EVENT: "Towards a Creative Diplomacy Agenda: Exploring New Approaches for Contemporary Transboundary Water Governance"

Why Think Tanks and Civil Society Networks Matter

Towards a Creative Diplomacy Agenda:
Exploring New Approaches for Contemporary Transboundary Water Governance


As part of a special day of worldwide events, spanning over 100 cities and with 160 organizations involved, Chulalongkorn University (CSDS, Chula Global Network and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies) hosted a Why Think Tanks Matter event, moderated by Prof. Kasira Cheeppensook, focused on the topic of how civil society can create a stronger diplomacy agenda for transboundary water governance and riparian diplomacy. This series of global events was sparked to help highlight the crucial role think tanks and civil society now play in analyzing, developing and promoting policy solutions, particularly as the rise of populism, nationalism and protectionism increase worldwide, signaling an end to the traditional post-WWII order of politics and society. Particularly here in Southeast Asia where a change in the relationships between the environment, social movements, governments and human rights is creating a new set of security challenges, solutions are required amongst all institutions to cooperate in a more consistent and effective manner. 

World leaders at the LMC

Paired with this important topic were the issues and opportunities that face this region in particular, of perhaps the most precious resource for humankind: water. With the region's rivers serving not only as the lifeblood to millions of people, but also as boundaries to many nations in South and Southeast Asia, the importance of pragmatic and effective diplomacy, not just by governments, but by civil society institutions, will be vital to the success and stability of the region for the foreseeable future. 

As the organizations and institutions tasked with such work have a tough road ahead on these topics, it is imperative that they operate with knowledge and resources that reflect and come from a variety and multiplicity of levels and stakeholders, in order to remain relevant, impactful and fair. This is perhaps the most important accompanying set of discussions that were brought up by almost every panelists, as it is recognized widely that knowledge equates with power, so it is the role of civil society to ensure that this knowledge is used in an innovative and widespread manner to promote sustainable and equitable change for all. Panelists at this event did not mince words and stressed the importance of collaboration and transparency, which are still heavily needed in the work being done at this topics at all levels. 

Panelists (Credit: D. Marksiri)

Panelists (Credit: D. Marksiri)

Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, from the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh opened the panel by providing an alternative yet thought provoking take on the meanings and re-contextualizations of both "water" and "rivers," as he supports the idea that this must now be done in order to better understand how we use water and how it is interwoven in all parts of society and daily life. The concepts of using the new methodology of micro-narratives to better tell stories in order to bring about creative hydrodiplomacy were also brought up, adding to the innovation that this series of events hopes to spark throughout civil society. Dr. John Dore from the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia challenged the room to think outside of the proverbial box as he reviewed and analysed alternative mechanisms and organizations like the Lancang Mekong Cooperation Framework that are reshaping water policy and governance in the region, fueled by new regional players and an increasingly serious battle for depleting resources. The subsequent three presentations given by Ganesh Pangare and Bushra Nishat  (International Water Association), Dr. Sucharit Koonthanakulwong (UNESCO Chair on Water & Sustainable Development) and Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (CSDS/Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University) all focused on local case studies where civil society, co-productions of knowledge and innovations are being employed to better engage all members of society in projects focused on hydro-diplomacy and water governance. Lastly Dr. Chariyaway Suntabutra the Former Ambassador of Thailand to Egypt, Kenya and Germany provided his insight on the panel's non-traditional methods compared with the traditional diplomacy approaches observed from his time working for the government, and stressed that these new ways of thinking are indeed vital for our shared success and survival in the future. The wrap-up to the panel given, by Surichai Wun'gaeo, served as both an inspiration and call to action for all present, with emphasis on challenging the current status quo in order to influence those in power and to make real, tangible change, starting from the lowest grassroots level all the way up to the top.  


EVENT: Panel Presentation at Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN Conference

"Water (In)security and Development in Southeast Asia: Inclusions, Exclusions and Transformations"

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

On the first day of the Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN International Conference 2018: Agri-Food Systems, Rural Sustainability and Socioeconomic Transformations in South-east Asia, CSDS organized and presented on a panel centered on conflicts over access to, control over and use of water and natural resources at scales ranging from the interstate to the individual. Four panelists presented their most recent research which focused on case studies from around the region, in Myanmar, Thailand and Lao PDR. The panel was comprised of Dr. Soimart Rungmanee (Puay Ungpakorn School of Development Studies, Thammasart University), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kanokwan Manorom (Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University), Saw John Bright (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network - KESAN) and Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University). For more details on the conference please visit our post here or download the official program here

To download the full presentations from the panel, please visit the links below:

PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Water Scarcity and Disaster Recovery in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Technical Problem or Governance Challenge?"

In recent years, the population of Hakha town, Chin State has faced growing water insecurity. This has created great hardships for the local population, especially in the dry season. For those who cannot access water from private springs, or afford to buy water, they must queue sometimes for hours to collect relatively small amounts of water. Compounding the difficulties faced by Hakha’s population, in June 2015, Hakha town suffered a major landslide. As a result, over 4000 people living in at-risk places were moved, many permanently to a new settlement. In the settlement, the government has provided land or houses, yet basic services including water and schools were lagging behind.

Two presentations reflected on the production of water insecurity, and increasing resilience to landslide risks:

  • “Water insecurity in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar” by Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Director of CSDS) and Orapan Pratomlek (CSDS project coordinator) [Download PPT]
  • “Lessons learned from landslide disaster recovery in Hakha town, and how to strengthen resilience” by Hlawn Tin Cuai (Master Student of Architecture (IMARCH), Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University; and ex- Operation Manager of Hakha Rescue Committee, September 2015 to February 2016) [Download PPT]

Discussant comments were offered by Pastor Lai Cung (Hakhathar Baptist Church) and Van Bawi Lian (CSDS researcher).

The seminar can be watched on Facebook live here.

More details on our research project on water insecurity in Hakha town can be found here.

EVENT: MAIDS and CSDS Welcome Trinity College Faculty and Students

On 14th June 2017, the MAIDS and CSDS programs were very glad to welcome Prof. Xiangming Chen and his Faculty Colleagues and 25 students from the Center for Urban and Global Studies of Trinity College, Hartford, US. The faculty staff and students were mid-journey through their field trip visiting "River Cities" in China, Thailand and Cambodia. 

The Trinity College faculty and students at Chulalongkorn University       (Credit: Saittawut Yutthaworakool)

The Trinity College faculty and students at Chulalongkorn University

  (Credit: Saittawut Yutthaworakool)

During the Visit, Dr. Carl Middleton of CSDS and MAIDS offered a lecture titled "Think global, act 'teleconnected' local: Exploring the connections between regional trade, water security, and community vulnerability in Bangkok and Tokyo." The lecture sought to stimulate discussion amongst the group on how processes of industrialization and urbanization in East Asia have impacted peri-urban wetland spaces and community livelihoods in Bangkok and Tokyo.

Following a brief discussion on the lecture, the group toured the Chulalongkorn University campus and visited the CU museum.

Dr Carl Middleton provides a lecture titled “Think Global, Act ‘Teleconnected’ Local”   (Credit: Saittawut Yutthaworakool)

Dr Carl Middleton provides a lecture titled “Think Global, Act ‘Teleconnected’ Local” (Credit: Saittawut Yutthaworakool)