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SOCIAL ASPECTS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THAILAND

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POVERTY

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

In Thailand, there is no specific poverty legislation in force, but the country's Economic and Social Development Plans have been aimed at poverty reduction, especially during the last 20-25 years. Progress made in this area during the Seventh Plan was evaluated formally in 1995. The Eighth Plan has been approved and contains specific targets for the further reduction of both urban and rural poverty. The Eighth Plan's formulation was initiated on a "bottom-up" consultation basis to emphasize the participation of poor communities and women in problem solving. This latest plan and Thailand's long-term Environment Quality Promotion Strategy make linkages between poverty and the environment.

Status 

The Human Development Report (1995) reported that in 1990, 7% of the urban population and 29% of the rural population lived in poverty in Thailand. The Government's report to the 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit discusses the linkages between poverty and the environment.

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This information was provided by the Government of Thailand to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

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DEMOGRAPHICS

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) are most directly concerned with demographic issues in Thailand. NESDB and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE) are the principal government agencies responsible for the integration of all aspects of population, environment, and development. MOPH is involved in providing family planning, and maternal and child health services. In addition, NGOs are actively involved in family planning and developing public awareness programmes. The National Commission on Women's Affairs, which reports directly to the Prime Minister, has introduced a Gender-Based Analysis Methodology, for use in sustainable development planning.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

Thailand is considered to be at the forefront of persuasive, imaginative, and effective family planning programmes (see Thailand's national report to the Cairo Conference). NESDB considers demographic trends when preparing five-year plans for sustainable social and economic development. Plans include policies to reduce population growth rates and manage geographic distribution. Thai plans recognize the critical importance of providing educational opportunities for women.

The Population and Community Development Association, Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand, and other NGOs, work on population issues with strong governmental support. The Twenty Year Perspective Policies and Plans for the Developmental of Women (1992-2011) aims to involve women in decision making at all levels, and particularly in sustainable development, through three major initiatives: economic participation, social participation, and political and administrative participation.

Programmes and Projects 

Regarding demographic dynamics and sustainability, MOPH, working in conjunction with other organizations, implements programmes relevant to demographic change in the following areas: assessing the effects of demographic changes on development programmes; strengthening preventive and curative health facilities and services; information dissemination; and providing good-quality family planning services and family planning counselling and its integration in the reproductive health context.

An assessment of changes in the age structure and its impact on the health care system has occurred. Consequently, health care policies and programmes have been formulated. For example, health insurance schemes covering all aspects of preventive, rehabilitative, and curative care services are provided, especially to low income groups, the elderly, children, the handicapped, and other underprivileged groups.

Preventive heath care programmes emphasizing reproductive health care have been launched. These programmes provide comprehensive health care, including pre-natal care; education and information on health and responsible parenthood; the opportunity for all women to breast-feed; health care for all children; and measures to reduce the risk of maternal and child mortality and morbidity.

Status

Health service facilities at all levels have been upgraded and improved in terms of their quality and efficiency. In Thailand, there are 9,239 Sub-district Health Centres (covering 99.4% of total sub-districts); 708 District Hospitals (covering 91.6% of total districts); 75 General Hospitals; and 17 Regional Hospitals and Medical Centres. In addition, there are hospitals for which other organizations are responsible, for example those of the Ministry of University Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and State Enterprises. Private hospitals provide about 19% of total public services in terms of the number of beds provided.

The main organizations which disseminate information concerning demographic trends and health status to the public regularly include Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University, and MOPH. Educational materials dealing with population and development are being developed through officials at the central and provincial levels of MOPH.

Financing 

NGOs working on population issues receive financial support from the Government and international organizations. However, financial assistance from international agencies has decreased during the last few years. Partners in Population and Development, a South-South Initiative, was created to coordinate a technical cooperation programme among 10 member countries, including training/study tours and technical assistance.

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This information was provided by the Government of Thailand to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

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HEALTH

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) coordinates human health protection with other organizations, such as the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE). The Ministry of Interior, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Ministry of University Affairs, the Thai Red Cross Society, and NGOs provide services ranging from care and treatment, health promotion, disease prevention, and rehabilitative care. However, decision-making structures are decentralized in these areas.

Programmes and Projects 

MOPH implements the following programmes in collaboration with other organizations:
primary health care and health education; control of communicable diseases; health protection for high risk groups; health as quality of life; and health protection from environmental hazardous.

The Primary Health Care Programme was launched in 1977 as the main public health strategy to reach the goal of "Health for All by the Year 2000". The programme is based on community involvement, utilization of appropriate technology, intersectoral collaboration, and equity in the health system. The programme aims to satisfy basic community health needs for clean water, sanitation, adequate and balanced nutrition, food safety, and maternal and child health care. It works through village health volunteers and receives government support through health centres, district hospitals, and provincial health officials. The programme covers all villages and communities in rural, sub-urban, and urban areas. About 65,170 Community Primary Health Care Centres have been established and 719,500 Village Health Volunteers have been trained all over the country. In 1993, a set of practical and appropriate health indicators was developed to monitor the "Health for All" goal at the community level. So far, about 80% of communities have passed the minimum criteria. Thailand is expected to achieve the goal of "Health for All" by the Year 1999.

Programmes have been created to reduce environmental health risks from pollution and to promote environmental health protection. Activities include: advocacy among business owners, polluters, workers, consumers and people in general, through meetings, publications, mass media and special campaigns; revision, enactment and enforcement of legislation concerning environmental health by applying economic instruments in pollution control (for example, appropriate subsidies or charges); development of environmental health; surveillance programmes dealing with the quality of drinking water, surface water, and health; encouragement of control of water and air pollution, especially in large cities; establishment of occupational health programmes in both industrial and agricultural sectors to limit workers' exposure to health hazards; and lastly, implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Healthy Cities Programmes. All these approaches play a significant role in the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan.

Most childhood diseases that are vaccine preventable ( poliomyelitis, tetanus, neonatorum) have declined dramatically during the past decades due to successful immunization programmes, while other communicable diseases (for example, diarrhoea, dengue fever/dengue hemorrhagic fever, and acute respiratory tract infection) are still common. The prevalence of adult diseases (for example, venereal diseases) has decreased due to a condom promotion programme. On the other hand, some diseases have re-emerged (for example, tuberculosis because of HIV/AIDS, and malaria and filariasis which foreign workers imported from endemic areas). Other diseases that need to be eradicated before the year 2000 include rabies and leprosy. HIV/AIDS is a serious problem to which the government has given top priority. MOPH, in conjunction with NGOs, has adjusted its strategies to prevent and control HIV/AIDS by focusing on strengthening individual and community capacity at all levels, especially in villages, to reduce the personal and social impacts of HIV. Emphasis is given to advocacy and information dissemination in order to help people avoid risky behaviour, to reduce the number of new HIV infections, and to lower the prevalence of the disease in women and their offspring.

Government support gives top priority to health insurance programmes for lower income groups, children under 12, disabled persons, and the elderly. In addition, a programme to promote better health and quality of life of urban dwellers, especially under privileged groups, has been implemented. Intersectoral committees on pollution prevention and control at provincial levels have been established. Programmes to strengthen local authorities' capacity, especially in municipalities, were created to encourage community participation in supporting environmental health.

Cooperation

The central Government and all concerned agencies support regional and local organizations in the implementation of their activities by providing finance, technical assistance, equipment and training. The major groups involved in health care include local authorities, health volunteers, under-privileged groups (for example, children, youth, elderly, and the poor), and private organizations. Financial support is provided by the Government at central and local levels, the private sector, local authorities, NGOs, and international organizations.

International agency cooperation is active in the health area: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Global Environment Monitoring Systems (GEMS), WHO on environmental health planning and the Healthy Cities Programme; the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Children's programmes, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on environmental studies.

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This information was provided by the Government of Thailand to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last Update: 1 April 1997.

For information from the Ministry of Public Health, click here:
For information on tropial diseases research conducted from Thailand's National Science and Technoloy Development Agency, click here:

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EDUCATION

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The Department of Environmental Quality Promotion (DEQP), the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment (MOSTE), and the Ministry of Education, all full members of the National Coordinating Body for Sustainable Development, jointly prepared The National Education Plan (1997-2001) . Its contents are consistent with the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan (1997-2001). In addition, the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion is preparing a national plan on environmental education to be submitted to the National Environment Board. In the meantime, the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction (Ministry of Education) cooperate with DEQP/MOSTE to ensure that environmental topics and sustainable development concepts are included in national curricula at all school levels. There is a single national curriculum which has been reviewed to address environment and development as a cross-cutting issue in vocational schools and at college and university levels utilizing a combination of printed material, audio visual tools, special classes, workshops and seminars. Thai schools and Ministries also make increasing use of the INTERNET.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement 

Cooperative efforts between the public and private sector to provide environmental education include:

Status 

In Thailand, primary school (grades 1 to 6) is compulsory and free of charge for all Thais. At present, the government has a policy to extend compulsory education to 12 years to cover the secondary level. The government also provides 30 schools to the rural poor in remote areas under the responsibility of the Special Education Division, of the Ministry of Education. In addition, informal education from primary to vocational level is also provided. Courses in informal education are prepared to suit the local conditions with the basic objectives of promoting quality of life

Programmes and Projects 

The Ministry of Education provides relevant information to promote training. A priority area for reorienting education towards sustainable development is the improvement of teacher training programmes. The Ministry of Education has trained teachers, administrators, educational planners, and non-formal educators. Programmes have been reoriented to foster full understanding of sustainable development policies. Training has been conducted by inviting experts, arranging workshops, and undertaking field studies.

Several agencies including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Ministry of Public Health, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Metropolitan Water Authority have organized projects/campaigns, through different media, exhibitions, posters etc which are geared towards raising public awareness. For instance, in the Thai Environmental Day 1997, radio and television spots to promote environmental awareness under the theme "How to use resources and live in a sustainable way" were produced. Booklet and poster campaigns were conducted for three days (4-6 December 1997) to celebrate the occasion.

The main objective of these projects/campaigns is to encourage the public to recognize, be aware of, and act in conserving the environment, through consumption approaches such as getting the longest and maximum beneficial use of products through reuse, substitution, rehabilitation and reduced toxicity.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising 

In addition to formal education, informal education is promoted by the Ministry of Education through provision of curricula suitable to communities with emphasis on practical measures to improve quality of life and solve community problems. The Asian Institute of Technology together with the Ministry of Interior conducted a training workshop for all the provincial governors aimed at having them understand and initiate local participation. Provincial development offices also organized workshops to promote gender integration at the grass root levels for participation in local administration.

An example of innovative education and public awareness activities related to sustainable development is a Management of Science and Environment course in Hard Amra Aksornluckvittaya, Amphoe Muang Changwat Samutprakan . This project used local problems --a degraded mangrove--to let the student groups analyse problems systematically, searching for options and solutions and preparing work plans for action. As a result, teachers and students replanted the mangroves in the Asokaram temple and used the area as a study site. Another example is a workshop held to adapt for Thai teachers, teaching materials for sustainable education prepared by UNESCO-ACEID. There are also a series of training programs for teachers and heads of schools in the North which will be organized by Department of Environmental Quality Promotion.

This information was provided by the Government of Thailand to the fifth and sixth sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, April 1997 & 1998. Last Update: 20 March 1998.

For information from the Ministry of Education, click here:

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HUMAN SETTLEMENTS

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