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The following is a presentation by Ms. Gwi-Yeop Son, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand at the AseanAffairs Business Council’s Conference on HM the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy held in August in Bangkok, Thailand

In May 2006, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was presented with a Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. This award from the UN Development Programme was in recognition of the King’s visionary thinking and extraordinary contributions in helping the poor and conserving the environment in Thailand.

A little over six months later, the UNDP helped launch an independent report that investigated the values and philosophies of the Sufficiency Economy as formulated by His Majesty. Through the award and the report, the UNDP hoped that this approach to sustainable living would receive a wider, international audience.

Sufficiency Economy
The three pillars of the Sufficiency Economy can be described as:
1) Moderation;
2) Wisdom or insight; and
3) The need for resilience against the risks
which arise from internal or external change.

As the UN’s resident coordinator in Thailand and the UNDP’s resident representative, I see common ground between these principles and those of human development. At their hearts, both approaches are people focused. They emphasise that development is a process of equipping people with the opportunities to improve themselves and realize their potential.

Both approaches also assume that development should be sustainable, equitable and respectful of the natural environment. These are standards that we hold onto firmly at UNDP.

Capacity Building
For example, much of the UN’s work in Thailand involves capacity building. This can range from supporting the work of Departments to enact Government policy to working in the field with rural communities to improve how they farm or prepare for natural disasters. We see this assistance as essential to human development – a person who is given the means to meet their potential is going to be better able to support their family and therefore his or her country. We have seen this throughout Thailand over the past two decades. There has been great improvement in the lives of many Thais who have been provided with the chance to learn new skills.

In building a more sustainable environment and combating climate change, the UNDP has just completed an eight year project that promoted the use of renewable energy in Thailand. In what has proved to be a very successful partnership with the Government and the Energy for Environment Fund, there are now more than 180 renewable power plants scattered across the countryside.

They generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity annually or the equivalent of supplying enough power to 2.2 million homes. This initiative alone has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by five million tonnes a year - the equal to taking 1.5 million cars off the road.

In other areas, such as governance, the UNDP continues to work closely with the government. We see the principles of transparency and accountability as hallmarks of the Sufficiency Economy philosophy and these are principles we actively promote in Thailand. This is one of the drivers behind our newly launched Clean City, Clean Mind initiative.

UNDP is providing expert advice to the city of Korat to help it become a low-carbon city. We are combining this with encouraging more public participation in city management. The aim being that the public will be better able to hold city officials accountable for their management and service delivery.

Human Rights Caravan
The Sufficiency Economy is also about personal and community empowerment – the need within all of us for greater wisdom or insight. One of the key areas promoted by UNDP is that of human rights. We are impressed with how seriously the Prime Minister takes this issue. With the Prime Minister’s help, the UNDP launched the Human Rights Caravan earlier this year. The Caravan traveled to four provinces, providing information, spreading knowledge and hosting rights forums for wider audience.

The Caravan concept has now been adopted by the Ministry of Education in the classroom to help raise awareness among students and teachers about these issues. The UN firmly believes that the bedrock of sustainable development is greater education, greater awareness of human rights, including legal rights, combined with greater opportunities.

As the world recovers from the economic shocks of the past eighteen months, these values provide an important way forward. While globalisation has clearly brought huge benefits to many people around the world, these benefits remain unevenly spread. Over one billion human beings are still living in abject poverty. And communities around the world are precariously exposed to financial instability, unfair trade, soaring fuel prices, and environmental impacts. It is important that countries, as they come out of the global recession, consider more sustainable ways of growing their economies.

The disastrous policies that rewarded short-term risk over long-term growth are being addressed and it is pleasing to see that many of the fiscal stimulus packages were aimed at the less well-off. I would like to see countries redouble efforts in the area of human development. It is not something that should be neglected as economies get back on their feet. A people-focused recovery is one that we should all be championing.

The Sufficiency Economy philosophy was forged in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, but its principles and values are worthy of renewed contemplation
today. The experience of the UN in Thailand shows that if organizations, businesses and societies take the longterm view, are prepared to invest time and money in people, and do this in an equitable way, then real human and economic progress can be made.




Material related to HM the King of Thailand must not be used without the Royal Approval.

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