Southern Thailand Empowerment and Participation (STEP) Project

STEP Project


The southernmost region of Thailand has been affected by conflict since 2004. Despite ongoing efforts by various actors to resolve it, violence and insecurity continues to be a part of everyday life for those living in Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla.

According to Deep South Watch, as of December 2013, 5,956 people have been killed and 10,703 injured in 13,895 violent incidents.

Research shows this violence has hampered socioeconomic and human development in these provinces. The UNDP’s Human Achievement Index 2014, for example, ranks Narathiwat lowest (76th) on the Education Index and Pattani 75th on the Income Index.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable: more than 3,000 women have become widows since 2004, finding themselves sole breadwinner despite fewer skills, less means, and more responsibility. Meanwhile, at least 5,000 children have been orphaned, with around 50,000 outside the formal education system and many at risk of becoming involved in drugs or other types of crimes.        

STEP Phase I

In 2010, in a bid to address the wide range of challenges facing the southern border provinces, UNDP launched its Southern Thailand Empowerment and Participation (STEP) project. Its overall aim was to contribute to social cohesion and prevent an escalation in the violence through a two-pronged approach that empowered community and civil society networks while also strengthening the capacities of relevant government agencies.

Between 2010 and 2012, STEP Phase I saw UNDP Thailand develop the capacities of a range of stakeholders – from government agencies through to community-based organizations, creating common spaces for peace dialogue and increasing  access to dispute resolution mechanisms.

It also began improving livelihoods of conflict-affected, women-headed households in these provinces through the Local Business Initiative, launched with Prince of Songkla University. Women’s entrepreneurial groups in Pattani received product and package development training on improving their business plans and increasing the quality of local products. And within a short space of time, the women more than doubled their income.

STEP Phase I was a success, with strong commitment in coordination and cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC).

In August and September 2013, everyone involved in the project came together to evaluate its impact and share lessons learned. Conclusions were positive, noting the project’s significant contribution towards expanding civil society and empowering community-based organizations, human rights defenders, women’s groups, youth networks and peace-building platforms.


The hard work is far from over. STEP Phase I paved the way for larger-scale initiatives and national-level advocacy, so that’s exactly what’s on the agenda in Phase II. 

In close consultation with all relevant government agencies, and other stakeholders, three areas were identified to fill development gaps in fragile areas:

·         Enabling an environment for the peace process and capacity-building for peace infrastructure

·         Empowering vulnerable groups to access justice through the support of key institutions and networks

·         Broadening participation for community development and social cohesion 

On the basis of this, and following several other consultations with responsible parties, the STEP II Project was formulated.

Phase II will focus on ensuring peace-building efforts at grassroots level feed into a broader national peace effort, in order to build on the progress made and ensure any change made is sustainable.

With this in mind, STEP Phase II will see UNDP Thailand work with a team of local and national experts with the aim of achieving the following three results.

1. The inclusive participation of all peace networks in the peace process

The Royal Thai Government, as stated in objective eight of the National Security Council’s policy statement, aims “to create an environment suitable for peaceful solution to the conflict and for establishing an assurance that all stakeholders participate in the peace-building process”.

In line with this, UNDP Thailand will take the opportunity to intensify and broaden its support of the peace-building process. Among its priorities will be:

·         strengthening existing peace-building networks, including peace     platforms

·         boosting links between peace-seekers across all levels of society

·         supporting the development of a Peace Resource Centre, as a hub to link public and policy makers

·         engaging with local and national media

·         developing an internship programme for peace-building experts to gain experience

·         training a team of local and national peace builders who will meet regularly to identify opportunities for action and efforts

2. Access for vulnerable groups to effective legal services and quality legal protection from key duty bearers 

As suggested by SBPAC, the project will look to plug gaps in local legal knowledge by:

·         expanding, and training, community volunteer legal networks

·         building the capacity of community and religious leaders as focal points for alternative forms of legal assistance

·         supporting the capacity-building of medium-scale service providers working directly with the most vulnerable

·         improving the effectiveness of existing legal assistance mechanisms

3. Skills and resources for vulnerable communities so they may establish and manage locally appropriate development initiatives that support human security and social cohesion

UNDP in Thailand believes in supporting women and civil society organizations in strengthening their role as peace builders, promoting understanding within and between multicultural communities. With this in mind Phase II will include:

·         more sustainable livelihood activities to boost the income and thus, living conditions of conflict-affected, women-headed households

·         occupational training based on an assessment of needs and market demands

·         an expansion of the small grants programme focused on building social cohesion within communities

·         evaluating completed projects with a view to up-scaling successes and overcoming economic marginalization

Partnering for success

Engaging with stakeholders, and expanding to other relevant partners, is crucial to ensure the STEP’s success continues.

With that in mind, we will look to continue working with:

1. Academic Institutes 

Prince of Songkla University, key in the region and with an important role in policy advice for local authorities through research and consultancies, is also considered a safe space by stakeholders and helps local communities. We will continue to work closely with it, for all of those reasons and more. Other institutes include PSU Islamic College, Yala Islamic University and Rajabhat, all of which are expected to contribute expertise relevant to the local context. 

2. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)

Key CSOs, at local and national level, will be main partners, including with the livelihood programme. They have valuable local language skills and/or expertise to be drawn upon for various STEP components.

3. Local Leaders and local volunteers

Local volunteers have often experienced the same problems as beneficiaries, helpful in establishing trust and positive communication. Local leaders are can help link local communities with local authorities and support the implementation of community projects and innovation. 

4. Government

The project has enjoyed strong government support from national through to local level. SBPAC will continue to be a pivotal partner in Phase II, along with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice. Collaboration with selected governor offices may be needed where the majority of sub-projects will take place and some local authorities may also be involved, project-dependent. Other authorities include the Law Reform Commission of Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission.

5. UN Agencies

STEP Phase II will see UNDP Thailand work complementarily with the World Bank, UNICEF and UN Women all of whom are already working with key stakeholders, in key areas, in the south. Together, we should deepen the impact of UN work in the region.   


Amount contributed per year


US$ 173,323


US$ 282,621


US$ 575,733.08


US$ 755,777.34


US$ 235,756.35  (estimated)      


Donor Name

Amount contributed


US$ 1,225,000

UNDP/Japan partnership fund

US$   400,000

Government of Belgium

US$   399,743.05


US$ 2,024,743.05

STEP II (2014-2017)

Amount contributed per year


US$ 46,000


US$ 251,000


US$ 203,000