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During 1998, the UN Resident Co-ordinator system consolidated and focused the various UN and Thai partner theme groups on the common concerns and urgent issues of the social impact of the economic crisis by co-ordinating several Joint UN Theme Group meetings involving all UN agencies, International and Thai partners.

For example, at June and October meetings to discuss the Social Sector Loan Programme financed by the Asian Development Bank, the UN agencies provided valuable input to the ADB technical assistance projects.

Also, all UN Agencies as well as donors held a dialogue with the Secretary of the Social Policy Committee (SPC) which was established by the Thai Government to co-ordinate efforts to support the Thai people to respond to the social impact of the economic crisis. The UN Joint Theme Groups met further to prepare for a collaborative support of an SPC workshop retreat, which was held on 13 and 14 November 1998, and addressed by the Prime Minister.

Other Theme Group meetings identified several crisis focused sub-groups (with a lead agency for each): Impact on the urban poor, World Bank; Employment Regeneration: Some Approaches and Activities, ILO; Education monitoring and information, non-formal education, UNESCO; Impact on children, UNICEF, and; Impact on Women, UNIFEM.

Some specific actions are detailed below.

Support to policy dialogue and development

a) To assess the social impact of the crisis
b) To exchange views on options for immediately responding to the crisis through specific action programmes and for longer-term policy/institutional reforms
c) To discuss areas where assistance from the UN system and its agencies as well as other donors would be most appropriate

Following are some of the Outcomes/Products of collaborative UN Interventions arising from the dialogue relating to policy/institutional reforms:

i) Consultative Meeting on Social Impact of the Economic Crisis and Responses from the Government, Private Sector, Civil Society and International Community (UNDP - 5 March 1998)
ii) Establishment of the Health Intelligence Unit at the Ministry of Public Health, a policy mechanism to deal with health impacts of the economic crisis (WHO - 1998)
iii) Study of "Efficiency Assessment of Provincial Health Office in Managing Health Programmes during Economic Crisis" (WHO - 1998)
iv) Bipartite consultations in selected industries at risk of mass lay-offs (ILO - 1st quarter 1998)
v) Placement of disabled persons in employment through training and advisory services (ILO, 1st quarter 1998)
vi) Paper on "Responding to the Thai Economic Crisis" by the Thailand Development Research Institute (Commissioned by UNDP - May 1998)
vii) Four-point "People-centered Development Strategy for Rapid Recovery in Thailand", including proposed policy and programmatic interventions by the UN system in specific areas (UN System - May 1998)
viii) Rapid assessment of the effects of economic crisis on children in rural village of Northern and Northeastern Thailand (UNICEF - June 1998)
ix) Assessment of Basic Social Services Financing in Thailand (UNICEF - July 1998)
x) National Workshop for Employers on Human Resources Development Strategies for Rapid Recovery in Economic Downturn (ILO - July 1998)
xi) Paper on "Mitigating the Social Impact of the Economic Crisis: a Review of the Royal Thai Government's Response" (UNICEF/UNDP - August 1998)
xii) Policy research on Education Management and Financing (UNESCO - July 1998 to April 1999; Interim report published in December 1998; two pilot projects to test key dimensions of policy recommendations on decentralization initiated in December 1998). The research focuses on the following priority areas :

(1) Reduction of incidence of dropouts
(2) Improvement in the quality of priority education programs through a better reallocation of resources
(3) Rationalization of staff size and deployment
(4) Financial and management decentralization
(5) Promotion of the private sector in the provision of education and training

xiii) Study on the "Effects of the Financial and Economic Crisis on the Attainment of ICPD Goals in the East and Southeast Asia Region" (UNFPA - completed in January 1999)
xiv) A Country Employment Policy Review has been launched, covering employment growth and economic recovery, skill development, productivity and competitiveness, job creation and labour market functioning, and national labour policies for sound industrial relations and enhanced quality of jobs (ILO)
xv) Study on "Wage Policy and Labour Competitiveness in Thailand" was presented to the Provincial Wage Committees (ILO)
xvi) Series of country-wide training workshops aiming to institutionalize and strengthen tripartism in the minimum wage decentralization process (ILO, Provincial Wage Committees)

Support to formulation and implementation of quick response action programmes/projects

Following are some of the Results/Outcomes of collaborative UN Interventions:

a) Implementation of a Social Investment Project to be channeled (i) to projects identified and proposed by NGOs and CBOs with strong employment and livelihood impact (IBRD, UNDP, and ILO) and (ii) to selected government programmes in support of social services and employment. IBRD, OECF, AusAid and UNDP have committed financial resources for the Project and for its administration. Administrative structure for processing of project proposals and channeling of funds to recipients now in place
b) Poverty mapping and monitoring tracking system for vulnerable groups under the SIP programme (UNDP and IBRD - on-going)
c) Improvement of labor market statistics from the labor force survey (ILO, UNDP - on-going) for more effective planning and design of action programmes relating to employment and underemployment and more accurate targeting of beneficiaries
d) Analysis of training needs of retrenched workers and school drop outs (UNESCO, UNDP - on-going) to make the design and content of training programmes more responsive to those needs
e) Support to training of retrenched workers, including for self-employment through micro-entrepreneurship (ILO, UNDP - training design completed)
f) Strengthening of social safety net (ILO), including

i) Introduction of unemployment insurance scheme (feasibility study completed)
ii) Review of social security scheme with emphasis on health insurance (on-going)
iii) Review of occupational safety and health institutional arrangements (on-going)
iv) Training of labour inspectors to enable them to advise employers on alternatives to retrenchment (completed)

g) Support to formulation of a regional project, facilitated by a UN Working Group in Thailand, addressing the problem of trafficking in women and children in the Mekong sub-region, which is expected to increase as a consequence of the economic crisis (IOM and ten other UN agencies). The project will assist governments, CSOs and CBOs in the area of prevention as well as protection of women and children who have been trafficked, and reintegration into their communities. (Project document now awaiting signature of all concerned parties. Cost sharing contribution of US$ 2.315 million already committed by Turner Fund Foundation)
h) Training and staff development in reproductive health in two pilot provinces - Phayao and Pattani (UNFPA - preparation of training design on-going)
i) Research into the impact of the crisis on access to reproductive health services for adolescents and youths who have become part of the new poor (UNFPA - preparation of research design on-going)
j) Launching of a national social mobilization and communication against school drop-outs in partnership with MOE and media (UNICEF - on-going)
k) Support to the national Child Friendly School Initiative seeking to, among others, monitor the occurrence of drop-outs (UNICEF - on-going)
l) Special - one time - allowance for social welfare, targeting orphaned children in selected provinces (UNICEF - last quarter, 1998)

Support to community empowerment

a) by assisting the National Social Policy Committee in:

i) Assessment of on-going crisis-response programmes, in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University, (UNDP - report completed) with a view to

(1) Identifying gaps and overlaps
(2) Improving coordination and achieving synergy among them

ii) Formulation of an operational action plan (UN system facilitated a Workshop of the SPC and the resulting plan approved by the Cabinet on 1 November 1998) which would involve the Thai people themselves as the primary resource for responding to the crisis

iii) Implementation of the action plan, including establishment of Crisis Response Centers in 32 provinces (UN system - possibility of establishing a UN support facility being explored)

b) through the Thailand-UN Collaborative Action Plan (Thai-UNCAP) involving a process of participatory development management at the community level in four provinces and one district of Bangkok (UN system, including UPU - programme on-going and recently approved for expansion), as follows:

i) Identification and prioritization of community development needs and of options to meet those needs

ii) Identification and mobilization of resources to implement the option selected by the communities themselves

c) Capacity building and empowerment of farmers' network, NGOs and local communities for rural poverty alleviation programme (US$ 6.8 million, UNDP - on-going)

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Dated: 26Jan1999