While Thailand has been successful in stemming the tide of COVID-19 infections since it first appeared in mid-January 2020, first country outside China, the socio-economic impact has been severe. According to the data from the Bank of Thailand, COVID 19 will result in an estimated 8.1%GDP contraction in 2020. Similarly, “The COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment” commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) also reveals that unemployment rate would hit 3.1 per cent in 2020—more than twice the usual rate—whilst women unemployment would rise to 4.5 per cent.
As COVID emerged in Thailand, UNDP supported the national COVID-19 response, to prepare for, respond to, and recover from this pandemic, ensuring no one is left behind, while safeguarding the progress achieved towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP, along with the UN Country Team, contributed to the health response by amplifying prevention messaging to curb the spread of the virus, leveraging partnership with private sector communication agencies.
UNDP has been providing support to the national response to the COVID-19 crisis at two levels:
Working closely with the National Economic and Social Development Council, UNDP, together with UNICEF and with the support from the UN Country Team, IFIs and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, is leading the socio-economic assessment of COVID-19, looking at the macro-economic impact on the economy, with a focus on selected sectors such as agriculture, tourism, industries, but also labour and finance. This assessment also looks at the negative impact on key social sectors such as health, education, gender equality and protection. In parallel, UNDP is also undertaking a socio-economic assessment of COVID-19 on the island of Phuket with a special focus on the tourism sector, the leading economic activity of this global tourism destination. This initiative undertaken in close collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, will provide in addition to the analysis of the impact, recommendations towards recovery including more sustainable and diversified approaches to local development.
Working closely with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, UNDP is providing specific support to the most vulnerable communities severely impacted by the crisis such as youth, people with disabilities, hill tribes and ethnic communities, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual (LGBTI) community. This support aims to strengthen their resilience to the crisis and mitigate the negative impact on their livelihood. Activities are being implemented with local NGOs and informed by surveys and consultations with beneficiaries.
The next phase of UNDP’s COVID-19 crisis response is designed to help decision-makers look beyond recovery, towards 2030, by supporting them to make choices and manage complexity and uncertainty in four main areas: governance, social protection, green recovery, and digital disruption which encompasses UNDP’s role in technically leading the UN’s socio-economic response.
UNDP's Offer 2.0
The work in supporting governance-related issues remains more important than ever as governments work to steer out of this crisis. To this end, UNDP advocates for a whole-of-government approach to ensure a well-coordinated response across line ministries but also between central and sub-national governments and authorities. As part of this support to the Royal Thai Government, UNDP promotes tolerance and respect for diversity, gender equality, inclusiveness and accountability. More specifically, UNDP, at the request of the National Economic and Social Development Council, is monitoring the implementation of a 400 billion Bahts stimulus package intended mainly to revive the local rural economy and save and create jobs. In addition, UNDP, in consultation with its national and international partners, is repurposing some of its regular programming to direct support to strengthen community resilience across Thailand, including in the Southern Border Provinces, building on previous work and adapted to the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the immediate to medium term, UNDP will provide its support in the following areas:
Promote local resilience by fostering tolerance and respect for diversity.
Promote productive engagement and livelihoods which will contribute to greater food security.
Support the implementation of alternate behaviours to mitigate the risks linked to the pandemic.
Change perceptions and build trust, including between state and non-state actors in view of promoting social cohesion.
Analyse public and private financing policies, partnership and institutional structure to identify gaps in financing for supporting recovery and SDG advancement.
Promote, in a gender responsive manner, inclusive economic empowerment and sustainable livelihood, contributing to greater food security while safeguarding the environment and ensuring localization of the SDGs.
The impact of the pandemic is felt differently by different people, increasing risks to existing inequalities. UNDP leverages its partnerships to build resilient social protection systems. In Thailand, UNDP is focusing on the most vulnerable to ensure the crisis response leaves no one behind. The work under this area involves assessing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic at the national and sub-national level.
In order to address this, UNDP will provide its support in the following areas in the immediate to medium term:
As part of the Rapid Response Framework (RRF), provide policy options to the Royal Thai Government to support a resilient economic recovery as well as monitor the implementation of the stimulus package on domestic economy revitalization.
Conduct a socio-economic impact assessment of the pandemic on the tourism sector in Phuket to improve the province’s resilience, which will feed into Phuket’s 2030 Vision.
Build resilience and reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk communities - mainly the LGBTI community, ethnic communities sex workers - by focusing on their empowerment, socio economic recovery and human security.
Provide training and equipment to ensure safe return to work of formal and informal small entrepreneurs such as barbers and hairdressers in provinces most impacted by COVID-19.
Increase awareness amongst the private sector on business and human rights concept and support them to conduct human rights due diligence in their own operation and supply chain.
Support restaurants and delivery network to provide food packs to medical services personnel and help protect jobs of restaurant workers.
Map and address specific needs of targeted vulnerable groups in Thailand through tailored and gender responsive communication materials and enhancing inter-community and national partnerships in the context of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis highlights how vulnerable socio-economic systems are to external shocks. At the same time, the pandemic also offers lessons to the world to build back greener and to invest in green economy to tackle the deterioration of the natural habitats, loss of biodiversity and effects of climate change. Thailand has also started focusing on rebuilding the economy that is badly affected by the pandemic, with special focus on strengthening climate action and environmental sustainability. In this regard, UNDP Thailand provides support in the following areas:
With support from the Global Environment Facility, influence behavior change through increased awareness on wildlife consumption and illegal trade of endangered animals.
Support effective wildlife management and policy enforcement through updated database of key wildlife markets.
Ensure biodiversity is protected from increased exploitation by providing green jobs for the communities living in the buffer zones of protected areas for wildlife habitat improvement.
Reduce marine debris through cash-for-work programmes targeting vulnerable community (boat owners) of Koh Tao Island through a crowd-funding initiative.
Support the Royal Thai Government in the elaboration of fiscal incentive options under two categories, environmental tax reforms and subsidy reforms, to scale up national climate actions.
Monitor greenhouse gases and carbon footprints of key sectors in four target cities to ensure sustainable low carbon city management post COVID19.
Support implementation of low carbon city plans through sustainable urban management system.
Assess the climate mitigation policies and measures implemented under the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) between 2015 and 2020 and progress in preparation for the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions(NDC) Roadmap and development of Thailand Long-term Green House Gases (GHG) Development Strategy.
Increase resilience to climate change impacts in marine and coastal areas by providing support to prepare a Finance Strategy for the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) 2023-2026.
The pandemic has exposed the huge opportunities that technology offers to engage across sectors. Leveraging this, UNDP is providing support to the Royal Thai Government in digital transformation. UNDP provides its support in the following areas for digital transformation:
Facilitate online video conferences and meetings for crisis communications and business continuity for its government partners.
Conduct hackathons and other similar activities by bringing Thai youths together to create innovative solutions to help address the complex socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.
Capacitate the government to formulate and implement policy responses with the new normal practices using digital tools and platforms.
Support the establishment of a digital platform to raise awareness of the public at large regarding the implementation of the stimulus package