FOREWORD Throughout 2020, UN Thailand repositioned rapidly to support public health and social-economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time ensuring continued progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. In the collaborative work of all UN agencies, the interconnected domains of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership established the priorities for sustainable development and the mandate to Leave No One Behind in the recovery. Progress towards the 2030 Agenda and Thailand’s development goals is founded on the UN’s long-term partnerships with Government, the private sector, academia, and civil society and youth groups. This whole-of-society approach leverages UN networks and technical expertise to support the strengths, knowledge and skills of every sector. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our partners for their collaboration over this uniquely challenging year.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COUNTRY Like many countries around the globe, the key development situation in Thailand was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the fiscal and technical response initiated to enable economic recovery and steer the country to stay on course to achieve the SDGs by 2030. In January 2020, the country became the second in the world to confirm a COVID-19 infection. Subsequently, Thailand rapidly implemented a national response, successfully flattening the epidemic curve while maintaining a low case fatality rate. Thailand’s relatively strong healthcare delivery system and the near-universal health insurance coverage have contributed to effectively containing the spread of the virus, with a relatively low number of confirmed cases and deaths, ranking it among the top-ten most prepared countries to deal with the coronavirus and first among upper-middle-income countries1 . Government’s effective response to the pandemic included rapid and accurate case detection, isolation, treatment and tracing close contacts of cases in quarantine, and effective communication with the public. More than four decades of investment in primary health care resulted in an excellent health response with hundreds of technical experts trained in disease outbreak investigation and 1 million village volunteers supporting contact tracing in communities. There is significant trust between the community and the health system across the country. Thailand’s near universal health coverage has also ensured that no Thai has endured financial hardship for COVID-19-related health services. However, the outbreak response is more challenging in some marginalized populations including non-Thais and migrants, due to difficulties 1 Based on the 2019 Global Health Security Index. in accessing documentation, language barriers and distrust among host communities. The RTG addressed some of these gaps by issuing a Cabinet Resolution on 29 December 2020 that supported the regularization of irregular migrant workers, opening access to health services such as COVID-19 check-ups and purchase of the Migrant Health Insurance Scheme.
The UN Office for South-South Cooperation has worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Thailand International Cooperation Agency and benefitted from the secondment of staff from the Thailand International Cooperation Agency in support of South-South Cooperation. Thailand with ESCAP and UNOSSC brought together heads of national development and technical cooperation agencies to share experiences and exchange ideas at the 3rd Asia-Pacific Directors-General Forum for South-South and Triangular Cooperation held in November 2020. Thailand officially become a member of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) in 2020 through collaboration between the RTG and UNIDO. UN PAGE agencies including ILO, UNDP, UNEP and UNIDO in collaboration with the NESDC have secured US$400,000 from Germany’s Green Recovery Fund to support Thailand’s bio-circular-green recovery efforts.
Key Lessons The UNCT also took note of the lessons, accompanying strategies on leveraging partnerships and the UN convening role, which was particularly critical during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborating closely and developing successful partnerships is key to maximizing development results. The UN leverages its partnerships with Government, civil society, the private sector and academia to advance development gains. For example, the UN is leveraging its partnership with the private sector through the Global Compact Network Thailand to increase participation of all sectors in sustainable national development and innovative solutions to development challenges. In another example, the SDGs Youth Panel, an informal feedback mechanism from youth to Heads of Agencies, is enabling the meaningful inclusion of youth’s voices in decision-making.
Financial Reporting In 2020, 891 UN personnel in Thailand across 21 UN entities delivered programmes at an overall envelope of US$75.2 million, of which US$15.2 million was allocated to the COVID-19 health response with US$60 million directed to “building back better”. An estimated US$2 million was redirected from existing programming to address the COVID-19 response and cover impact assessments; promote community resilience and food security; reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk communities including people living with HIV and AIDS, youth, persons with disabilities, the LGBTI community and others; and sustain social cohesion. These figures are estimates self-reported by UN entities in Thailand, and are not audited financial data. This is aligned with UNPAF’s vision in advancing sustainable, people-centred, and equitable development for all people in Thailand.
In Thailand and worldwide, 2020 was an unprecedented year on many levels. While there were many challenges, there were also many achievements and opportunities to build upon for 2021. First, managing the COVID-19 response and resilience recovery will be a top priority. Another important focus will be localizing the SDGs in Thailand. The UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, which will be developed by the UNCT in partnership with Government, will be one of the top priorities and act as the main instrument for the planning and implementation of UN development activities. Thailand’s membership marks its 75th anniversary in the UN and an opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges for future partnerships.