Assessments of ecosystem services and human well-being in Thailand build and create demand for coproductive capacity
Louis Lebel, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
Suchada Wattana, Policy and Planning Bureau, Ministry of Interior, Thailand
Pawin Talerngsri, United Nations Development Programme
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Assessments of ecosystem services have been proposed as one way of incorporating concerns about environmental change and ecosystem conditions into subnational development planning. In Thailand a policy window for such initiatives is opening because of a transition in national policy toward area-based planning combined with broader political reforms to expand public participation and encourage more evidence-based decision making. We explored three case studies in Thailand in which central and local government agencies and research organizations partnered to engage local communities and other stakeholders in assessments of ecosystem services and human well-being. The analysis focused on the role ecosystem assessments play in building and creating demand for coproductive capacity. By coproductive capacities we mean the ability to combine scientific resources and governance capabilities in ways that bring about informed social change. We found evidence that the assessments built capacities for governance actors to explore scientific and research-based evidence, to consult scientific experts, and then to evaluate existing policies and plans using this newly acquired information. At the same time, scientific experts also learned to explore public policy issues, to consult planners and decision makers in government, and based on this knowledge to evaluate scientific evidence and revise the scope and goals of their research and analytical activities to better meet policy needs and demands. Coproductive capacities were built when various stakeholders jointly engaged in compilation and interpretation of evidence. Doing so helped legitimize the assessment process with positive feedback on both governance and science capacities. We also found evidence, however, of significant cultural and institutional constraints to designing and making better use of ecosystem services assessments. These constraints included insufficient resources for both knowledge making and decision making. Power relations and organizational culture likewise had implications for capacities to govern and do science. Nevertheless, by creating demand for greater capacities, assessments contribute to improving the quality of evidence-based social change.
assessment; coproductive capacity; ecosystem services; evidence-based planning; human well-being; problem driven
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