Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
Thailand conducted a population census unilaterally once every decade and switched to the Civil Registration System in 1958. However, the record-keeping in the system was done manually; therefore, some people were missing from the civil registration record and became undocumented. 2.3 million people registered as aliens in the Department of Provincial Administration’s (DOPA) Civil Registration database, 480,163 were ethnic groups, and people without registration status were allowed to stay in the Kingdom temporarily. When the official documentation of those was lacking, officers often opted to use personal discretion. They requested various evidence to prove a person’s status, resulting in arduous and time-consuming investigative processes to certify birth status and nationality.
DOPA developed projects to solve such problems by using DNA testing, along with interrogation. From the public administration perspective, DNA testing's efficiency reduces costs, and allows for quicker decision making by lessening the need to submit multiple pieces of evidence. DNA testing results are accepted internationally as accurate, reliable, and obviously scientific, they can decrease the use of the officer’s discretion, increase reliability of the interrogation, and legally confirm one’s status in reporting birth or adding a name to the house registration, leading to the acquisition of Thai nationality and an ID card.
The DNA Testing project allows for undocumented Thai people, those with civil registration status problems and low-income earners or disadvantaged people, to voluntarily receive DNA testing. Applicants for Thai nationality can voluntarily choose to take the test if they lack substantial evidence to prove their status, in which the government will subsidize the testing fee.
Additionally, DNA testing reflects confidence in the accuracy of science. Both policymakers and registrars deem DNA test results as scientific, accurate and morally unbiased. DNA testing for ethnic minorities and people without registration status is an example for other countries facing similar situations.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
The project is linked to Category 1, fostering innovation and technology to address statelessness by managing the registration system and categorizing each group of statelessness people into the civil registration database using DNA testing to provide clear evidence. Testing reduces social inequality by providing people social welfare and access to basic constitutional rights. Applicants are informed that examination results will fall into two categories: a relative relationship, (parent-child or sibling with the same parents) or a non-relative relationship. The petitioner and the subject make the decision before participating. Positive test results could effectively reduce statelessness, especially for ethnic minorities.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
The DNA testing project involves two SDGs. Firstly, SDG 10: reducing inequalities, ensuring no one is left behind and eliminating discrimination and the second is SDG 16: to promote justice and peaceful and inclusive societies. There are many statelessness problems, such as having no any nationality registration documents or living in Thailand but not having a residence certificate, especially for recent arrivals. To solve these problems, the DOPA developed and invigorated the legal solutions to fight statelessness in a sustainable and effective way by surveying and recording minorities or non-nationals living in Thailand and amending the law concerning the registration system and nationality law to support individual identification. This project also helps non-Thais trapped in lower-income who cannot afford and access DNA testing free of charge. This project shows how to adapt technology as a key tool to reduce judgment from governing officers. The project is generally open to any person and for those who lack tangible evidence to prove their Thai nationality. The DOPA has also protected personal data with specific laws and regulations.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
This project emphasizes sustainability in the social dimension because a person's statelessness means that the state in which they live has not yet legally recognized their existence. The DOPA realizes humanitarian principles and pushes it’s inclusion into the national agenda and national reform plans. The DOPA surveyed the problem context and developed a data collection system, and enforced amendments to the relevant laws to resolve the problems of stateless persons in Thailand, including amendments to the Civil Registration and Nationality Law, by pushing them into the national agenda and securing annual government expenditure.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
The project assists Thai people who have missed the registration process or people without a registration status and stateless people, especially those with low incomes, by offering them DNA testing to confirm their relative relationship willingly, reliably and for free. DNA testing is the right of the person applying for Thai nationality and is only provided for those who lack sufficient evidence or tangible evidence to prove their Thai nationality. A positive result from a DNA test will serve as keynote evidence for reporting births, adding names to the household registration in the status of a Thai citizen, and obtaining an ID card, which is considered a key to accessing social welfare.
The DOPA has given Thai nationality to more than 289,300 stateless persons, and DOPA plans to provide assistance to 480,163 stateless persons.
The project process had improved and developed a database of Thai nationality. The government sectors and the relevant government agencies can access this database to assure that the social welfare management processes are complete, flexible, quick, and comprehensive, and “leave no one behind”.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
The DNA testing project assists stateless people without any discrimination based on whether they are women, men or LGBTQ+. In addition, the positive result of the program on helping to reduce gender inequality is stipulated by the Constitution, under which people are equal in law, have equal rights and freedoms and are protected by the law. The DNA testing program does not benefit men or women more as proven by the statistics: of the 289,300 stateless persons who have already been granted Thai nationality, 142,448 were men and 146,552 were women. 105,456 were children under 18.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
This project is to provide convenient assistance for Thai people who failed to be recorded in house registration, including stateless persons who have been surveyed by the state. Now some of them have already been recorded and have a pending status in accordance with state policies, such as 19 ethnic minorities, displaced people and those who do not have registration status. The government has the policy to correct the status and nationality of persons who are poor by using DNA testing to provide evidence to verify their status when requesting to notify overdue births or adding a name to the house registration, especially in order to submit an application for Thai citizenship according to the nationality law which will affect the person’s access to basic constitutional rights and allow them to benefit from state services equally and fairly. Lastly, the project will bolster a feeling of non-discrimination and national unity by enhancing and developing government services and inclusiveness in Thailand.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
There are three stages of implementation. Firstly, this project was launched in 1996 as the pilot project. It calls “the period of learning technology and publishing the DNA utility to a recognition of human beings” at the Huay Nam Aun community, Maesuay district, Chiangrai province, under scholars' cooperation from the Legal Center, Faculty of Law Thammasat University. Secondly, due to the high cost of DNA test, since 2002, DOPA established the coordination systems and, seeking funds for operation, revised the Civil Registration Act (N0. 2) B.E.2551 (2008), outlining the method by which a person could obtain a civil registration document and 13-digit ID card number.
Nevertheless, some undocumented people had gone through investigative and interrogation processes from the district registrar or local registrar, but their evidence was still not sufficient to prove their birth status and Thai nationality according to the Nationality Law. Finally, in 2013, the DOPA brought forward the DNA testing method to verify and recognize personality and allocated budget. The registrar would interrogate the person submitting an application for Thai nationality (and witnesses), and assess their financial situation. If the registrar found that the person lacked financial resources, the registrar referred them for DNA testing covered by the DOPA fund.
However, the project lacked continuity due to the number of officers in the registration and nationality section in the districts being insufficient to the amount of work and the number of people receiving the service. Therefore, the status and nationality operation system - DNA testing computer program- was developed in 2018. All processes were conducted online; including the application submission and evidence checking. The system solved the time consumption problem, helped lessen the use of the competent officer’s discretion, provided initial qualification inspection, administered the budget usage, and facilitated processes for both the officer and the applicant.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
Obstacles to the project’s success stemmed from the lack of living expenses and rural locations. DNA testing sites are limited, as there are currently 4 locations that provide prefectural services. Bringing the applicants to the DNA testing sites proved difficult and often expensive. Additionally, those needing DNA tests were generally low-income earners and often had to miss or delay DNA testing appointments. The number of DNA testing locations must be increased to cover every district in Thailand and cooperation between the civil society section and international sections were enhanced to support the target group in receiving DNA tests.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
This initiative is innovative in Thailand’s context because the lack of reliable witnesses and documentary evidence is a significant issue hindering the solving of the statelessness problem. Hence, DOPA has brought technological innovations to develop a computer-based system where people’s bio-data, such as face photograph and fingerprints, is stored and a data-linkage system of all registration offices has been in use since 2003. Furthermore, DOPA has developed its system to allow nationality applications through a computer system so that it can easily screen and identify foreigners, based on information in the database, and whether they qualify for nationality.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiatives in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
The successful case of using DNA testing to identify deceased people in the 2004 Thailand and Southeast Asia Tsunami was an inspiration for DOPA to develop DNA testing innovations to certify nationality. DNA testing provides scientific evidence, which is commonly recognized and serves as evidence in many legal contexts. It is a very reliable and unequivocal instrument rendering officer discretion superfluous. DOPA, therefore, has developed and launched the DNA testing project to certify nationality, which is very useful for both people and officers, and it will be very helpful for fighting statelessness in Thailand.
c. If emerging and frontier technologies were used, please state how these were integrated into the initiative and/or how the initiative embraced digital government. (100 words maximum)
DNA testing offers an effective and expedited process of proving one’s status and will reduce officer discretion and corruption. The stateless person can follow every step of the approval process, increasing its transparency. By using computer-based data-linkage systems, other implicated government agencies can see up-to-date information on stateless persons and use the information to support policy-making and management. Government units working on public welfare such as fundamental education and public health services will be able to prepare basic assistance before the stateless person is certified. Applying technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness of public sectors is key to “digital government”.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
As a central-command unit, DOPA has passed on knowledge and guided the process of the initiative to all registration offices at every level, regional and Bangkok Metropolitan, so that they are all on the same page. The DNA testing process to solve the status and rights problems of the stateless person includes receiving nationality-certifying applications from stateless people and submitting their information into the system, issuing the Letter of Reference for the Stateless person to have free DNA testing at the assigned hospital, and input their personal information into Civil Registration database with the 13 digits of their National Identification Number. DOPA has been commended for the success of the initiative, and other countries have also recognized the project; for example, on November 28, 2018, representatives from the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia visited DOPA’s Bureau of Registration Administration to observe Thailand’s Civil Registration Service Innovation and Nationality-Certifying Innovation.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
The budget for DNA Testing, approximately ten million baht, has been annually allocated through the Bureau of Registration from the Bureau of Budget. It ensures the indigent Thais' individual status and nationality and continuously covers the affected groups in all areas.
Due to a limited number of officials and legal implementation, the online system has been developed to share information and stimulate cooperation among relevant partners, including DNA testing units, District Registration Offices, Local Registration Offices, Municipalities, etc., in order to minimize errors in legal decisions.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
Firstly, a key factor contributing to our work's sustainable development is law amendment and enforcement, which leads to sustainable and effective implementation in solving statelessness. Secondly, the officials comprehend laws and regulations and devote themselves to work on the statelessness problem. Third, cooperation with various sectors, including government agencies, academics, civil society, human rights activists, and key persons who influence policy-making. Most importantly, the DOPA’s vision on Flagship 2021 for a person's nationality and personality, the use of technology in DNA testing, and the online operating system can shorten the procedures, especially in the application process and legal discretion/research.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
This project was evaluated by focusing on the fiscal year 2013-2020 by internal audit Technical Service and Planning Division. Third parties, namely also considered it (1) a professional lecturer in international law and human rights and nationality from Faculty of Law Thammasat University, and (2) Ms. Tuenjai Deetes from the Hill Area and Mountain Development Foundation (HADF) who devoted herself to working on the rights of stateless persons. They assess the process of DOPA in addressing the statelessness problem, particularly in the dimensions of law and policy constraints, officials’ performance, limitation of the target group, and statelessness management.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
A quantitative indicator is one hundred percent of DNA testing applications must be completed in each fiscal year. Also, All Thai persons who (1) failed to be recorded in house registration and (2) stateless persons who had their nationality applications approved must be added to the household registration in accordance with the international obligations of the “I Belong Campaign to End Statelessness (2014 - 2024)”. In addition, there are processes of public hearings and explicit data keeping to demonstrate accountability and legitimacy in government processes.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how is this information being used to inform the initiative’s implementation? (200 words maximum)
The DOPA realized its project objectives in quantitative ways, facilitating one hundred percent of the population's required DNA testing. In addition, since the project's inception, 289,300 stateless persons have been granted Thai nationality. 14,267 stateless persons were assisted in fiscal year 2020, accounting for 109.97 percent of the 13,300 person target.
The qualitative evaluation findings are significant in three aspects. Firstly, the security aspect: all groups of Thai and non-Thai citizens can access their rights because their statuses were verified and they received identification documents to get public services. The government can also provide security services to protect those people from non-traditional threats, such as human trafficking and drugs. Secondly, the social aspect: to successfully solve the statelessness problem, a sense of belonging, harmony, and indivisibility in Thai society had to be nurtured, which leads to the sustainable development of the nation. Lastly, the economic aspect: government agencies can plan for economic development by using more accurate figures on stateless persons entering the labor sectors, especially in an aging society.
Please describe how the initiative is inscribed in the relevant institutional landscape (for example, how is it situated with respect to relevant government agencies, and how have these institutional relationships been operating). (200 words maximum)
Since 1996 at the beginning of the project, DOPA received cooperation from educational institutions for learning technology and published the DNA utility to recognize human beings. In 2015, DOPA and The Central Institute of Forensic Science signed a Memorandum of Cooperation, detailing their cooperation on the DNA Testing Project to support Civil Registration. Four government health agencies support free DNA testing: Ramathibodi Hospital, the Faculty of Medicine Chiang Mai University, Faculty of Medicine Khon Kaen University, and the Faculty of Medicine Prince of Songkla University. DOPA received some budgeting support from Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) to run the project in 5 southern Thai border provinces. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Rights and Liberties Protection Department (Ministry of Justice), and National Health Security Office are also involved in the process of solving people’s status problems. Moreover, DOPA has signed MoUs with Rangsit University and Thaksin University, forming cooperation to provide educational staff and students supporting area-based government agents in term of legal advising, receiving applications, and collecting necessary evidence. Finally, DOPA has been supported by the Chumchonthai Foundation, a group of former stateless persons who were granted Thai citizenship, to help promote the project.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
DOPA organized multiple conferences in Chiang Rai province, Kanchanaburi Province, Prachuab Khiri khan Province, and Ubon Ratchathani Province, in order for the people and competent officers to share problems, obstacles, and suggestions to solve any occurring difficulties regarding people’s status and rights. The target group included undocumented Thai people who were not in the house registration system, stateless people that had been surveyed by the government and awaiting the person’s status development according to the government’s policy, ethnic minorities, and persons without registration status. The government has constantly implemented policies to solve the problem of people’s statuses and nationality for people with low income, and has taken feedback from the conferences and applied to further improve the implementation of the project.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
Although solving the statelessness problem with DNA testing is a small project, it has large impacts on society, especially in the context of project sustainability. The project has constantly been developed; as seen through the revision of related laws and regulations and the advent of the computer-based system, which facilitates the pre-application process, application submission, efficient evidence checking with the Registration Bureaus and related organizations’ databases, and storage of the application and documentation. This process not only allows the competent officer to easily manage the applications, but also ensures that the procedures are fast, transparent, fair, and leave no room for corruption.
DOPA has continuously put effort into implementing the project and fighting the statelessness problem. The department received an invitation from the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO) and was selected as a pilot project to assess the civil registration system of remote populations in order to develop a handbook on the civil registration system assessment of remote population. The collaborative effort was done in accordance of the Fundamental Rights Protection stated in the declaration of the ministerial conference of the Bali Process. As a member country, Thailand had also adopted the declaration of the Bali Process.