Thai local voices offer forest and climate solutions

At a time when Southeast Asia is blanketed in a thick cloud of air pollution, Bangkok gets a whiff of fresh air with the People and Forests Forum.

Forest degradation is the second highest contributor to climate change after fossil fuel burning. Forests, the world carbon storehouse, can support fight climate change and provide a sustainable future for people living in rural and urban areas. If forests are protected, kept healthy and resilient.

The rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia is the highest of any major tropical regions in the world. In the Mekong subregion, forests are under continued pressure from unsustainable practices, weak forest governance and consumer demand. To protect forest ecosystems, the voices of local communities, who are at the forefront of actions that have kept forests healthy and resilient for centuries, must be included in discussions of forest governance and empowered to act.

With this call for action, the Voices for Mekong Forests, an initiative funded by the European Union, and RECOFTC hosted the People and Forests Forum in Bangkok’s own green oasis, Angoon’s Garden.

A trusted broker among partners in Thailand and the region, RECOFTC brought together representatives of national authorities, civil society, local communities, youth groups, academia and media to exchange lessons and come up with pioneering solutions to forest governance and climate mitigation and adaptation, in Thailand and beyond.

The forum, which took place from 24 to 25 January 2020, was participatory by design, founded on RECOFTC’s own inclusive approaches to generating solutions. A multitude of voices, from forest communities to authorities, activists and experts spoke to a shared idea, that collaboration and participation are vital to achieving equitable governance of forests. Representatives of local communities and Indigenous Peoples networks from northern and southeast Thailand were among the participants at the forum, sharing their testimonials and experiences about the relevance of equal and meaningful participation of local communities in decisions about forest governance, climate change solutions and sustainable development.

Youth representatives from Climate Strike Thailand, the country’s own Fridays for Future group, and other youth-led environmental movement and organizations, brought to attention the urgency of the climate crisis, a topic during the two days. Addressing all participants, youth urged policymakers and practitioners to take accelerated action.

The actions and words of all participating at the 2020 People and Forests Forum reaffirm RECOFTC commitment towards building a future where people live equitably and sustainably in and besides healthy, resilient forests.

RECOFTC's work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).