Work on Children and Social Development in Transitional Thai Society

Emerging social problems have shown that the characteristics of poverty in Thai society are becoming more complex, with differing forms of disparity and inequality. This basic understanding allows seeing the need to build a universal social welfare and protection system in Thailand because the current direction of development has marginalized the majority of the people. This situation has caused these people to become invisible. For example, migrant workers in Bangkok cannot access certain welfare services because their house registration is in the provinces. Therefore children’s problems cannot be resolved in isolation without linking them to other social issues.

At the same time, society faces various increasing social, economic and natural disaster risks. There are more exploitative practices in the employment system. This is the situation for the majority of parents and guardians of young children for whom civil society is advocating a basic early childhood welfare system. Many vulnerable groups are very sensitive to the issues of social insecurity and therefore have the potential to become a large force of allies in advocating child support grants and to work together to build more comprehensive social protection as stated in the declaration of human rights that every member of society has the right to social security.

Civil Society Strategies in Policy Advocacy for Child Support Grants

The heart of child support is the development of early childhood care that builds a good life for our children as part of building a society of quality and value. Society has to look after its children; the stronger need to support the weaker so that all can have a better life of higher value. To raise such issues as widely as possible in civil society will increase people’s imaginations beyond their current horizons and stimulate people-centred action in public policy management that is not led by economic decisions. For this reason, child support grants act as an opening to issues of more effective childcare in society.

For such a scenario to become a reality, cooperation between civil society actors, academics and policy analysts is needed as a basis for public policy advocacy, creating practical knowledge that leads to ‘practical justice’. We need to find ways and means that correspond to social realities, create participation and mobile social forces horizontally (participation and mobilization theory), and make improvements to the rules and regulations at various levels, including to individuals’ behaviour, by adding positive encouragement through a civil society campaign.

Moreover, the work carried out by the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute in cooperation with NGOs and 15 marginalized groups to prepare a report for the UN on the future that we want made participants realize that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had been determined by high-level agencies and consultations, and that in future, the goals should be identified by the people themselves. See more information here. The processes of participation and mobilization in the review of the current development agenda for social change must be created so that all can take part in determining their own future.

In the seminar on civil society strategies for policy advocacy on child support grants held at the beginning of June 2014, participants proposed scenario-building exercises involving the future of children in 20 years’ time as a way forward for people-centred child support policy mobilization. This proposal represents a challenge to civil society in Thailand as no agencies can work alone, but all must work together to accomplish the tasks.

In terms of strategy, therefore, civil society must focus on joining forces together to move on public policy on children by strengthening the Task Force for Children with ideas, manpower and financial contributions. To ensure that the Task Force has the capacity to carry out advocacy on their behalf in the short-, medium- and long-term, there may in the future be a need to establish a secretariat of NGOs engaged in children and family welfare.

By Ranee Hassarungsee, Social Agenda Working Group (Social Watch Thailand).