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

Thai policy makers attended the Third National Dialogue on the Urban Nexus in Thailand on 3 May 2018 to discuss strengthening cross-sectoral cooperation and inter-governmental coordination to promote integrated resource management in cities.
 
The dialogue was attended by 70 participants including the Vice Governor of Chiang Mai, the Mayor of Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) and the Chief Resilience Officer of Bangkok who 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. This was the largest gathering of Thai policy-makers conducted through the Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities (Urban Nexus) project.
 
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, provide the space to improve our understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different government levels. Dr. Christine Falken-Grosser, Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, emphasised 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 bilateral organisations 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.
 
Setting the context for session one “Fostering of Horizontal and Vertical Integration to Promote Integrated Resource Management in Thailand”, Ms. Ruth Erlbeck, Project Director, GIZ Urban Nexus Project, emphasised that the urban nexus approach requires a shift from a sectoral to a cross-sectoral, integrated approach. It challenges existing structures, sector policies and procedures to promote the protection and use of water, energy, food and land in a balanced manner. While the project cities of Chiang Mai and Korat have been able to fund some nexus projects using municipal budgets, more funds and financing are needed to support costly cross-sectoral infrastructure. This session highlighted entry points for advancing integrated resource management in Thai cities, and addressed challenges and solutions needed to connect policies, practices, organisations and institutions horizontally and vertically to work across sectors and jurisdictions to optimise resource efficiency.  Dr. Supachai Tantikom, Bangkok’s Chief Resilience Officer, presented planned activities and impact of the 100 Resilient Cities Program of the Rockefeller Foundation in relation to the nexus approach.
 
Session two explored opportunities for cities to finance cross-sectoral infrastructure projects with a focus on improving access to national support. The session commenced with an overview of resources available to promote integrated resource management in Thai cities. It was followed by discussions using case studies to examine challenges and opportunities to fund nexus projects in Chiang Mai and Korat municipalities. The challenges and progress with financing rehabilitation of the Mae Kha Canal in Chiang Mai, which needs 800 million Thai Baht (20 million EUR), was discussed while Korat City has been facing problems promoting renewable energy specifically for use at the waste-water treatment plant. Mr. Netiwit Roengsukpipatthana, Director of Sanitary Engineering Division, Korat City, described the different challenges the city has been up against in promoting renewable energy specifically for use at this waste-water treatment plant. “There is fierce competition to access existing funds, such as Thailand’s Oil Fund and Environmental Fund, and international funding sources. Changing and uncertain government policies have made it even more difficult,” said Mr. Roengsukpipatthana.
 
Dr. Winij Ruampongpattana from the Ministry of Finance explained that Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) must meet specific criteria, have a solid plan and align with existing national plans.  The Ministry of Interior also 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 that the cities consider private sector support, blended financing and Private-Public Partnerships.
 
The third session examined how integrated resource management in cities links to the achievement of global agendas in Thailand. The panelists reflected on the normative, regulatory, institutional and fiscal frameworks needed to support an integrated approach and facilitate the implementation of global sustainability efforts. The participants discussed how the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is evident that cities have a role in each of the 17 SDGs. At the national level, although many ministries have roadmaps on energy, climate change, biodiversity and waste management, the level of understanding varies. Data remain an issue, and it is difficult to measure progress when one does not have a baseline. In this session, the importance of training institutions and academia in the process of introducing innovative cross sectorial technologies in order to make their dissemination and acceptance sustainable was strongly emphasised. The “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.
 
Key points raised from the dialogue include:
1. Although cities are key drivers of national growth and development, and can contribute to implementing global agendas, support from the national level, international and bilateral organisations, the 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.
2. 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, if cities are to be enabled in the long run, institutional structures must be strengthened and national-level agencies must acknowledge and support the needs of sub-national authorities.
3. Cities should consider a variety of funding sources for project implementation, including blended financing, PPPs, resources from donor countries and additional provincial support.
4. Certainty and consistency in national policies are needed to attract investment in innovative projects.
5. Behaviour 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 curricula and leading by example will help sustain momentum.
6. It is important that training institutions and academia are included in the process of introducing innovative cross sectorial technologies (the Nexus) in order to make their dissemination and acceptance sustainable. Research and training institutes should deal with new technological approaches and hence make the young generation acquainted with them.  

The Third National Dialogue on the Urban Nexus in Thailand 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 Korat. 

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