Decisions by the United Nations General Assembly and consultations between the Secretary General and the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions had resulted in important new guidelines for the Commissions. The General Assembly had resolved that regional commission should have the status of executing agencies in their own rights in projects specified by the General Assembly.
The Commissions were now called upon to perform for their member countries a role akin to that carried out at the global level by ECOSOC and the General Assembly in the economic and social fields. This included policy-making and harmonization of international action; the promotion of solutions to international economic, social and related problems.
Regional development strategies
The Commissions were further allowed to draw up of strategies, policies and priorities in regional and international co-operation, including operational activities reviewing and evaluating developments in other forum within the United Nation system and in promoting and supporting assistance to member countries in the context of measures agreed upon by these countries.
More systematic programme-by programme reviews involving the regional commissions and the relevant units at United Nations headquarters including UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) would help to eliminate duplication and strengthen co-ordination.
My Presidency of ECOSOC in the early 1970s had exposed to the tendency of the specialized United Nations agencies and bodies to jealously protect their respective domain. I was convinced, however, with so many UN agencies and bodies working in the field there was bound to be a great degree of overlapping and duplication of work. The problems moreover had become multi-disciplinary in nature.
Ideally these specialized agencies and bodies should co-operate together to strengthen the various programs of the United Nations in inter-country activities. This in turn would lead to closer co-ordination and a more efficient allocation of resources among them.
ESCAPís committee structure, at the technical level, helped to strengthen programs where there was a need for guidance and better co-ordination of United Nations inter-country activities.
At the highest echelon was the ESCAPís Advisory Committee of Permanent Representatives. I requested my division chiefs to maintain close relations with their counterparts in the United Nations Organization to establish joint programs and projects in their respective fields.
As a result ESCAP was able, among others, to form ESCAP/UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Organization) Division of Industry, housing and technology, the Environment co-ordination Unit jointly with UNEP , the joint ESCAP/ITU (International Telecommunication Union) division, the joint ESCAP/CTC (Centre on Trans-national Corporations) unit.
ESCAP continued to function as regional co-ordinator and advisory agency with one or more specialized agencies. These included the Fertilizer Advisor of Development Information Network for Asia and the Pacific, jointly administered with FAO(Food and Agricultural Organization) and UNIDO and attached to the Agriculture Division; the Typhoon Committee and the Panel on Tropical Cyclones supported by ESCAPís Natural Resources Division with the participation of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Disaster Relief co-ordinator; the Regional Network for Agricultural Machinery, which received technical aid from ESCAPís Industry Division as well as from FAO and UNIDO; the Regional Advisory Services on Trade Information, supported by the International Trade Centre/UNCTAD, GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade) and UNDP United Nations Development Program).
It was not an easy task to convince the numerous specialized agencies and bodies, especially those with offices in Bangkok to work closely together under the auspices of ESCAP. I had to overcome their initial reluctance by instilling greater recognition of and confidence in ESCAP capabilities, objectives and work programs.
I was helped too by the successful transfer in 1977 of executive agencies responsibilities for UNDP funded regional projects for Asia and the Pacific from the United Nations to ESCAP. Thus ESCAP acquired responsibility for regional institutions and regional projects which were largely funded by UNDP.
From the outset I worked hard to establish close rapport with various international agency officials, in particular UNDP officials such as the late Adriano Garcia UNDP representative in Bangkok, the late Andrew Joseph UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Bradford Morse UNDP Administrator, New York, since the UNDP was perceived to be the central funding source for technical co-operation in the United Nations system and had the lead role for development in Asia and Pacific region.
The close involvement with UNDP programming missions and ESCAPís growing assumption of executive agency functions for major UNDP funded institution building projects, helped to increase ESCAPís share of UNDP regional and sub-regional projects. This unfortunately had created some jealousy among other UN agencies and bodies.
I had faced much difficulty in getting this project of the ground. The Director General of FAO in particular objected strongly to ESCAP involvement since he argued this project was within the domain of his Organization and FAO should implement it. I made several visits to his headquarters in Rome to try to convince him that this project was multi-disciplinary in nature and not only the responsibility of FAO. Fortunately I had a personal and trusted ally in Dr. Jack Umali, (a Philippino) FAO regional representative based in Bangkok. He persuaded the Director General to share this project with ESCAP since ESCAP had a good record and I was a responsible man trusted by UNDP that provided the funds.
Ultimately he consented and I was able to establish an Inter-agency Committee for integrated rural development chaired by me with its task force that prepared and submitted to its member governmentís policy guidelines, directives and priorities established its member governments.
The Committee and its Task Force consisted of United Nations bodies and specialized agencies with offices in Bangkok and jointly provided technical and other forms of assistance for development of their rural areas.
Pilot Atoll project
To give an example of its work, the Task Force with funding from the Government of Australia had assisted the Republic of Maldives, an archipelago of 1.200 small coral islands in the Indian ocean, in formulating a Pilot Atoll Developments projects A special concern of this ďAlifu Atoll project was the improvement of productivity and income of small fishermen as well as the reduction of disparities in earnings of fishing boat owners and crewmen.
Another example for help of the rural poor was a project in Pangasinan province, The Philippines, where a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from increasing agricultural output to provide safe drinking water, were undertaken. Mobilizing locally available resources and participation of people fulfilled the basic concept of integrated rural development that was development of, for and by the people.
To emphasize the importance of rural development I visited the Province while in Manila attending the Asian regional Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in December 1980. I was highly impressed by the enthusiastic support by the Philippine government and the targets group, as well as the degree of collaboration among the United Nations agencies. I believed that Pangasinan project could become a model in the field of integrated rural development for other developing countries in Asia-Pacific region.
ESCAPís integrated work programme for rural development was based on the assumption that the main responsibility for the relief of rural poverty remained the responsibility of the member countries, but that national efforts could be reinforced by international assistance. Rural development covered a spectrum of activity and ESCAPís co-ordinated plan guarded against spreading itself too thinly by trying to cover all aspects simultaneously.
The major areas where plans had been implemented included local level planning, development of physical infrastructure, appropriate technology in rural areas, water management, employment an the development for small producers.
Among the basic aims were the improvement of skill and productively of low-income groups through the use of more productive technology and development of infrastructures for small-scale farmers, tenants, landless labour and small-scale fishermen.
Another major goal was the participation of the low-income groups in development, more effective use of resources at the local level to achieve self-reliance and more frequent exchange of experience and information on new approaches and programs among member countries.
During my time, 16 developing countries in the region participated in the integrated rural development programmes. I was fortunate to be able to increase UNDP funding. For ESCAPís portfolio. Consequently funding of these projects increased dramatically from zero in 1976 to 28 % in1979. Many ESCAP programme and project were largely funded by UNDP coupled with funding from bilateral resources that accounted for a high percentage of extra-budgetary support from donor countries and the UN system. When I assumed office extra-budgetary funds amounted to US $ 750.000 thousand and before my retirement it had reached the magnitude of US $ 30 million.
This achievement was basically because of my close rapport with UN agencies and bodies and also with my constituents