Pilanya Niyomthai & Yvonne Lodico: UN Retreat brings international and Vermont synergies

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Pilanya Niyomthai, a counsellor for the the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations, and Yvonne Lodico, the founder of the Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation and Coexistence (Grace Initiative).

Sustainability and resilience are long-term progressions and the trajectory depends greatly on where and how the processes unfold. During the G77 Retreat, attendees learned that in Vermont, sustainability begins from inter alia its historical roots, its state policies and support, community practices and advocates, as well as from its farmers, academic institutions and private sector. The G77 retreat, co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Thailand, serving as the chair of the G77, and Grace Initiative showed the coincidence of Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (developed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej) and Vermont’s policies and practices, from state to community level dealing with sustainable agriculture, education, management of natural resources and renewable energy. (Story)

While the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lays out a global action plan to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental, implementation must take place at the local level. To this end, the G77 retreat embraced international and Vermont synergies.

In addition to the previous coverage, we would like to point out that Chuck Ross, secretary of agriculture, captured the retreat’s tone when he welcomed the diplomats, underscoring the spirit and soul of Vermont, especially its sustainable farming goals and practices. Robert Allen, president of Green Mountain College, explained the college’s innovative focus on sustainability, and Ruqaiyah Morris, Bennington state representative, discussed the inclusive dedicated effort involved in transforming communities. Scout Proft of Someday Farm, illuminated the room with her experience and spontaneity.

Grace Initiative is grateful for the trust of the diplomats, especially the Permanent Mission of Thailand and its ambassador, Virachai Plasai, for believing in the idea of a retreat for international learning and exchange for sustainable development — in Vermont.

 

Also, at Burr and Burton Academy’s Mountain Campus, Wanchat Suwankitti, of the National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand, discussed Thailand’s plan and path to attain sustainable development goals through the application of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. Arrut Navaraj, managing director of Sampran Riverside in Thailand, discussed how he translated the philosophy to move farming in Thailand to organic farming, and how organic farmers supply food for businesses and hotels. Also, Gil Livingston, president of Vermont Land Trust, explained how Vermont supports the continuity of farming in Vermont. Later, Robert Dostis, of Green Mountain Power, gave an interactive discussion on clean energy.

On the second day, Scott Johnstone, executive director of Vermont Energy Investment Corp., discussed sustainable energy. Michael Knapp, of Green Rivers Corp., discussed the computer models tracking the impact of climate change for companies such as Starbucks. Arrut Navaraj linked food to people, through which one can see clear similarities between the Thai Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Vermont’s practices.

Finally, Liz Ruffa, project director of Northshire Grows, explained the “farm-to-plate” network in Vermont. Moderators included Eloho Otobo of Grace Initiative and former senior UN staff member, and Narinder Kakar, a permanent observer at the UN for the University for Peace.

Of the 40-some diplomats, the participating diplomats included the current chair of the G77, as well as the incoming chair for 2017. Also participating was the ambassador from Indonesia, the chair of the Second Committee of the General Assembly for development.

To this end, we are thankful to everyone involved, taking note that many Vermont participants came from Burlington, Montpelier and Brattleboro. Grace Initiative is grateful for the trust of the diplomats, especially the Permanent Mission of Thailand and its ambassador, Virachai Plasai, for believing in the idea of a retreat for international learning and exchange for sustainable development — in Vermont. With the recent passing of Thailand’s king on Oct. 13, the retreat now creates historical bonds.

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