Science Ministry and Foreign Ministry team up for Science Diplomacy to ensure food security, improve climate change resilience, and increase national competitiveness
Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Science and Technology, and Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, jointly presided over the First Workshop on Science Diplomacy for National Competitiveness. The Science Diplomacy programme, which opens a new chapter of inter-ministerial collaboration, provides a framework for aligning diplomacy with scientific and technical cooperation to seek international partnership in advancing science, technology and innovation for development. Among the participants were business leaders and think-tank strategists, who brainstormed on ways to utilize diplomatic ties to promote international scientific and technical cooperation that advances our development agenda in areas such as food security, climate change resilience, and national competitiveness.
The First Workshop on Science Diplomacy for National Competitiveness was held at the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld, Bangkok. Following the opening addresses by the ministers, a panel discussion on “The Overview and Direction of Global Science, Technology and Innovation Affecting Thailand’s Economic and Foreign Affairs” was held. Panelists included Dr. Suvit Maesincee, Director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs (SIGA); Mr. Krisda Monthienvichienchai, representative from the Board of Trade of Thailand; Dr. Thaweesak Koanantakul, President of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA); Mr. Songsak Saicheua, Director-General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs; and Dr. Yada Mukdapitak, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office (STI). In the afternoon, participants broke out into six discussion groups according to fields of interest. The six discussion groups were as follows: Agriculture and Food Group; Medical Technology and Life Sciences Group; Energy and Climate Change Group; Infrastructure, Technology and Innovation for the Manufacturing Sector Group; Infrastructure, Technology and Innovation for Digital Economy Group; and Human Resource Development, Education and Lifelong Learning Group. Participants in each discussion group brainstormed on ways to promote international R&D collaboration, picking strategic countries, and modes of cooperation. Dr. Pichet said that the workshop set an example for inter-ministerial collaboration at both policy level and operational level.
In his words, science diplomacy has multiple dimensions. On one hand, science, technology and innovation can be used as a tool to promote international relations and solve political, security, economic, social and environmental problems of national, regional, and global scopes. On the other hand, science diplomacy can enhance economic development and national competitiveness through bilateral and multilateral scientific and technical cooperation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has studied the science and technology potentials of various countries so that Thailand can apply foreign knowledge to benefit the economy. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Science and Technology has attempted to develop the country’s science, technology and innovation base. The result of this workshop is to be used to derive a strategic plan for inter-ministerial collaboration in which targeted countries and scientific disciplines or issues are identified.
Food security and climate change resilience are two examples of the issues that required international collaboration supported by science diplomacy. On the food issue, Thailand is in the process of implementing Thailand Food Valley project to strengthen and increase the competitiveness of its food industry through networking government agencies, business sector, research institutions, universities and international knowledge partners to inject science, technology and innovation into products and processes throughout the value chain from upstream to downstream. On the climate change issue, STI has been conducting Technology Needs Assessment project for climate change adaptation and mitigation, funded by Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the United Nations. It is found that Thailand needs weather forecasting and disaster warning technology, plant improvement technology, water resource management technology, etc. Science diplomacy can help with the issue of international technology development and transfer.
Dr. Suvit Maesincee, Member of the National Reform Council and Director of SIGA, said that the world in the 21st Century is increasingly complicated and uncertain, so Thailand needs an overhaul of driving mechanisms for economic growth in order to counter threats and take advantage of new opportunities, leading Thailand to become a First World country. Knowledge, science, technology and innovation are among key success factors to the transformation of the Thai economy. Thais need to look beyond “value addition” toward “value creation” by restructuring and reorienting agricultural, industrial, and service sectors towards knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy with appropriate use of technology, management, human capacity development, and public-private-people partnership.
Finally, Dr. Pichet said that “science diplomacy” is one of the key mechanisms stated in his ministry’s proposal to the government on science, technology and innovation reform package to bring Thailand out of the middle-income trap. He believed that science diplomacy will help Thailand build international cooperation on science, technology and innovation in a more effective fashion and thus increase national competitiveness.