Wisdom for Sustainable Development

Founded on the principle of development at its heart, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), from the moment of its inception, aims at advancing Thailand’s development through higher education by means of nurturing the concept of true development. Under this concept, NIDA recognizes the significance of development in all dimensions: economic, social, cultural, and environmental.

With the fundamental purpose of Thailand’s development in mind, the beginning of NIDA was conceived by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who expressed interest in creating a graduate degree institution in development and so began the discussion in 1963 with Mr. David Rockefeller, an American banker and philanthropist. NIDA as a result came to its official existence on April 1, 1966. During its early years, NIDA received academic assistance from the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities (MUCIA), with Indiana University playing a central role in assisting NIDA. In its infancy stage, the Ford Foundation also contributed a great deal to NIDA’s faculty and capacity building. Since 1966, NIDA has become an institute of higher learning for Thai and international scholars from all over the world.

As an agent of change and progress, NIDA’s vision is committed to educating and cultivating leaders who are both economically and socially responsible. Since development has always been the heart of its curriculum and community outreach, real development in the modern world presents an even more challenging prospect. As such, not only does NIDA intend to stand as a role model by providing higher education concentrating on graduate studies in fields related to development administration, but it also encompasses sustainable development studies and practices in all three sectors including the public, private, and nonprofit in order to address and respond to national and global needs. The Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (CPCS), for instance, was established in 1997 as an independent unit operating under the Institute’s umbrella with the objective of forming and strengthening the interconnected web among the public sector, businesses, civil society, and the communities. Issues of transparency and accountability, gender equality, good governance, and value and mindset change for collaboration and partnership among the various sectors have become crucial to CPCS’s activities over the years. The Center’s ultimate goal is to foster equitable, sustainable, and balanced development that can only arise from the solidarity within the society.

It can also be said that NIDA has long embraced the concept of sustainable development and sustainability. In 2004, Sustainable Development and Sufficiency Economy Studies Center (SuDSESC) was founded with the mission to develop and disseminate knowledge to reflect the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP). The SEP approach is to live life in moderation. It is the mindset that was introduced in Thailand by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the 1990s and became a prominent philosophy nationwide especially after Thailand’s financial crisis in 1997. During the crisis, many people found themselves struggling to stay afloat after a long period of misguided and pseudo prosperity. Once the bubble economy broke, causing a ripple effect across the entire region of Southeast Asia, the country realized that all the profit-making opportunities of the modern world’s economy and the culture of excessive consumption have brought much irreversible damage to the country and the world. In addition, while the development path over the past few decades have focused mainly on economic growth, social and environmental issues had been neglected with the overexploitation of natural resources, as with what happened with most developing economies. In the midst of this awakening, Thailand then learned that sufficiency and moderation should be the pillars upon which true development must rely. As a result, SuDSESC was established under NIDA, with the purpose of laying a self-reliant foundation for real development using an integrated approach in the adoption of SEP in four main areas including research, training, networking, and knowledge gateway, all of which are intended to achieve sustainable development.

As a university located in Bangkok, which has rapidly grown into a large, centralized city with over 10 million people, NIDA understands the ramifications resulting from pollution problems, climate change, and global warming. NIDA therefore established the Center for Smart City Research in 2018 to respond to the urgent need in preserving and restoring our environment. Committed to achieving the reduction of global average temperature, the Center works tirelessly on innovative and sustainable methods that can be timely applied to solve the real-world environmental issues, while simultaneously creating campus sustainability and its surrounding areas with NIDA Smart Compact City Model (NIDA S2C).

From its humble beginning, NIDA has grown and prospered from the cooperation and collaboration with organizations and universities, as well as foundations and civil society at both national and international levels. It is committed to academic excellence through teaching, training, research, and consulting, based on the embodiment of sustainability. These collaborations are a testament demonstrating NIDA’s determination in bettering the local, regional, and global communities. At its core, NIDA provides students with knowledge and skills that are crucial for public policy planning, business development, and development administration that fully incorporate the concept of sustainable development. Students and communities learn that development in all areas can only be true and lasting when “it meets the present needs without compromising the future ones.” The ever-expanding number of NIDA graduates serving in key executive positions, past and present, in all sectors of Thailand can attest to the quality education and research NIDA offers throughout the past half century.

Today, sustainable development has never been more needed. While it may seem simple enough to understand, it is a real challenge that needs to be faced head-on. To this end, NIDA’s ultimate goal is to help lead the way to a balanced development among society, economy, and environment. To achieve this goal, NIDA will continue to build and advocate for a culture of learning that values wisdom and embraces sustainability through high-quality education, high-impact research, and commitment to social and environmental responsibility. NIDA’s missions will continue to be the creation of innovative curricula that aims at achieving sustainable development, as well as the promotion of good governance, transparency, public accountability, and citizen participation. The world needs to create and nurture the new mindset that encourages us to pause and rethink how we live our life. Progress for the sake of progress is not real development, but progress with a sense of balance that promotes fairness, justice, equity, stability, and sustainability, especially with regards to environment is real development. NIDA is committed and prepared to weave a new social fabric that cherishes the new generations of graduates and communities who will lead and change the world for the better.