Resident Co-ordinatorís
Annual Report for 1997

 

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Contents

1.1. Implications of recent political and socio-economic trends for United Nations system development assistance
1.2. Highlights of United Nations assistance in support of national development objectives and priorities
1.3. Progress report on actions taken at the country level towards the implementation of the Secretary-Generalís Programme for Reform (A/51/950)
1.4. Members of the United Nations System Country Team

1.1. Implications of recent political and socio-economic trends for United Nations system development assistance

The year 1997 turned out to be an important watershed in the political and socio-economic development of Thailand and the UN has had an opportunity to play a catalytic role in many new initiatives as Thailand moves forward in the promotion of development and improved quality of life for all of its people. Despite nearly two decades of impressive economic growth averaging 8% per annum which continued into the first half of 1997, Thailand continued to face severe disparities between rich and poor, and a hard core of poverty of 13%, or some 8 million people. The continued UN system response through a new partnership initiated in 1996 with Government, civil society and private sector under the Thailand-United Nations Collaborative Action Plan (Thai-UNCAP) became increasingly important to addressing these challenges.

Unfortunately, the Thai economy suffered severe disruptions in the second half of 1997 that threaten to reverse many of the economic gains of previous years. Competitiveness has been eroded, the skills base of the labour force has not adapted well to the changing global economy and poor financial management has undermined confidence. All this has led to a financial and currency crises, and prompted the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations to come up with a US$ 17.2 billion rescue package. The situation in Thailand is aggravated by the regional financial contagion.

The causes of the economic difficulties are in part a culmination of financial expansion not based on the real economy and eroding competitiveness in traditional exports. The construction and financial booms in recent years led to unproductive allocation of resources. A rapid growth of foreign borrowing worsened the current account deficit. Rising wages and the artificially supported high Baht spurred imports and further diminished the country's agricultural and labour-intensive exports. This was aggravated by the countryís failure to upgrade the quality of the labour force, the inability to graduate from relatively low-end, low value-added production, and by cumbersome bureaucratic procedures.

The result was the unravelling of one of the highest-growth economies in recent decades. The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) forecasts growth in 1997 and 1998 at 0.6 and 0.0 per cent respectively. The current account deficit was estimated at 3.9 per cent of gross domestic product at year-end and 1.8 per cent in 1998. Inflation in 1997 was 6 per cent and will rise to 10 per cent in 1998. Unemployment is now estimated at 1.2 million and is likely to reach 2 million in 1998. For the first time, Thailand has witnessed massive lay-offs and unemployment at both high and low end markets.

In response to this crisis and the IMF's requirements, the Government has taken several difficult measures, including closing of over 60% of all finance companies and imposing stringent regulatory measures on the others. Budget revisions resulted in over 20 per cent spending cuts. The investment budget was slashed by 32 per cent. Furthermore, the Government is trimming the fiscal outlay to abide by IMF's requirements. It is also obliged to introduce several policy reform measures in finance, industry, social services and development administration.

Social programmes are being curtailed. Even without reduction, the economic downturn has placed an increasing burden on public services as private hospitals and schools are no longer affordable for many. The reduction of social services further aggravates the problem for the laid-off, the unemployed and the poor. Unemployment could impact on female workers in particular as women make up the majority of the labour force in some key sectors such as export industries and services. Other programmes aimed at improving the quality of life such as compulsory secondary education suffered a setback as resources are allocated to other more immediate needs requiring urgent attention. These constraints have also led to a review of the Eighth Plan during December 1997 in which policies and priorities were amended in order to align them with the new economic reality faced by Thailand. It has also led to an increasing consensus on the urgent need to develop greater capacity and self-reliance at local levels to build and sustain social and economic initiatives.

All of this has further validated and made far more urgent the new role of the UN system within a broader partnership with the Thai government, civil society and private sector in support of initiatives for people-centred development at local level. This has been reinforced by political developments, in particular the drafting of a new Constitution, the first ever to be drafted by a Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) which was elected, though indirectly, by the people. The drafting process that ended in August was marked by keen interest and widespread public participation. The new Constitution was promulgated and came into effect on 11 October 1997. The Constitution is far-reaching in so far as the promotion and protection of individuals and community's rights and freedoms are concerned. It emphasises public participation at all levels and in all respects - political, economic, social, cultural and environmental. It contains 9 articles on local self-government that paves a way for broad decentralisation. People's participation in planning, implementing and monitoring development plans and activities is also explicitly endorsed by the Constitution. The new constitution echoes the thrust of the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan, which also advocates decentralisation and holistic people-centred development and sustainable economic development at local level.

While the political changes augur well for future development planning and implementation, the economic downturn poses unique challenges. Within this context, the UN system approach through Thai-UNCAP assumed increased timeliness and relevance with focused attention to capacity building and socio-economic development programmes in general and to programmes of assistance to the poor in particular. In addition the UN has spearheaded discussions related to the establishment of a Social Investment Fund. Initiatives to stimulate employment generation and vocational training as well as to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn, for example, on the newly unemployed, have also been formulated. In these areas greater collaboration is being initiated with IFIs (ADB and World Bank) which are providing loans for these purposes.

1.2. Highlights of United Nations assistance in support of national development objectives and priorities

Thailand's national development objectives and priorities as it prepares for the twenty-first century are the result of a highly participatory process involving all sectors of Thai society and are succinctly outlined in the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan. The five-year plan was promulgated in October 1996, after a one-year drafting process that involved numerous sessions of brainstorming and consultation among key leaders from all sectors of the society. The thrust of the plan is on holistic people-centred development and sustainable development, a major shift from the previous plans that emphasised growth and equity. The approach is to empower the people and create an enabling environment that allows the people to realise their full potential and play a leading role in development activities that benefit themselves and their communities. The plan outlines 7 strategies: human development, social development, regional and rural development, economic development, environmental and natural resource management, good governance, and development administration.

The Eighth Plan outlines a new development approach for Thailand and also gives the UN family a more catalytic role to play in the implementation of the new paradigm. One of the most significant aspects of the Eighth Plan is that it incorporates many of the priorities and strategies that have been endorsed by the world community in the different UN-sponsored conferences. The plan makes specific provisions for support of poverty alleviation and social sector programmes, for protection and regeneration of the environment, for the advancement of women and for more equitable development of society at large. It also calls for more participatory approaches to development and allows for the reorientation of the role of the UN System in Thailand from that of provider to that of partner.

In response to the mandate and national agenda set by the Eighth Plan, during 1997 the UN system in Thailand moved beyond its support during 1996 of the formulation of the Plan, to a concentrated collaborative effort to support the active implementation of the Plan, especially at local grass-roots levels. For this purpose, the Thailand-United Nations Collaborative Action Plan (Thai-UNCAP) was launched into a full scale implementation stage. Thai-UNCAP is a Thai-UN development partnership between government agencies, local communities, the private sector, NGOs, knowledge institutions and the UN agencies. Thai-UNCAP programmes and projects aim to empower local communities to alleviate poverty and to ensure access to basic services and protection of particularly vulnerable groups in four pilot provinces in four regions and a selected Bangkok district. Its distinctiveness lies in the "process" that bases development activities on bottom-up planning, management and implementation. In contrast to traditional, top-down, programmes from line agencies, Thai-UNCAP takes the critical time and effort to invest in human capacities and to create people's ownership and commitment essential to sustainable long-term results. The pilot areas and pilot projects of Thai-UNCAP put into practise the "holistic people-centred development approach" espoused by the Eighth Plan.

Thai-UNCAP has attained a high national profile, with the launching ceremony and Declaration of Partnership signed by General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the Prime Minister, and Mr. Rafeeuddin Ahmed, UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator, and the meetings of the Partnership Board held at the Government House, one of which Mr. James Gustave Speth, UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Administrator attended in September 1997.

Collaboration among all development partners under the Thai-UNCAP is steered and guided by the Thai-UN Partnership Board consisting of high level representatives of Government, civil society, the private sector, and the UN system. The Partnership Board pursues its activities through an Executive Committee and a Joint Secretariat with technical assistance from Theme Groups and Strategy Task Groups. The UN Agencies in Thailand participate actively in support of the management and operations of Thai-UNCAP. UN Agencies rotate (8 at a time) as members of the Partnership Board and Executive Committee, and they also play lead roles in joint Thai-UN Theme Groups. A Partnership Facility has been established to mobilise financial resources from all partners in support of Thai-UNCAP programmes. Both Thai and UN partners are working together to mobilise resources for this Facility.

An Umbrella Support Project, funded jointly from UN and Government resources for a total of US$500,000, is an initiative for the establishment and commencement of the Thai-UNCAP process at the national, provincial and community level. These resources were used in 1997 to support the establishment of a Core Operations Office, commence participatory planning and capacity building activities, and to operationalise a Small Grants Fund in the pilot areas. The areas have been chosen based on poverty criteria through consultations of the Ministry of Interior and NESDB. A series of initial provincial level meetings have identified local partners. Participatory workshops have provided training for men and women facilitators drawn from Provincial and District Government officials, Tambon and Village leaders, local NGOs, school teachers and business people. These facilitators will work with their communities on the identification and implementation of gender sensitive poverty alleviation activities, using participatory planning and needs assessment processes at the Tambon and village level with support from the partnership groups. Some of the activities completed during 1997 are shown below:

Pilot Area

Training

Activities

Payao

35 Facilitators trained in August - September 1997 to work in 7 pilot villages

43 proposals generated by grassroots groups targeting income generation and small saving schemes, UNICEF supporting 10 proposals. UNDCP, ONCB and Bangchak Petroleum also supporting activities.

Pattani

6 Tambons and Facilitators identified

Initial proposals include youth skills development, drug prevention, and local marketing

Yannawa

Community Groups formed, Training in Childcare and reproductive health by NGO funded by UNFPA

5 proposals of which a childcare centre has been established, women groups engaged in income-generating activities, and community savings groups formed.

Petchburi

Facilitators trained in October 1997, Expanding Partnership Exercise in November 1997

10 grassrootís group proposals include food processing, co-operative stores, and environmental conservation. Private sector involvement includes S&P Company, Chareon Pokphand and Bangchak Petroleum

Mahasarakham

2 Tambons identified

UNICEF activities on-going

A further objective of the umbrella project is to promote enhanced UN System collaboration and effectiveness as partners with increased capacity to support community needs. Individual UN Agencies and funds will seek ways to match this joint umbrella project with complementary projects and funds. The UN System will support the Thai-UNCAP core operational support team to develop a participatory monitoring and evaluation system to ensure regular feedback and improvement of the approach.

To complement and reinforce the Thai-UNCAP process, two special interventions were formulated during 1997:

The aim of Programme I, Partnership and Participatory Capacity Building at Tambon Level, is to strengthen the capacities of Tambon Administrative Organisations (TAOs) and Tambon civic groups in partnership building and participatory development planning and management in collaboration with line agencies. The programme will gradually spread to TAOs outside the pilot areas and to neighbouring provinces around the country. The participatory learning methodology used in this programme involves workshops, study trips, practical training, planning experiences and follow-up workshops. All activities will be carried out in a gender sensitive and gender balanced way. A resource mobilisation strategy has been developed and launched under Thai-UNCAP to secure the needed resources (US$500,000).

Programme II, Poverty Strategy Initiative, provides for UN support to Thailand for the creation of an enabling policy environment for addressing poverty and identifying practical changes to existing programmes aimed at poverty alleviation. FAO, ILO and UNDP are collaborating to provide UN technical support. The objectives will be achieved through: i) an improved understanding of the impact of existing development policies and practices on the poor as well as about how the participation of local, broad based civil society can improve policy making; and ii) identification of practical changes in procedures, policies and programmes that can lead to significant improvements in the lives of poor men and women. The programme will specifically work in the pilot areas of Thai-UNCAP to review and modify government practices regarding targeting of poor groups, participation of communities in decision-making and collaboration amongst line agencies. The programme has a budget of US$ 150,000 outside the Partnership Facility and the Umbrella Support Project.

These two special intervention programmes will provide information, guidelines and tools, as well as a policy environment conducive to the Thai-UNCAP process.

Besides involvement in the community identification, participation and capacity building process in the pilot areas, at least two UN Agencies will team together in each of the Thai-UNCAP pilot areas to facilitate UN System support in the respected areas. Several UN agencies have now selected the Thai-UNCAP pilot provinces as one of their project sites and aligned their on-going project activities with the Thai-UNCAP process, as indicated in the following table:

 

UN Agency

Pilot Area

Other Programme Activities

ESCAP

Pattani and Petchburi

Poverty Alleviation and Social Integration

FAO

Mahasarakham

FARM Programme

ILO

Petchburi

Income Generation

UNDPC

Payao

Drug Demand Reduction

UNDP

Petchburi, Yannawa, Payao, Mahasarakham and Pattani

SHD and Poverty Alleviation

UNESCO

Payao

Formal and Non-Formal Education

UNFPA

Pattani, Yannawa and Payao

Reproductive Health and Education for Moslem Adolescents, Devít and Manít of Reproductive Health Peer Education.

UNICEF

Payao, Mahasarakham and Yannawa

Participatory Programme for Improving the Quality of Life of Children in Disadvantaged Families.

UNIDO

Yannawa and Mahasarakham

Rural Industrialisation

UNIFEM

Yannawa

Gender Mainstreaming

Special efforts are also underway to increase the involvement of the private sector as well as the international donor agencies in the works of Thai-UNCAP in the pilot areas. The Expanding Partnership Exercise in Petchburi, one of the pilot provinces, in November 1997 represents a concerted effort to reach out and include the private sector and international community as new partners for the Thai-UNCAP.

The UN system also responded to a direct request by the Prime Minister of Thailand on poverty related issues in March 1997. A series of meetings and consultations led to the development of an Action Strategy for Poverty Alleviation in Thailand. As a result of these efforts, during July the government established a Subcommittee on Poverty Alleviation Strategies under its Committee on Decentralisation Policy. A working group comprising government and UN agencies was then appointed to map out implementation arrangements for the poverty alleviation which is expected to play an important role in addressing the pockets of hard core poverty which remain in Thailand and that affect about 13 percent of the population.

In addition to Thai-UNCAP initiatives, the UN System has continued to work together in the area of joint programming. This has occured particularly with the clustering of agencies around programmes focused on poverty alleviation. During 1997, for example, these included inter-agency co-operation within the framework of the rural income opportunities programme (FAO, ILO, UNDP and UNIDO), as well as the regional FARM Programme (FAO, UNDP and UNIDO) which has a pilot undertaking in Thailand. Other agencies have jointed together to work on emerging issues such as UNIDO and UNEP in the promotion of cleaner technologies in Thailand.

There is general agreement by UN Agencies in Thailand that gender equality needs to be part of the countryís strategy for eradicating poverty. The Resident Co-ordinator in Thailand has established a Gender Mainstreaming Facility (GMF) to provide additional support for programming for gender equality and the advancement of women. The GMF will assist with integrating a gender perspective into programmes under the CCF and Thai-UNCAP. A GMF Co-ordinator has been appointed who in close consultation with UNIFEM and other UN agencies has undertaken tasks including advocacy and lobbying on gender issues, identifying and co-ordinating gender consultants and preparing reports on progress in gender mainstreaming.

A UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Trafficking (UNDP, UNIFEM, UNICEF, IOM, ESCAP, ILO, UNDCP, UNFPA, UNAIDS, and Mekong Regional Law Centre) was established during 1997 focussing on the trafficking in women and children in the Mekong Sub-Region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, southern provinces of China, Thailand and Viet Nam). Given the cross-border nature of many forms of trafficking, national governments have called for exchanges between governments to discuss a co-ordinated response to the issues. The UN sub-regional response will compliment other initiatives by facilitating an inter-agency, sub-regional collaboration and communication. The task force is presently reviewing and analysing the technical co-operation requirements and gaps, and defining the UN comparative advantages in addressing trafficking in the sub-region.

The UN System has been advising the IFIs in the formulation of activities and actions for Social Sector Loans. This collaboration will cover areas of employment, health and education which could be adversely affected by the recent economic downturn. The ADB Social Sector Loan is part of the IMF assistance package agreed to in August 1997. Discussions with the World Bank have focused on the promotion of equity in structural adjustment and development of a Social Investment Fund. A work programme has been agreed with major activities to include a review of structural adjustment programmes in terms of equity and gender equality; review of international experience with SIFs; and support to the design and implementation of a management system for the SIF. Another focus area has been to examine the development of labour market policies to stimulate job creation, particularly in Bangkok and selected areas. Activities will include the carrying out of labour surveys and training needs assessments for both men and women; pilot implementation of decentralised skills training modules and creation of income generation opportunities; and tracer studies to assess relevance and impact of training programmes on employment; special attention will be given to female workers made redundant.

1.3. Progress report on actions taken at the country level towards the implementation of the Secretary-Generalís Programme for Reform (A/51/950)

A number of initiatives undertaken by the United Nations family in Thailand are in line with the implementation of activities as outlined in the Secretary-Generalís reform programme. Important among these are reforms aimed at making the UN system work as one at the country level as called for within the UNDAF context. In Thailand, the UN system is implementing the reforms not only to enhance UN System collaboration but equally important to position these efforts within a broad national partnership where joint development efforts have the commitment of national partners and are as a result more sustainable. The Thailand-United Nations Collaborative Action Plan provides a new partnership framework within which the UN, jointly with government and civil society, comes together to work towards common goals at the national and local level.

In support of the new paradigm for development in Thailand over the past two years, the Royal Thai Government, civil society representatives and the UN System have conducted several rounds of consultations to support the development of the Eighth Plan and to prepare for continued assistance during its implementation. The UN System is seen as having strong comparative advantages in its capacity to engage in genuine partnership with Thailand and to provide access to international experience and best practices in human development. The Thai-UNCAP is focused on the implementation of the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan aimed at promoting a people-centred, holistic development. The approach is in line with the consensus of the Social Summit and other global conferences. Thai-UNCAP can therefore be seen as a planning and action system designed to institute partnership between the Government agencies, NGOs, the private sector and the UN System in follow-up to the global agendas.

A process for collaboration between UN agencies and their Thai partners exploring potential new joint initiatives in response to objectives of the Thai-UNCAP is also being developed under the following joint Theme Groups:

  • Sustainable Economic Development (Co-ordinated by ILO)
  • Equity and Poverty Eradication (Co-ordinated by FAO)
  • Human and Social Well-Being (Co-ordinated by UNICEF)
  • Sound Governance and Development Management (Co-ordinated by UNDP)
  • Gender, Women and Development (Co-ordinated by UNIFEM)
  • HIV/AIDS (Co-ordinated by UNAIDS)

While the last two have met regularly, the first four have met jointly during 1997 to discuss and formulate the Action Strategy for Poverty Alleviation which is supported by the Thai-UNCAP Programme II, Poverty Strategies Initiatives. Similarly the co-ordinating agencies continue to identify current issues and opportunities, for example the review of the Impact on Employment of the Economic Downturn under the Sustainable Economic Development Theme Group.

The UN System in Thailand is also beginning to lay the ground work for an eventual UNDAF exercise as called for under the Secretary-Generalís Programme for Reforms through its plans to develop a Common Country Assessment (CCA). It has agreed to jointly develop a CCA and create a common database for individual and collaborative use by the UN Agencies and respective partners. Each UN Agency will have a role in developing the sector/theme of most relevance to it, and will collaborate to develop these within an agreed common framework. The CCA Task Group will be established to develop the common framework utilising the CCA Guidelines.

A review and evaluation by an Inter-Agency Working Group of Thailandís achievements with respect to the UNís Global Agenda was commenced during 1997. Many of the aims and objectives of the agenda have been included in the Eighth Plan, however, the working group will identify any gaps. The working group will present its report in early 1998.

1.4. Members of the United Nations System Country Team

UN Resident Co-ordinator: Mr. Michael Heyn

Funds, Programmes and Agencies represented: Name and title of representatives:

(a) Based in the country:

ESCAP Mr. Adrianus Mooy, Executive Secretary
FAO Dr. Soetatwo Hadiwigeno, Assistant Director-General andRegional Representative
IBRD Mr. Jayasankar Shivakumar, Country Director
ICAO Mr. Lalit B. Shah, Regional Representative
ILO Ms. Mitsuko Horiuchi, Assistant Director-General
Ms. Catherine Comtet, Director, Bangkok Area Office
IOM Mr. Jose Pires, Regional Representative
ITU (Vacant), Co-ordinator Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
UNCHS (HABITAT) Mr. Terry Standley, Senior Programme Adviser
UNDCP Mr. Vincent McClean, Director Regional Centre
UNEP Dr. Suvit Yodmani, Director and Regional Representative
UNESCO Mr. Victor Ordonez, Director
UNFPA Mr. Bal Gopal K. C., UNFPA Country Representative
UNHCR Ms. Amelia Bonifacio, Regional Representative for Thailand and Cambodia
UNICEF Mr. Kul Gautum, Regional Director, Mr. Anthony Hewett, Representative for Thailand
UNIDO Mr. Ari Huhtala, UNIDO Country Director
UNIFEM Ms. Lorraine Corner, Regional Programme Adviser
UPU Mr. Piyatep Canungmai, National Associate Expert
WHO Dr. E. B. Doberstyn, WHO Representative
UNAIDS Dr. Seri Phongphit, Team Leader

(b) Outside the country:

None

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Dated: 26Jan1999