is important to them. Integrating urban nexus concepts into curriculum and leading by example will help sustain momentum.
  • The importance of including training institutions and the academia in the process of introducing innovative cross sectorial technologies (the Nexus) in order to make their dissemination and acceptance sustainable was strongly emphasized. This “exercise” should not be left to the cities or ministries at national level alone. Research and training institutes should deal with new technological approaches and hence make the young generation acquainted with them.

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