Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Thai Labour NGOs during the ‘Modern Slavery’ Reforms: NGO Transitions in a Post-aid World

Kadfak, Alin; Wilhelm, Miriam; Oskarsson, Patrik


This article explores how domestic NGOs responded to new opportunities that emerged during the 2015-2020 'modern slavery' labour reforms in Thailand's seafood sector. The analysis takes place against the background of civil society transitions in a 'post-aid' setting. Like NGOs in other middle-income countries, the Thai NGO sector has struggled to remain relevant and financially viable in recent decades, as international donors have withdrawn from countries with steadily declining poverty rates. As a result of the 'developmental successes' of Thailand, the NGO sector needed to rethink its strategies. Examining the modern slavery labour reform process provides an opportunity to understand the strategic choices available to NGOs in the face of several important phenomena: the emergence of new actors such as international philanthropic donors; the growing influence of the private sector in governance matters; and the need for NGOs to balance multiple strategic alliances. The article draws on in-depth interviews to explore narratives of Thai labour NGO adjustments during the period of the modern slavery reform. The study contributes to a better understanding of how NGOs in post-aid countries transition and adapt to changing circumstances by embracing new roles as 'sub-contractors' for emerging global philanthropic donors and as 'partners' of private corporations.

Published in

Development and Change
2023, Volume: 54, number: 3, pages: 570-600