UN Celebrates 60 years in Thailand and the Growth of Bangkok as Regional Hub

The United Nations marked 60 years in the Kingdom of Thailand and the growth of Bangkok as a regional hub for the UN system today, with the participation of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand.

The celebrations also marked the UN’s 64th birthday which falls on 24 October.

In 1949 Bangkok became home to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) – which was at the time called the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE). Today, there are 34 UN and affiliated offices in the Thai capital.

“As we can see, ESCAP and the UN family have been very active in addressing virtually all aspects of the human condition – from alleviating poverty and hunger, and promoting the rights of women, the disabled and indigenous peoples, to advancing technological innovation, and not least, bringing together over 60 countries of the region to discuss issues of common concern,” said Her Royal Highness in her keynote address. “Our efforts together truly do trace the arc of development here in Thailand and throughout the rest of Asia and the Pacific.”

Prime Minister Abhisit in his remarks said, “Unlike people, who mostly go into retirement in their sixties, institutions become richer in experience and gain more confidence in performing their duties and obligations. In this regard, we are confident that ESCAP’s more than sixty years of experience, combined with its re-engineering programme, will enhance its effectiveness in delivering services to its members.”

In her remarks, Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, noted many of the region’s successes over the past 60 years, such as accomplishing one of the Millennium Development Goals by cutting extreme poverty in half. “We must not forget the other half,” she added.

“People still look to the United Nations to help defeat poverty and hunger, to be the defender of the defenceless,” said Dr Heyzer. “Never has there been a time where co-ordinated and collective action is more needed to address the multiple shocks and threats of the 21st century. With the food-fuel, finance crises, and climate change, the development gain from decades of hard work in Asia and the Pacific is at risk of being lost.”

The ceremony also featured a UN Day video message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, performances by noted Thai pianist and composer Nat Yontararak, the internationally award-winning Satri Wat Rakhang School marching band, and children from the American School of Bangkok who appeared in various national dresses.

Her Royal Highness also toured with Dr Heyzer a multi-media exhibition that was developed with the participation of 19 UN agencies covering six decades of the United Nations serving the Asia-Pacific region. The exhibition had been on display to the Thai public for four days at Central World, in Bangkok, before being moved to the United Nations Conference Center for today’s celebrations.