The UN System’s role in Thailand
Thailand is a strong supporter of the United Nations. It has contributed to UN peacekeeping operations and has ratified a range of UN human rights, labour and environment conventions and treaties.
In both financial and operational terms the UN country programmes for Thailand itself remain quite modest, reflecting the country’s improving development status. However, as Thailand effectuates this transition, the UN continues to play an important role in supporting Thailand’s development process. The UN also plays a natural coordinating role, seeking to ensure country-level harmonization in donor support, development activities and goal setting.
Comprising those UN agencies with significant Thailand-focused programmes, the UN Country Team (UNCT) is committed to continuing a strong, constructive partnership with the Thai government and key stakeholders in the country. Its activities aim to support and complement national policy processes in areas where the UN has a mandated expertise and can add value.
Consequently the UNCT strives to provide assistance in the areas of specialization of each of its agencies in the Joint Partnerships and Thematic Working Groups. These are areas where the UNCT can be most useful, utilising its capacity to provide intersectoral yet specialised responses to issues that are both specific and cross-cutting in nature.
The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Thailand sealed a partnership with the Royal Thai Government (UN Partnership Framework or UNPAF) for the period 2012-2016. Under this framework the UN is committed to provide the highest quality policy advice and other support to Thailand as a Middle-Income Country (MIC), and to provide such support quickly, flexibly and efficiently, both as individual agencies and collectively.
Under the United Nations Partnership Framework (UNPAF) 2012-2016, the UN will contribute to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP) strategies through joint partnerships, thematic collaborations and agency-specific programmes, as outlined in the diagram below.
Thematic Working Groups and Joint Teams
The UN agencies in Thailand work together and in partnership with relevant government counterparts on the priority issues identified in the UN Partnership Framework through two main mechanisms: Joint Teams (representing government and non-government agencies and the UNCT) designed to jointly implement a coherent set of results in priority areas. Six joint partnerships were identified: social protection; human rights and access to justice; strategic information; climate change; international cooperation; and creative economy. Thematic Working Groups (comprising mainly UN agencies’ focal points and designed for a coordinated and flexible approach to thematic issues).
The Heads of Agency and Country Team Meetings (as well as Regional Coordination Meetings which fall under the aegis of UNESCAP), all play a particularly important role in coordinating the inter-agency work of the UN system in Thailand, as well as that of the sub-region and the Asia-Pacific as a whole. The meetings provide a forum for heads of UN agencies to discuss collaborative activities and share experiences of individual agency programmes. Through the interagency forum process, agency heads assess needs, set policies and priorities, and review work in progress in terms of country-level response and coordination.
The annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM), under the aegis of the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP, involves all Bangkok-based agencies with a regional mandate, as well as participating regional agencies with headquarters in other Asian cities.
The quarterly Heads of Agency Meetings (HOAM) and monthly UNCT Meetings oversee the work of other UN coordination mechanisms by providing guidance to, and monitoring the performance of the Operations Management Team (OMT) and the UN Thematic Working Groups for Thailand.
The Operations Management Team is the focal point for all inter-agency operational arrangements, given its mandate to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate the agreed common services activities. In Thailand, all UN organizations, ADB, IOM and the World Bank are members and represent country and regionally based operations. Such a mix makes the OMT particularly interesting and challenging, as it should facilitate both country and regional operations based in Thailand. In doing so, due consideration is given to the fact that some common services are beneficial to most, if not all, OMT member organizations, while others may have a more limited reach and benefit a sub-group. To ensure that the OMT remains a valid and useful instrument for all members, Communities of Practices (COP) have been established that facilitate a continuous information exchange and Working Groups (WG) will be established, as and when needed, for concrete tasks to be completed within one year. COPs will include all OMT member organizations and their respective practitioners, while WGs will typically consist of the organizations most interested in the common services under review. The OMT will meet at least four times each year at the end of each quarter. It will also hold adhoc sessions, as and when required.
There are three notable inter-agency programmes established under the UN system in Thailand: HIV/AIDS, Human Trafficking and the Millennium Development Goals. These have contributed important work particularly pertaining to advocacy and coordination. The three programmes are very different in scope and activity, although all three are premised on the understanding that joint collaboration on these issues will increase the effectiveness of UN system support to Thailand and other countries in the region. At the same time, such inter-agency projects that draw together and manage resources from several UN agencies are important vehicles for pushing forward the UN’s common agenda.
One of the ways in which UN agencies collaborate at an operational level is through Thematic Working Groups (TWGs). Throughout 2004 there were 13 TWGs within the UN system in Thailand, mostly with a regional focus.
In the latter part of 2005 regional TWGs have been reorganized and streamlined under the leadership of ESCAP, while TWGs at the Country Team level have been reformed to focus on CCA/UNPAF priorities. This arrangement was designed to lead into more active and more efficient country-level programming, focusing on priority areas and in pursuit of key common objectives – therefore in keeping with the spirit of UN Reform.