web site


People Come First In Development


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is no stranger to Thailand--it has been helping in the country's development efforts since 1955. Now, more than ever, it is working hand in hand with the Thai government to improve the quality of Thai people's lives.

The government's Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan (covering 1997-2001) is people centered rather than focused mainly on top-down centrally managed development programmes. The idea: to give local communities more power to decide on issues affecting their own lives and to support them with education and training as necessary. This tallies with the UNDP's own vision of sustainable development, which it is pursuing in more than 170 countries.

Working closely with the government's Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation, the UNDP is involved in projects that directly benefit farmers and other rural communities.

In May 1999, for example, the UNDP financed a project that gave hundreds of farmers in six provinces the means to diversify and earn more money. Traditionally, these farmers planted only rice on their farms. Now, they have been encouraged to devote part of their farmland to fish ponds, which could also provide year-round irrigation for a variety of crops. The project is based on a concept by His Majesty the King, to make farms more self-sustainable.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the project, is that it was implemented by farmers themselves, who used their own networks to lend each other technical as well as organizational support. By pooling their efforts, the farmers were able to dig 200 ponds in just two months, at a fraction of what it would have cost them otherwise.

"This is the sort of project we prefer to support - one where most of the initiative comes from people at grassroots," said Mr. Michael Heyn, the UNDP's Resident Representative.

The pond development project is one of several under the Poverty Alleviation Programme. Other projects involve helping to set up community savings schemes and training villagers to develop marketing skills, so they can better manage their cottage industries.

The UNDP works with the Thai government on other programmes as well, notably the Emerging Issues Programme which trains people at different levels of government to more effectively address growing problems such as unemployment, and the Trilateral Cooperation Programme which helps Thailand share its lessons learned and expertise in human development with other countries in the region.

The UNDP also collaborates with other UN organizations in a community empowerment program called the Thai United Nations Collaborative Action Plan (Thai-UNCAP) which, among other things, has helped set up a community savings group in Yannawa, one of the poorer districts of Bangkok. Thai-UNCAP has also been active in helping the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to open a new child care center and improve the existing ones.

Recently, Thai-UNCAP held a fund-raising event for one of these centers, in which UN staff cooked plates of fried rice which they sold to diplomats and other prominent guests for up to Bt 1,000 per plate.

While the UNDP may by one of the United Nation's largest agencies worldwide, it remains dedicated to human development at the grassroots of society. As one UNDP official pointed out:" if we have to sell fried rice to make sure young children get proper care, we'll do it happily. Besides, who else can command such prices for a plate of khao phat?


Dated: 11 Nov 2000