UN Common Country Assessment


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Anex II : Thailand and the UN’s Global Agenda


As part of its role of advocacy in global development, the United Nations brought together national leaders, policy makers and experts in a series of global conferences during the 1990s. Since 1990, 10 of these global conferences have been held and these are listed in figure 1. The results of these global meetings have been widely publicised and have come to form a guiding framework for the progress of sustainable development. The "Beijing platform", from the Fourth World Conference on Women, "Agenda 21", from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and "The 20/20 initiative" from the World Summit for Social Development, have passed into the vocabulary of political leaders and planners around the world.

All the world conferences held in the 1990s resulted in documents that were agreed upon by countries as the basis for programmes of action. As the decade progressed these documents tended to become self-reinforcing. For example, the goal of "education for all" that was the theme for the World Conference on Education held at Jomtien, Thailand 3-9 march 1990 was reiterated all subsequent world conferences in one form or another. All the conferences emphasised the eradication of poverty, gender concerns and the need to provide satisfying employment for all. The common social issues identified through the world conferences have been summarised in the Compendium of Social Issues from the United Nations Global Conferences in the 1990s, New York, United Nations ACC Task Force on Basic Social Services for All and UNFPA, 1998.

The recommendations from the world conferences are both comprehensive and complex. For example, The Copenhagen Declaration that emanated from the World Summit for Social Development, identified the following four major areas for social action:

Within each of these four major areas, sub-areas for action are identified; within these sub-areas, general recommendations for action are identified; and within these general recommendations, specific recommendations are listed. Thus, the four main areas can be broken down as follows:

An enabling environment for social development

2 sub-areas for action

9 general recommendations for social action

77 specific recommendations for action

Eradication of poverty

4 sub-areas for action

16 general recommendations for social action

129 specific recommendations for social action

Expansion of productive employment and reduction of unemployment

5 sub-areas for action

18 general recommendations for social action

84 specific recommendations for social action

Social integration

7 sub-areas for action

10 general recommendations for social action

82 specific recommendations social action

Not all of the 53 general recommendations or 372 specific recommendations of the World Summit for Social Development apply to Thailand (those that refer directly to small island or to land-locked countries, for example) but the vast majority can and do apply.

Each of the world conferences has generated similarly comprehensive programmes of action with recommendations. All include calls for the implementation of the recommendations from other conferences within their own recommendations. For example, within the specific recommendations of the World Summit for Social Development are those to implement all, or specific sections, of the Conference on the Environment and Development - paras. 9j; 27e; 50i – the World Summit for Children – paras 15g; 75h – the International Conference of Population and Development – paras 36h; 37e – and there are many cross references to other United Nations Conventions, Protocols and Principles, General Assembly resolutions, and so on. Thus, a comprehensive monitoring of a country’s progress within the context of the United Nations Global Agenda, as laid down in the World Conferences of the 1990s becomes a truly monumental and multi-disciplinary task to assess national situations against literally thousands of recommendations.

In this context the five United Nations agencies which sponsor the "Education for All" initiative, UNESCO, The World Bank, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP, will carry out an end-of decade assessment, at country level, of the progress towards the goals laid down at the Jomtien Conference alone.

In monitoring country progress towards the recommendations of United Nations global conferences, it must also be borne in mind that the recommendations are but statements of intent. They are not legally binding documents with which countries must comply within set periods of time. Thus, monitoring of progress towards conference goals has indicative value only.

For Thailand the situation has been made yet more complex by the present economic crisis to afflict the country since mid-1997. All the world conferences emphasise the need to eradicate poverty and the need to generate full and satisfying employment yet Thailand may have seen a doubling or more of its incidence of poverty and unemployment within a matter of months. This dismal picture in no way questions the government’s commitment to eradicate poverty or to aim for full employment. What it does show is that, in a global economy, the local situation is often outside the direct control of any single government, and monitoring the progress towards a recommended goal should not necessarily be taken as a "league table" of a government’s success or failure.

Thailand and the UNs Global Agenda

With the above provisos, the following section presents a very selective examination of key conference goals and Thailand’s path towards them. The examination tends to focus on those areas for which specific and quantifiable targets were set. The examination is laid out by broad subject area and it is assumed that the general objectives of poverty alleviation and gender equality are integral parts of each subject area. The targets come from those specified in UN world conferences, and the indicators to gauge the situation in Thailand from Royal Thai Government sources or from those published in Human Development Report 1998, New York, UNDP, or World Development Report 1997, New York, The World Bank.

A. Education

After Thailand adopted the World Declaration on Education for All in March 1990, the Master Plan of Action for Education for All was formulated and endorsed by the Council of Ministers for nation-wide implementation in 1994. The ultimate goal affirmed by the World Declaration on Education for All is to meet the basic learning needs of all children, youth and adults. More specific recommendations and targets are as follows:




Universal access to basic education and the completion of primary education by at least 80 per cent of the population by the year 2000. By 2015 there should be universal primary education in all countries

In 1995 the gross primary enrolment ratio was 87 per cent.

By 2005 the gender gap in primary and secondary education should have closed



In 1993, 98 per cent of boys of primary age group went to school compared with 97 per cent of girls.

Also in 1993, while only 38 per cent of the secondary school age group of boys attended school, the equivalent proportion for girls was 37 per cent.

Adult illiteracy should be half the 1990 level by the year 2000.

In 1990 adult illiteracy in Thailand was 5.2 per cent for males and 8.7 per cent for females. In 1995 the adult literacy rate for males was 4 per cent and the female rate was 8 per cent.


B. Population

The following targets have been set in global conferences and results achieved by Thailand



By the year 2000 a life expectancy of at least 60 years of age has to be achieved

By 1995, Thailand had reached a life expectancy at birth of

69.5 years.

By the year 200, a reduction of mortality rates of infants and children under 5 years of age by one third of the 1990 level, or 50-70 per 1,000 live births, whichever is less. By the year 2015, achievement of an infant mortality rate below 35 per 1,000 live births and an under –five mortality below 45 per 1,000.

By 1996, Thailand had reached an under-five mortality rate of 38 per 1,000 live births and an infant mortality rate of 31 per 1,000 live births.

By the year 2000, a reduction in maternal mortality by one half of the 1990 level, by the year 2015, a further reduction by one half.

In 1990, there was a maternal mortality of 200 per 100,000 live births. In 1996, the rate was 43.9 per 100,000 live births.

By the year 2005, there should be a contraceptive prevalence rate of more than 55 per cent.

During the period 1990-95 the contraceptive prevalence rate was 74 per cent.

By the year 2005, more than 60 per cent of births should be attended by trained health personnel.

During the period 1990-96, the proportion of births attended by trained health personnel was 71 per cent.

C. Health and nutrition



By the year 2005, more than 60 per cent of the population have access to basic services.

In 1993, 59 per cent of the population had access to health care

By the year 2000, to reduce low birth weight babies to less than 6 per cent.

Government estimates that the percentage of low birth weight babies fell from 8.2 per cent in 1987 to 6.5 per cent in 1996. UN estimates are that there were 13 per cent of low birth weight babies 1990-96.

By the year 2000, to achieve 80 per cent usage of oral rehydration therapy.

In 1990-97, the oral rehydration use rate was 95 per cent.

By the year 2000, to halve 1990 levels of severe and moderate malnutrition among children under the age of 5.

In 1984, 15.1 per cent of children under 5 were suffering moderate and severe malnutrition. Since 1990, less than 1 per cent of children under 5 years of age fell into this category.

By the year 2000, to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency in women 15-49 years old by one third.

The iron deficiency anaemia among pregnant women was reduced from 21.6 per cent in 1989 to 13.4 per cent in 1995.

To encourage all women to breast feed their babies

During 1990-96, only 4 per cent of mothers were exclusively breast-feeding their babies at three months.

To reduce the morbidity from malaria by 20 per cent.

The incidence of malaria in 1996 was 96.8 per 100,000, down from 217.1 in 1990.

To reduce the sexual transmission of HIV by 56 per cent among groups exposed to risk

The infection rate for men 25-34 years old reached 4 per cent in mid-1993, subsequently declining to 1.9 per cent in late 1996.

To provide immunisation coverage of six antigens to 90 per cent of children.

In 1995-96, 97 and 81 per cent of children were immunised against tuberculosis and measles respectively.


D. Employment and sustainable livelihoods

The creation of satisfying employment for both men and women has been a central theme of all the major United Nations conferences held during the 1990s. Unfortunately, such a laudable goal has been overtaken by events and the trend towards full employment that characterised Thailand in the early 1990s, has been reversed with unemployment rising to at least 6 per cent in 1998 with some 2 million unemployed. Some more specific targets and responses can be summarised as follows:




Governments should work to increase access to land, credit, information, infrastructure and other productive resources for small and micro-enterprises…with a particular emphasis on the disadvantaged sectors of society.

In 1995 and 1996, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives(BAAC) provided credit of 112billion baht to farmers and farmer institutions, which reached 82 per cent of all farm families.

Governments should pay particular attention to women’s access to employment…

In 1995, 46 per cent of the labour force 15 years of age and older , was made up of women. This proportion had declined from 48 per cent in 1970.

Governments should take into account the importance of the informal sector in employment development strategies…

In 1996, of non-agricultural employed labour, informal sector workers constituted 62.6 per cent, showing the informal sector to have been at the very heart of Thai economic growth. This proportion can be expected to have increased with the crisis.


The majority of conference goals and recommendations refer to specific areas of action rather than to specific targets that can easily be quantified. A careful assessment of the institutional changes implemented will thus be required in order to monitor the degree of success in achieving conference objectives in the general field of employment creation and sustainable livelihoods. Unfortunately, the Compendium of Social Issues from the United Nations Global Conferences in the 1990s has nothing to say on the economic aspects that must lie at the base of so many social issues.

E. Environment and natural resource conservation

International involvement over the environment is perhaps a more recent concern of governments and planners than the more traditional preoccupation with social and economic issues. Much dates from the International Conference of Environment and Development held at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. As a result, the spirit of intent has not moved much beyond the level of a plenitude of plans and it is difficult yet to see much actual progress of implementation in a country such as Thailand. This area remains an important one for future policy implementation if sustainable development is truly to be achieved.

Thailand has prepared the national Environmental Quality Promotion policy and Action Plan in order to improve the state of the environment. Thailand has approved a national Policy for the Enhancement and Conservation of Environmental Quality for implementation 1997-2017, which will identify "pollution control areas" and "environmental protection zones" for strict environmental and resource management controls. A National Plan for Biological Diversity Protection has been prepared. Thailand ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 28 December 1994, which entered into force on 28 March 1995. Thailand has prepared its "Agenda 21" document, entitled "Action for Sustainable Development, which is in the process of being implemented.

Action has been taken to protect the remaining 25 per cent of forests as conserved forests. The deforestation rate, however, 1990-95 was in the order of 2.6 per cent although there is an annual reforestation rate of 8 per cent. Measures are underway to protect the remaining 1 million rai of mangrove forests, of which 87 per cent have been lost. Severe difficulties remain in implementing national plans at the local level, problems that will almost certainly intensify at this time of crisis.



By the year 2000, to ensure that all urban residents have access to at least 40 litres of safe water per capita per day.

For the total population for all purposes, and on a per capita basis, approximately 1650 litres of fresh water are withdrawn every day which represents almost one third of the fresh water resources available.

By the year 2000, to ensure that 75 per cent of the urban population are provided with on-site or community facilities for sanitation.

During the period 1990 to 1996, it was estimated that 96 per cent of the total population had access to sanitation facilities.

To designate 25 per cent of land area as forest reserve.

In 1995, 22.8 per cent of the land area was in forest or woodland.


F. Governance and participation

Central to the objectives of all the global conferences of the 1990s was the fundamental importance of governance for the whole process of development and integral to governance were the issues of social integration and social participation. The conferences emphasised the importance of transparent and accountable governance and administration in all public and private, national and international institutions. The response in Thailand has been profound with the promulgation of the New Constitution in October 1997. Its specific goals are;

It is as yet too early to comment upon the success of the implementation of this New Constitution. However, the extent to which the intent of the constitution is translated into real reform will, to a large extent, be a measure of the success of Thailand’s progress towards sustainable development. Several of the truly critical development challenges currently facing the country are to be found in the implementation of the process of governance and participation.

No specific targets in the area of governance were made at the United Nations global conferences except to promote representation, reduce corruption and establish the foundations of responsive and responsible government. Thailand has emerged as a vigorous democracy with a regular series of elections to the lower house. Some 62 per cent of voters turned out for the elections in November 1996 and women have been eligible to vote and to stand for election since 1932. Only 6.6 per cent of parliamentary seats were held by women at that election, however.

G. Conclusion

Thailand has achieved a large measure of success in realising many of the targets identified by the UN global conferences of the 1990s. These successes have been particularly clear in the areas of population and reproductive health. Much still remains to be done, however, and the United Nations system will seek to identify the most significant development challenges that remain through the means of the Common Country Assessment (CCA). Through the CCA, the United Nations and its specialised agencies will seek to develop a common UN system to identify the main development issues and a database to monitor progress towards the implementation of policies and programmes designed to alleviate the situation. This preliminary and highly selective review of Thailand’s situation within the UN’s global agenda is but an introductory step in the development of the CCA and the eventual elaboration of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.

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Dated: 26Jan1999