Community Finance: Savings and Community – Managed Development Funds
(คำกล่าวเปิดงาน “International Seminar on Community Finance : Savings and Community-Managed Development Funds” วันที่ 10 พฤศจิกายน 2550 ณ ห้องประชุมสถาบันพัฒนาองค์กรชุมชน (องค์การมหาชน) หลังใหม่)
H.E. Paiboon Wattanasiritham
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
of Social Development and Human Security
At International Seminar on
Community Finance : Savings and Community-Managed
10 November 2007, Bangkok Thailand
Community Participants from foreign countries near and far, Community Participants from cities, towns and districts all over Thailand, Sisters, Brothers, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It brings me great joy to welcome all of you today to this truly unique and historic international meeting of communities here in Thailand. Let me personally welcome all of the community members from some 21 countries who have worked tirelessly to develop your communities through your savings groups and networks of savings groups.
I believe that you have all come a long way, not just in terms of distance but also in terms of overcoming many obstacles in reaching out to your neighbours and developing confidence and trust in one an other to do things together, for your families, your communities, your cities and for your countries. I say this because I have had the privilege of witnessing what has been taking place by communities here in Thailand over the last three decades and observe significant changes that have emerged.
The fact that this unique international is meeting taking place here in the new office of Thailand’s Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), is surely a clear signal that the community- managed savings movement is now a major source of human and social development in the world today.
I believe that the poor in our countries have, for far too long, been seen merely as unwanted problems, as incompetents to be sorry for. For decades that kind of negative thinking has perverted most of the development theories and practices worldwide. As a consequence, so many top-down programmes of unsuitable and unsustainable solutions to poverty and homelessness have been imposed on the poor without genuine consultation with the poor about their personal capacities, real needs and priorities. When those ‘expert’- designed solutions failed to improve the living conditions of the poor, the poor were often blamed for not rising to the occasion, for being uncooperative and ungrateful.
Your example and achievements resoundingly prove what I have always known, that the poor themselves are vital and necessary actors in, and ‘resources’ for, not only their own development but for our human survival as well. After all it is only from the poor, that the world community can rediscover the importance of sharing and mutual trust which have been almost completely lost in modern civilization. The communities of the poor are as necessary a resource as educational expertise, efficient and eco-friendly technologies or capital, for securing sustainable development in our world.
I am very proud to say that Thailand has been playing its part in the development of this community – managed savings and development movement. In many respects, the Royal Thai Government has been one of the first to recognize the power of savings groups to strengthen the capacities of, and solidarity among, neighbours which is so vital to helping communities work more effectively together and with others on solving their immediate and longer term problems and challenges. Besides, we have learned that when communities are able to organize their own development through funds from their savings, genuine development for the people and by the people in communities have actually emerged.
The major shift in the way the government developed better housing opportunities for the poor in Thailand came in 1992 with a new way of working, through the socalled “ Community Development Fund” approach. At that time the Thai Government created an “Urban Poor Development Fund” to be managed by the Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) which became the model for CODI’s work today. The UCDO’s initial Urban Poor Development Fund of approximately US$ 36 million, was used to support community savings and credit groups and federations. This landmark decision allowed all urban poor communities in the country to be active participants in solving their own housing problems and owners of their own development projects through their community savings groups.
Community savings groups have proved to be far more effective in helping the poor out of debt and onto a more stable economic footing as well as in improving their settlements and housing. This was found to be particularly so when the savings groups were self-managed and networked with other community savings groups in their town or city so they could learn from one another. As you well know, community-managed savings groups bring members closer together to understand one other’s needs and abilities. Savings groups lift poor people out of isolation into community solidarity and collective empowerment to pursue shared goals. Once they have impacted on the pressing issues of people’s daily survival, community savings groups begin to serve as a forum for community initiatives to improve other things at the household and community level.
In 2000, the UCDO was merged with the Rural Development Fund under the Ministry of Finance thus bridging the division between rural and urban poverty. The newly created Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) is now able to draw on the collaboration and mutual learning between poor rural and urban communities on a wide range of issues, vital to their social empowerment and economic development. More recently, CODI was more appropriately placed under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Under the previous, and particularly the present, Governments, I can definitely say that CODI has been a crucial mechanism for institutionalizing city-wide development, local empowerment and improved social justice involving grassroots communities throughout Thailand.
Currently Thailand has perhaps the largest government supported slum upgrading and tenure security programme in the region, the Baan Mankong or Secure Housing Programme (BMP). This country-wide upgrading has been launched by the Community Organizations Development Institute to work with communities organized around their own savings groups and to support partnerships between communities and other actors. The Thai government has learned over decades that community-led, city-wide upgrading is an effective and sustainable means of investing in people to help them overcome their poverty and improve their living conditions.
Through the BMP, communities have been working on city-wide mapping of their settlements for development planning. Their plans now involve everything from land and environmental conditions, resources and debt management, and measures to boost the capacity of their communities. The squatter communities today can negotiate with landlords and state authorities to gain security of tenure or access to alternative land on which to upgrade their housing and settlements.
As of September 2007 the Baan Mankong Programme had conducted 495 projects in 226 cities and districts, in 69 out of the total of 76 provinces around the country and benefited 52,700 households in 980 communities. For the present fiscal year (October 2007 – September 2008), the Thai government has allocated about US$ 50 million to support community upgrading activities involving some 25,000 families throughout the country.
Apart from supporting urban communities in this country-wide programme, CODI also utilizes a similar approach of community development funds support a community-led development process covering other inportant issues such as community welfare, community-managed natural resources, rural land development, community-managed rivers and waterways, organic farming and sustainable agriculture, etc. It can be said that these community–led processes have now been largely institutionalized in Thailand, due significantly to the work of CODI.
Sisters, Brothers, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I sincerely hope that this unique international meeting will enable all of you to share your various and valuable experiences. I understand from the programme that you will have an opportunity to see first hand what your Thai counterparts are achieving here, and that you will be able to benefit accordingly. At the same time I am sure that, through this international meeting, our Thai communities can also learn and benefit from your experiences and achievements as well.
Again I would like to wish all of you success in achieving the goals of this truly inspiring gathering over the coming 3 days.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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