Priorities Areas

Poverty reduction

The goal of freeing more than a billion men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty was prominently included in the UN Millennium Declaration. The quantitative target is to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015. Reduction of poverty incidence in terms of income and of access to basic social services is considered as the most direct path towards addressing the disparities that still underlie many aspects of Thai society.  Despite substantial reduction of income poverty incidence to only 11.4 percent in the whole kingdom and less than 1 percent in Bangkok, the CCA called attention to large pockets of severe poverty still existing in Thailand, particularly in the Northeast.  The CCA also raised the issue of institutionalisation of poverty in the rural areas, arising from its deeply rooted causes, and recommended a more integrated and sustainable approach to poverty reduction in those areas, where agriculture is the predominant economic activity.  Thailand is still highly dependent on agriculture with almost one half of employed persons in 2000 in agriculture [1], forestry and fishing, although its share of total GDP has fallen to slightly over 10 percent [2]. In light of these economic indicators, poverty reduction particularly in the rural areas remains on top of the national agenda in the Ninth Plan.

Consistent with the rights based approach to development adopted by the UN as a guiding principle, the UN will address the broader concept of human poverty defined in the Human Development Report, encompassing income poverty as well as human development poverty, namely the issue of access to basic social services such as education, health and sanitation. It will also address issues of vulnerability. 


Social Protection and Social Development

Both the Ninth Plan and the CCA recognised social protection as a crucial issue for Thailand, as it joins the ranks of middle income countries. Education reform and skills development will also be a development priority of the Ninth Plan, which should contribute directly to the overarching goal of sustainable human development.

The CCA recognised that, due to increasing global competition, exacerbated by the social impact of the economic crisis, improved protection of workers was desperately needed. It was suggested that measures be taken in the field of occupational safety and health, as well as for the development and extension of social protection systems to provide adequate coverage for vulnerable groups and the informal sector.  The CCA also identified the need to strengthen institutions for social dialogue.

The CCA recommended that measures be taken to assure all Thais equal access to education regardless of sex, socio-economic status, residence, and disability. In relation to health, the CCA stressed the need to provide a safety net for vulnerable groups, especially the poor and the women among them.

In the global context, universal access to primary education by 2015 was targeted in the UN Millennium Summit Declaration. From a gender perspective, equal access to both primary and secondary education was also targeted.  



Governance refers to the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at different levels, i.e. national, sub-national, community. It consists of various mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, settle their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations.

Good governance is dealt with prominently in the 1997 constitution, the Ninth Plan and the CCA, both as an end in itself as well as a means to other ends.  Good governance characterised by transparency, accountability, representation, participation and decentralisation in decision making and delivery of public services is now enshrined in the 1997 constitution.  New mechanisms and processes were introduced to enhance transparency and strengthen accountability in public administration. A series of independent institutions [3] were created to combat corruption and to administer democratic representation and public participation in state affairs. 

One of the three strategies of the Ninth Plan is good governance at all levels, focusing on decentralisation, public sector reform, corporate governance and a check-and-balance system. Lack of good governance in both the private and the public sectors is considered in the CCA as one of the root causes of the financial and economic crisis that hit the country in July 1997.

Empowerment of people and communities will be an important feature of UN interventions, along with capacity building for local governance and promotion of transparency and accountability in the conduct of public policies.  Keeping in mind its overarching goal of reducing disparities in Thai society, UN interventions will be directed mainly towards local communities and groups that have been excluded from decision making affecting their lives and consequently denied of the benefits from past economic progress.  The objective is to enable them to organise themselves, articulate their development needs, seek participation or representation in decision making and gain access to basic social services and employment opportunities.

UN support to capacity building for local governance will be provided not only to local government units to which certain functions and responsibilities have already been devolved through legislation but also to civil society organisations and the private sector operating at the local level. The UN will advocate fiscal devolution measures to enable local governments to generate financial resources required to carry out their devolved tasks effectively.


International competitiveness

As a middle income country that relies heavily on exports of goods and services and capital inflows for sustained economic growth, international competitiveness has become an important development challenge for Thailand. The fact that sustained economic growth within a twenty-year period was principally responsible for the dramatic decline in poverty lends further importance to enhancing Thailand’s competitiveness in the international market, even from a human development perspective.

In the face of increasing globalisation of the market economy, enhancement of the nation’s competitiveness constitutes one of the critical elements of the development strategy described in the Ninth Plan.  It is an area in which a series of analyses have indicated significant weaknesses in Thailand.  It is to be achieved through application of modern knowledge and technology and skills improvement thereby increasing total factor productivity. Perhaps the most important strategic dimension in Thailand is reform of the education system itself.

The UN’s interventions in this focus area will support Thailand in enhancing its international competitiveness but at the same time seek to minimise the adverse social and environmental impact of globalisation. In particular, it will promote the growth of efficient small and medium enterprises strengthen the knowledge economy, and foster greater economic co-operation and integration within the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Interestingly, it is in the area of competitiveness that the work of many of the smaller UN Specialised Agencies comes to the fore. Agencies such as ICAO, WMO, ITU, UPU, WIPO and WTO (the World Tourism Organisation) all play an important role in terms of developing international normative standards and practices; in promoting their adoption; and in building national capacities to enable this.  The globalised economy, so important to Thailand’s future, depends significantly on the work of these technical agencies.


Human security

The concept of human security evolved from the traditional concept of national security.  It recognises that, in an interdependent world, the greatest threats to security come not from the military might of other states, but from issues such as disease, hunger, environmental contamination and crime, affecting the individual and communities.  It is therefore the individual, and not the state, which is the focus point of human security.

In Thailand, the UN system will address a set of human security issues identified and analysed in the CCA and the Ninth Plan, as follows:

  • Reproductive health
  • Migration
  • Refugees
  • Drugs and transnational crime
  • Human trafficking, especially of women and children

These human security issues are inter-linked in various ways. Because of the cross-border nature of these issues, migration has been identified as an underlying theme connecting all of them. The development of international transportation routes and the opening of borders arising from globalisation have facilitated the mobility of labour in response to change in the international labour market. Unfortunately, it has also removed the remaining barriers to illegal trafficking of drugs and human beings, which have contributed to HIV/AIDS transmission and prevalence.

HIV/AIDS is a big issue for Thailand and has been mainstreamed into various development programmes on health and non-health aspects. It is actually one of ten reproductive health areas that the government has expressed a strong commitment to address. The country has so far succeeded in various aspects of prevention. It is, however, observed that after a decade of response, ways of intervention have been shifting from preventive focus to effective treatment and care since those who were infected have started facing more impact from physical symptom and social discrimination. In the meantime, the success of the country in prevention has led to a unique situation where Thailand could become a regional centre for learning and sharing of experiences with other developing countries.

The explosion in methamphetamine abuse and addiction among Thai youths has become a major social concern.  Trafficking of women and children has also become a major sub-regional problem, with Thailand as the destination of persons trafficked from neighbouring countries, as well as being a transit and sender country.  Refugees and migration are salient issues in Thailand due to its geographical position in the region.  While promoting a regional response to these issues is vital, a national response is also necessary.

International co-operation assumes an even more important role in dealing with these human security issues because of their cross-border nature. Co-operation among countries is simply a necessary condition for any effort at addressing those issues to succeed.  Sub-regional, regional, and South-South co-operation mechanisms for handling these human security issues are therefore essential. Thailand is extremely well placed in this regard.  The country is an active, neutral and respected member of many regional forums and has long been viewed as a leader in addressing development issues. The UN in Bangkok is also well placed to take on these issues, due to the regional mandate of many of the agencies enabling them to work with and through other governments in the sub-region when dealing with the issues listed above.

The Regional Co-ordination Mechanism (RCM) and the various inter-agency Thematic Working Groups operating within the RCM, e.g. HIV/AIDS, Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Human Trafficking, provide the institutional co-ordination framework that will enable the UN to make a unified and coherent response to these issues at the country and inter-country levels.

As stated above, the common issue of migration underpins many of the goals and objectives in this priority area. In addition, the four cross cutting issues particularly cross-border co-operation provide the themes for addressing the various dimensions of human security in Thailand. Support to the Thai government in ratifying and implementing global conventions and declarations relating to these issues will be an important component of the UN’s activities in this focus area.


Environmental Management

Thailand’s achievement in poverty reduction and human development mainly through sustained economic growth has exacted a heavy toll on its natural resources and environment. Exploitation of its natural resources to provide the necessary production inputs has led to land and watershed degradation, declining marine and freshwater resources, increasing water scarcity and declining quality, and loss of critical habitats. On the other hand, production processes in manufacturing industries have led to generation of solid and hazardous wastes while increasing urbanisation has led to declining air quality, particularly in Bangkok and other urban centres. Through the CCA which acknowledged these environmental issues and challenges, the UN called attention to deforestation, loss of bio-diversity, pollution, problems associated with urbanisation, and the need for better management of marine resources.

In response to these environmental challenges, Thailand has adopted several legal and institutional frameworks for environmental management. The Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act (NEQA) was promulgated in 1992.  This was followed by the formulation of the Policy and Perspective Plan for the NEQA for the period 1997-2016. Most recently, the Environmental Quality Management Plan was revised and updated for implementation during the period of the Ninth Plan, 2002-2006, consisting of four strategies, namely:


  • Development management
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Conservation of the human environment
  • Pollution prevention and remediation.

An annual State of the Environment report has also been prepared for the past few years.

The Ninth Plan has included Management of Natural Resources and Environment as one of the key strategies.  The strategy focuses on conserving the natural resources and environmental base of the country, restoring ecological balance and enabling all sectors of society to have a decent and environmentally sustainable standard of living.  This will be carried out through more efficient and participatory environmental management within the existing legal and institutional frameworks.  Among the targeted areas for intervention are land, freshwater and coastal/marine resources.

The UN Millennium Summit prominently addressed the protection of the environment in its declaration, including entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002.  It re-affirmed the international development target of implementing national strategies for sustainable development by 2005 so as to reverse the loss of environmental resources by 2015, and added a new target of halving the proportion of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by 2015.

The UN’s intervention will be directed towards supporting Thailand in complying with various multilateral environmental agreements, addressing trade and environment trans-boundary issues, and strengthening capacity for environmental governance.  It will also address issues relating to the poverty-environment nexus, including the synergistic opportunities in this area.  Support will also be provided to enhance competitiveness in the tourism and agro-industry sectors within suitable environmental standards, and to facilitate co-operation with other countries on effective urban environmental management systems.


[1] UN Common Database, based on Labour Force Survey Round Four (Nov. 2000, National Statistical Office, Office of the Prime Minister, Government of Thailand

[2] NESDB,  National Income of Thailand,

[3] The Constitutional Court; the Administrative Court; the National Counter Corruption Commission; the Election Commission; the Ombudsman; the Court of Justice; the National Human Rights Commission; and the Commission on State Auditing. A Public Information Act, embodying a citizen’s right to information, predated the 1997 Constitution but represents an important element of the total picture.

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