“Nudging” the hill tribes of the Golden Triangle towards sustainable livelihoods, away from illicit crops. A Talk by Sandro Calvani



When the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the 2017 Prize in Economics to Prof. Richard Thaler, we at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation (MFLF) were more than pleased. The prize placed a spotlight on Prof. Thaler’s “nudge” theory discussed in his 2008 book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ (co-authored with Prof. Cass R. Sunstein of Harvard Law School), on behavioural economics. The study of economics from a psychological perspective maintains that people respond better to incentives than to punishment, thus “nudging” can become an effective public policy tool. It is essentially easier to influence people’s decisions by steering them with psychological means than with instructions, rules and regulations. Indeed, the adaptive changes led by the MFLF (http://www.maefahluang.org/) are a long-lasting vision of “nudging” for sustainable development, which the Foundation has been implementing since 1987, when the late Princess Mother, Princess Srinagarindra, proclaimed: “I shall plant forests on Doi Tung”. The Princess Mother firmly believed that “no one wants to be bad, they just don’t have the opportunity to be good”. Just as the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej had done, she gradually introduced different crops that would offer villagers incomes equal to or better than those from illicit crops. A long-term vision was developed and shared with the communities, who witnessed tangible results for themselves. Over time, they were able to make the right decisions and modify their behaviour. The lecture will present key MFLF findings from 30 years of experience in transforming people’s livelihoods in the Golden Triangle, where “nudge” principles are applied to local politics, society and economics.

Dr. Sandro Calvani is a Senior Adviser on Strategic Planning at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation (under Royal Patronage), Bangkok, and former Director, ASEAN Center of Excellence on UN Millennium Development Goals, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok. He is Professor of Politics, Development and Humanitarian Affairs in International Politics at the Webster University Masters Course in International Relations, Bangkok. Ajan Sandro is also a former Director-general at the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). He has worked for 25 years as a UN senior official and Head of Mission in 135 countries in five continents; he has authored 25 books, 27 multi-author books and more than 700 articles on sustainable development, humanitarian aid, public health and convergence of emerging threats in human security. His complete biodata is available at www.sandrocalvani.it or at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandro_Calvani.

Date: Thursday, 6 September 2018
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am. – 5:00pm.

The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.