In this era of change, the problems that the world has to face are multi-dimensional, and they are emerging at a high speed and are always shifting, depending on the situation. Transnational organized crime and issues of poverty and social inequality are growing more serious all the time, especially among vulnerable groups such as women, children, and people with disabilities, and traditional or textbook methods, most of the time, cannot help to alleviate the situation. Further, considering only select perspectives on the problems may not solve them but only make the issues even more widespread.
In order to address these issues, new solutions are therefore required. As emphasized by
Prof. Dr. Kittipong Kittiyarak, the Executive Director of Thailand Institute of Justice, justice-related innovations or “Tech for Justice” have to come into play. With this determination came the 3rdWorkshops on the Rule of Law and Policy for scholars and emerging leaders held by the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), in collaboration with the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at the Harvard Law School. Through the intense multi-dimensional brainstorming, discussion, and analysis of the participants, the workshops’ mission was to create a network of like-minded professionals and to encourage the application of the rule of law as a strong foundation for countries in their quest to achieve the expected Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs). The participants also had the opportunity to learn from the direct experience of experts in many industries in the “Problem Lab” sessions, where they were able to participate in discussions, and exchange and share opinions and suggestions regarding solutions that will be useful in the near future.
In this year’s workshops, the TIJ also worked with the faculty members of the universities that are networking with Harvard in order to develop modern courses, focusing on current social issues, especially in Asia. The courses ranged from cyber security to access to justice and social disparity. With more than 140 participants from 45 countries from all over the world, a foundation induction session was provided with the aim to build understanding of the importance of the SDGs and their connection with the rule of law.
The sessionsstarted off with an introduction to SDGs by Mr. Nicholas Booth, Programme Advisor of the UNDP on Governance, Conflict Prevention, Access to Justice and Human Rights, who indicated that “the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are different from the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs because the SDGs focus on true understanding of root causes of problems. The SDGs encourage participation from the government and private sectors and they uphold human rights principles based on the strong basis of ‘leaving no one behind.’”
The question is therefore how, in today’s world, can policies and laws be passed to facilitate development based on the rule of law? However, without truly reflecting on the matter and potential root causes, wrong policies may be put in place and will not lead to solutions to the problems. This issue is in line with the principle of “Asking the Right Question” of the IGLP. On that topic, Dr. Osama Siddique, Legal Scholar and Policy Reform Advisor from Pakistan, reflected on the importance of how asking better questions can lead to better policies and laws, the effective implementation of which can actually bring about desirable changes to the society. In order to have in place good policy, all stakeholders have to be equally and inclusively taken into consideration, and policymakers should be able to answer whether a policy is just, impartial, or unbiased, and whether the policy framework is in line with the social values, standards, culture, and concerns of a certain society. It is also worth noting that sometimes the expertise and specialism of the policymakers can in fact obstruct the process of policy making. Another important point is that there is no single universally-applicable policy that can solve the problems of every country or society.
Take for example policymaking for the facilitation of technological development, which is the issue in focus nowadays. Technologies and innovations are changing the world and seamlessly impacting the lives of millions regardless of their social classes and nationalities. Professor Ben Hulrbut, who is a faculty member of Arizona State University in the U.S., one of the universities that are networking with Harvard and is teaching the subject of the governance of science and technology, emphasized that science and technology are international issues. He further suggested that we should begin by asking questions about how we should design technology and who should decide whether it is good or desirable. Additionally, he said that the social context has to play a factor in the implementation of law in order to facilitate such technological development.
Surrogacy is another example that has caused a great deal of controversy in society. In some countries, there are no laws that can be applied to this issue. Therefore, it is necessary for policymakers and the society as a whole to ponder how legislation should be drafted in order to actually respond to this problem. There are also other issues, such as the lack of support from the legislative side for players in the field of start-ups that may require a testing field for new innovations. This lack of enabling an environment has resulted in Thai start-ups having to incorporate in other countries and seek capital contributions from other countries with more supportive laws. The consequences of this lack of legislative support in Thailand in relation to current and future economic growth are still a matter to be discussed.
It is undeniable that the society today is inseparable from science and technology, which become more and more important every passing moment. Science and technology today have the ability to shape the pattern of the society and economy and the relationships of people all over the world. The best way to address these ongoing issues is to have better understanding, and in order to achieve that, the development of expertise and the establishment of platforms or stages for in-depth and fruitful discussions of multi-faceted stakeholders are the keys. These workshops were therefore an important platform and a milestone leading to the asking of better questions and to better analysis. The workshops also enabled stakeholders and other relevant persons in the society to find innovative solutions to address the problems they are facing and to drive forward to a desirable society for all.