UN Common Country Assessment


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The polarisation that still underlies so many aspects of the Thai society and economy remains a challenge to sustainable development at so many levels. The division between those with employment and those without; between those who are educated and those who are not; between those who are in good health and those who have limited access to health facilities; between those who live in areas with two much water and those who have not enough for their crops; between those who live in safe and sustainable environments and those who do not; between those who live in Bangkok and those who live in high poverty rural areas; between those who are rich and those who are poor. The United Nations system remains committed to trying to bridge the gaps between these extremes.

Several recurrent development needs emerge from a consideration of the issues identified by the United Nations and its agencies through the CCA exercise. Addressing these needs would be critical to the reduction of the gap between these extremes.

The first is the need to improve the quality of human resources. The need to improve education at the secondary level and above is fundamental for just about every development challenge facing the country at present, irrespective whether these challenges are in the area of governance, health, labour force, the environment or some other area of concern. The need to raise levels of education and to improve training is certainly one of the major development challenges facing Thailand today. Thailand has gone a long way towards meeting several previous development challenges, particularly in the fields of population growth, infant, child and maternal mortality and in the provision of basic health services. Despite these advances, the challenge remains to maintain standards and Thailand needs to be constantly vigilant towards the re-emergence of diseases and resurgence of factors leading to increases in mortality and morbidity.

The second is the need for the decentralisation of decision making. There are significant regional, sectoral and local differences within Thailand and these need to be met by local, not just by national-level responses. An integral part of this need is the need for good and effective governance. Unless the plans that are made can be implemented effectively, then development efforts will come to naught. The greater participation of the people in the process of government is associated with a transition to higher levels of participation. The new constitution in Thailand goes a long way towards more effective governance, yet still much, as these issue papers make clear, remains to be done.

The economic crisis that has swept Thailand since mid-1997 has brought many difficulties not the least of which have been the sharp increases in unemployment and in levels of poverty. Levels of exploitation and human trafficking are also likely to increase, aggravating human misery.

There may also be long-term benefits of the current economic crisis if it can be managed effectively. The crisis brings a time to take stock; a breathing space from a period of the almost frenetic economic development of the late 1980s and early 1990s. This period of economic slowdown should be used to speed up the pace of political, social and administrative development so that once Thailand re-embarks upon its upward path of economic development, more effective, equitable and sustainable policies can be implemented.

The United Nations and its agencies, too, are taking stock and this CCA is but part of this process of reform. The identification of a common set of development issues by all the agencies of the United Nations system in Thailand should provide a stronger foundation upon which to base future development assistance. It is with this objective that the United Nations system looks forward to building an effective partnership with the Royal government of Thailand that will indeed promote long-lasting and truly sustainable development in the Kingdom as it moves into the twenty-first century.

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Dated: 26Jan1999