Memorandum of Understanding between Thammasat University and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan
On July 21, 2017 at the Underground 1 level of the Pridi Banomyong Library, Tha Prachan campus, Thammasat University, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Thammasat University and The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), based in Islamabad, Pakistan. SDPI provides the global sustainable development community with representation from Pakistan as well as South Asia as a whole. The MOU was signed by Professor Dr. Somkit Lertpaithoon, The Rector, Thammasat University, and Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, a Pakistani social policy analyst and development practitioner who has been the Executive Director of SDPI since 2007. Among distinguished guests were HRH Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb, Prince (Wāli) of Swat; Ms. Aqsa Nawaz, First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission of The Embassy of Pakistan in Thailand, and Imran Shauket, MD (SDPI Thailand) – Chairman, JOBS Group. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Dr. Shauket made a generous donation of books about Pakistani history, culture, and civilization to the TU Libraries collection. In opening comments, Dr. Somkit related the MOU to ongoing efforts for academic exchange with Pakistan, noting:
We are constantly working to deepen our relationship between our two countries.
Dr. Abid spoke about SDPI as a highly rated think tank, another term for policy institute or research organisation on social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. One online description explains that SDPI is
an independent non-profit organization that serves as a forum for policy dialogue and provides policy advice to the government. Its research projects focus on five core areas: governance, environment, global and rural livelihoods, human development, and information and communications. SDPI produces knowledge that can enhance the capacity of government to make informed policy decisions and to engage civil society on issues of public interest. The Institute acts as both a generator of original research on sustainable development issues and as an information resource for concerned individuals and institutions. SDPI’s function is thus two-fold: an advisory role fulfilled through research, policy advice and advocacy; and an enabling role realised through providing other individuals and organizations with resource materials and training. SDPI’s Center for Capacity Building (CCB), an integral unit of the Institute, addresses the recognized need to provide high quality training to the public, private and NGO sector organizations and individuals to build their capacity for sustainable development. Since it was established in 1998, the CCB has trained more than 6000 individuals, including more than 1,000 women. More than 215 organizations and partners have benefited from its trainings/workshops including NGOs, private organizations and public sector organizations. Each year, the Center prepares and implements a calendar consisting of about 25 to 30 short generic and specialized research courses.
Dr. Abid pointed out that in 1934, when TU was officially established as the national university of Thailand, it was originally named by its founder, Pridi Banomyong, as the University of Moral and Political Sciences. Dr. Abid emphasized the continuing importance of linking morality and politics:
As knowledge expands, morality remains a common factor.
Dr. Abid also stated that his fellow Pakistanis could learn much from the example of HM King Rama IX, who
started talking many decades ago about self-sufficient economy and sustainable development.
HRH Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb, Prince of Swat is an engineer, former member of Parliament and the current head of the former Swat princely state. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He is the eldest grandson of Miangul Jahan Zeb, the last ruler, whose book The Last Wali of Swat: an Autobiography, is in the collection of the TU Libraries. After the death of his father in 2014, Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb became the unofficial Wāli of Swat, also known as the Prince of Swat. In the Urdu language, the word wāli means leader. The rulers of the Princely state of Swat were previously known as Akhund and Khan, among other honorary titles. His ancestor Abdul Ghaffur Khan, known as the Akhund of Swat, who reigned from 1857 to 1878, won lasting international fame because he was the subject of a poem by the English author Edward Lear, whose works are in the collection of the TU Libraries. Written around 1876, Lear’s The Akond of Swat was based on the fact that although Lear was a landscape painter who traveled to many areas of the world, he had never heard of the The Akond of Swat (or more correctly, Akhund), whose name he saw mentioned in a London newspaper. From 1873 to 1875, Lear had travelled throughout many parts of India, creating many artworks inspired by the landscapes he saw there. After all this detailed work, after returning home to England, he was surprised to find that there was a place and ruler in that area he had never heard of before. Lear’s poem, meant to be appreciated by readers of all ages, including children, began:
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.