The Philippines and the United Nations

Source: The United Nations and the Philippines: Partners in Development


The partnership of the Philippines and the U.N. dates back half a century to 1945 when the Philippines joined with 49 other nations in signing the United Nations charter in San Francisco, one of only four Asian countries to do so. That partnership has grown and strengthened in the intervening years with the Philippines' active support and participation in the UN's mission of peacekeeping, peacemaking, and development.

Technical, financial and other forms of assistance to the Philippines began in the late 1940s, as the country recovered from the ravages of World War II. In 1948, UNICEF opened an office in Manila, one of its first four country offices in Asia. The Western Pacific Regional Office of WHO was set up in Manila in 1951, followed by the U.N. Technical Assistance Board (UNTAB) office in 1952. The U.N. Information Center (UNIC) opened its office in 1953.

WFP began its assistance in 1964, and the creation of the UNDP in 1965 with the merger of the Expanded Program for Technical Assistance and the UN Special Fund further strengthened the UN's cooperation in the Philippines. ILO opened its office in 1970. UNIDO and UNFPA both began working in the Philippines in 1972. In 1975, UNHCR arrived to help with refugees, and FAO opened its Manila office in 1977.

The UN Volunteers (UNV) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) are represented through the office of the Resident Representative of UNDP, who also serves as the Resident Coordinator of the UN System's Operational Activities for Development in the Philippines.

The Bretton Woods Institutions - the World Bank (WB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - are also represented in the Philippines.


Poverty Reduction and Social Development:

Philippines 2000 commits the government to a social development program aimed at improving the lives of all Filipinos. The commitments include:

The Philippines was one of the 118 participating nations at the UN's 1995 World Summit for Social Development on Copenhagen, Denmark. The Summit drew attention to the cripplingproblems facing the developing world: deepening poverty, burgeoning debt loads, chronic unemployment and underemployment, and a widening gap between rich and poor that fuels social disintegration. The Summit's agreed Global Program of Action ties in closely with the government's goals in Philippines 2000, and its specific targets outlined in the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) and the Social Reform Agenda. Signatories pledged to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty, to create productive employment and reduce unemployment, and to improve social integration through more responsive governance.

The UN System in the Philippines is helping the government achieve these goals of poverty reduction and social development. Many UN organizations are directly involved in the process, assisting in high-level policy formulation and managing action programs that effectively moving the Philippines toward meeting the commitments agreed at the Social Summit and achieving the goals of Philippines 2000, the MTPDP and the Social Reform Agenda.

* Since 1988, UNDP has been supporting the Philippines' social forestry program in three hard-hit provinces: Quezon, Negros Occidental and Agusan del Norte. To aid in reforestation, 8 community nurseries have been set up on pilot sites of about 1,000 hectares each. These have already produced millions of forest and fruit seedlings. Farmers receive tools and training so that they can establish backyard nurseries and raise their own seedlings.
More than 2,500 hectares of land have been improved through the introduction of hedgerows and stone walls. New aquaculture ponds are tilapia and carp. About 13 kms of access to roads and 116 kms of trails have been constructed to bring in supplies, and to enable farmers to get their products to market. Six new tanks supply drinking water.
In conjunction with the agricultural improvements, many small-scale business enterprises have been established. These include cooperative stores, piggeries, and soap making and furniture manufacturing establishments, all using local resources and labor. Health care and education are provided through cooperation with other organizations, and new community groups encourage farmers' participation.
More than 300 subsistence farmers have already benefitted from the program. The three prime project sites developed with UNDP technical assistance have now become centers of expertise to train other farmers in upland development.

Food and Nutrition:

Food and nutrition programs are major components of successful poverty alleviation efforts. The UN System provides a wide range of food, nutrition, and health assistance to the Philippines. Several UN organizations are involved in increasing the quantity and improving the quality of food available to Filipinos, particularly the young and the disadvantaged. Better health care is an essential part of human development, and programs that target micronutrient deficiencies often have the double benefit of improving lives now and in future generations.

WFP has supplied food aid to the Philippine since 1964. Emergency assistance has also been provided in the wake of major natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, floods and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

UNICEF works with the government by providing micronutrient supplements, supports the Department of Health's National Micronutrient Day, and carries out extensive research and advocacy for the iodization of all salt produced nationally for human consumption. It is also building national capacity for the management of salt iodization plants and the monitoring and evaluation of nutrition programs.

Better Health Care:

Investment in the nation's human resources through health care programs is essential to poverty reduction and social development, and the UN system draws on its wealth experience to enhance the government's efforts to improve the health of the Filipino people.

The government's National Occupational Health Program receives WHO support. The agency is also introducing clinical, laboratory and radiological technology for primary health care systems, and is building local skills for the effective distribution of essential drugs and vaccines. Other WHO programs target malaria, parasitic diseases, tuberculosis, and leprosy, and the aim to prevent and control various non-communicable diseases.

UNICEF also supports the development of low-cost water and sanitation technologies. Projects include the monitoring of existing facilities and the strengthening of communities' capacities to construct and maintain new and improved systems.

To combat HIV and the spread of AIDS, an Inter-Agency Task Force has been formed within the UN System to facilitate information sharing among UN agencies, formulate a common strategy for the integration of HIV/AIDS concerns in UN Programs, and projects and promote HIV/AIDS sensitization training for UN staff.

Children's Welfare:

Recognizing that future generations will inherit the consequences of actions taken today, the Philippine Plan of Action for Children (PPAC) sets targets for sustaining and promoting the well-being of Filipino children in such areas as family care, health and nutrition, a safe environment, basic education, the protection of children in especially difficult circumstances and the fundamental civil rights of children. UNICEF's 1994-1998 Fourth Country Program of Cooperation with the government is firmly anchored in the PPAC. Twenty-two goals have been selected for UNICEF cooperation in four broad categories:

  1. Child survival
  2. Child development
  3. Child protection
  4. Child participation

In 1994, the Philippine government joined the ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor. In conjunction with other groups, including NGOs, employers' and workers' organizations, local government officials and academics, an action program for attacking child labor was formulated and adopted. An indicative Framework for Philippine-ILO action, published in 1994, details the groups of at-risk children and outlines ways to combat, and eventually eliminate the problem.

Women in Development:

The National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women (NCRFW), the country's lead agency for advocacy on women's issues, is tackling the women issues e.g., effects of poverty and social inequities suffered by women, in concert with UNIFEM. NCRFW and UNIFEM are helping government departments in many areas, including:

UNFPA supports many initiatives aimed at improving the lives of women and their families. Among them are programs to improve women's opportunities to earn income and to take part in self-development activities. It also supports alliance of public and private-sector organizations in promoting women's reproductive health.

UNICEF cooperates with the Department of Health, providing technical and material assistance to government and private hospitals for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. This program promotes early and sustained breast-feeding to prevent malnutrition and illness in young children.

ILO's activities include income-generating outreach programs and courses to develop women's skills in non-traditional trades. The organization is also exploring ways to create employment opportunities for women in the home.

Population Management:

Family planning is one of the cornerstones of the poverty alleviation and social development policies of the government. The country's 1993 population growth rate of 2.3% was the highest on one of the fastest growing regions of the world. The government is committed to bringing that rate down further to under 2% in 1998.

To encourage greater participation in the family planning services offered by the Department of Health and other government departments, UNFPA supports a wide range of population information, education and communication programs. Its efforts to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the government's population management policies include support for research and training for family planning, and participation in the formulation and evaluation of population policies. UNFPA is also committed to the extension of family planning and responsible parenthood programs to more communities across the Philippines.

UNFPA promotes the integration of population concerns into development planning and program implementation. It is building institutional capabilities for population activities of government departments and agencies, research institutions, women's organizaitons and local government units (LGUs). Among the projects funded by UNFPA are four which integrate population concerns into extension and training activities in agriculture, fisheries, environment and natural resources, and agrarian reform.

UNFPA also assists in advocacy programs that target influential groups in Philippine society, such as the Philippine Legislator's Committee on Population and Development (PLCDP). Witgh additional support from UNDP and UNICEF, this project aims to establish a growing, capable and committed base within the country's legislative system and among local government executives to help promote sustainable human development and population management, and enact responsive legislation on human development issues.

Livelihood Enhancement:

ILO, with funding from UNDP, is strengthening apprenticeship schemes and providing training for rural employment and worker education. To boost rural development, the organization teaches cooperative enterprise skills, with a special emphasis in sustainable livelihood programs for tribal and indigenous people.

ILO and UNDP are also working at the policy level, assisting the government in designing strategic approaches to employment promotion, structuring special public works programs and implementing family welfare and education programs in the workplace. Enterprise development activities include the transfer of skills to measure and analyze productivity, and to improve the efficiency of production processes.

Focusing on the needs of women, UNICEF is working to improve their access to livelihood opportunities and providing functional literacy classes, especially for women in remote areas. It has also organized income-generating activities and provided training for parents of street children and working children.

FAO is helping to increase crop, livestock and fisheries production. Through the introduction of integrated pest management, it assists farmers in controlling crop pests with minimum use of chemicals, which are expensive and often pose a threat to the environment. Technical support for agrarian reform and rural development, provided by FAO with funding support form the Italian government, emphasizes empowerment of grassroots organizations.

UNV sends experienced professionals to the Philippines to initiate community-based projects and build self-reliance at the grassroots level. More than 100 UNV specialists have been deployed in the Philippines since UNV's Domestic Service started in 1981. In turn, UNV relies on the Philippines to provide volunteer specialists for deployment in other countries. Nearly 500 Filipinos have worked around the world for UNV since the Philippines joined the program in 1972.

Humanitarian Assistance:

In its 50 year partnership with the Philippines, the UN has provided humanitarian assistance on many occasions, beginning with the efforts to rebuild the nation after World War II. The country lies just north of the equator on the western pacific rim, where typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common.

Disaster Mitigation:

The partnership between the Philippines and the UN always comes into sharp focus when disaster strikes. Close cooperation and logistical coordination between the UN System, and the government during emergencies offer visible proof of the partnership's effectiveness.

A UN Disaster Management team has been organized in the Philippines under the Resident Coordinator, composed of government and heads of UN organizations. The team is developing strategies to enhance national capacities and UN System assistance in disaster management. It also serves as the main coordinating unit for disaster response.

UNDP provides emergency assistance and helps coordinate the government's disaster relief and rehabilitation programs. It is also working to integrate disaster management into national policy, increase public awareness of the need for disaster management, and strengthen the disaster management and mitigation capabilities of government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

WFP provides emergency food assistance to victims of natural disasters, such as typhoons, floods and volcanic eruptions. WHO is involved in the prevention and treatment of mental and neurological disorders caused by natural disasters. UNICEF's natural disaster relief and rehabilitation activities assist child victims and their families through provision of basic health kits and supplies to prevent disease, and through support for clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. FAO is also helping in the restoration of the production levels of animal feed, fruit and fish in the area of affected by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

In 1989, UNDP launched a project called "Assistance for Core Shelter Development." It aimed to rebuild the houses of those left homeless by typhoons, at affordable cost, and to make the ned houses structurally resistant to typhoons. Some 680 neighborhood associations were organized, 312 foremen and 252 direct service workers were trained, and about 15,000 typhoon-resistant core shelters were constructed.

Aid to Refugees:

At a time when other countries were imposing restrictive policies toward asylum-seekers, the Philippines accepted new arrivals With the assistance of UNHCR, four refugee centers were established: the Philippine First Asylum Camp, Palawan (1979), the Philippine Refugee Processing Center, Bataan (1980), the Philippine Refugee Transit Center, Manila (1983), and the Regional Resettlement Transit Center, Bataan (1990). As the number of refugees declined in the 1990s, the two facilities in Bataan wound down their activities and closed at the end of 1994.

UNHCR continues to cooperate with the government in providing international legal protection and assistance to all refugees. Much of the food required by displaced families and individuals is provided by WFP, and UNICEF protects and promotes the rights of children insituations of armed conflict by promoting access to basic health, education, water supply and sanitation services, as well as physical and psychological recovery and reintegration services.

* From 1980 to 1994, the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Bataan was home to more than 350,000 Indochinese refugees and asylum-seekers. Most arrived as part of of the Orderly Departure Program sponsored by the United States government. The PRPC was a way station on their journey from Vietnam to new lives in the US and other countries.
The center soon became a model community for refugees. Each family lived in comfortable compounds with nie others, often with friends and relatives. In addition to providing basic necessities such as food, cooking facilities and electricity, the center had 40 schools, a hospital, a library and three assembly halls.
With an average annual population of more than 16,000, the center serves as a powerful testament to the successful partnership of UNHCR, WFP, the Philippine government, the public and private sectors, and many non-governmental organizations in rebuilding the lives of so many people in need.

Economic Growth with Equity:

In pursuing policy growth with equity, the UN System draws on its wide experience to assist the government in choosing effective economic policies and understanding their impact on both the economy and on individuals.

Building Skills for the Future

A number of UN programs are aimed at boosting the Philippines' industrial sector through skills and technology transfers. UNIDO, for example, provides assistance in a wide range of areas, from vocational training to international investment promotion.

As part of the World Bank-funded Vocational Training Program, UNIDO is encouraging private enterprise to take a leading role in vocational training. By taking on this responsibility, the private sector gains industry's specific needs. In its preventive maintenance project, UNIDO provides both training and equipment to enhance the skills needed to keep capital-intensive equipment up and running longer, thereby reducing the investment costs of Philippine industry.

With funding from UNDP, UNIDO's Investment Promotion Service is at work in the Philippine matching local companies with foreign investors. The project provides framework for evaluating businesses and their needs, and then attracting foreign investors to form partnerships with Philippine counterparts.. When the UNDP Program is completed, the Philippine Board of Investments will have the methodology, tools data and skills to provide its own pormotion service.

Sustainable Development:

The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, sparked global changes in environmental policy around the world, and adopted Agenda 21 as the foundation for cooperation between developing and industrialized countries. Already an important component of Philippines 2000, environmental protection, is now being integrated in all levels of government planning and procedures.

To formulate its own Agenda 21, the government has established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). Its mandate is based on the Earth Summit's blueprint for action, and it brings together representatives from government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the academic community. The key elements of the Philippine Agenda 21 are the following:

The UN System is supporting the government's efforts to integrate sustainable development into policies and planning, assisting with technical advice and capacity building.

UNDP, through its country program and other regional and global UN initiatives, provides support at the policy and planning levels to integrate environmental concerns in to the development planning process. It is also involved at the other end of the spectrum, funding local community projects that make immediate and measurable improvements to the environment.

Two global programs, the Montreal Protocol and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), are at work in the Philippines. The Montreal Protocol, signed by the Philippines in 1988, aims to phase out ozone depleting substances. The multilateral fund supporting the Protocol's objective is helping Philippine industry switch to environmentally-friendly alternatives by phasing out CFCs and other chemicals that destroy the earth's ozone layer by the year 2010.

The GEF small grants Program is funding NGO projects in local communities in the Philippines in three main areas: conservation of Philippine biological diversity, community-based resource development and management, and alternative energy development and management systems. More than 20 such projects have been initiated in the Philippines since 1992.

* Reviving Biological Diversity: In June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo roared into life for the first time in more than 600 years, blanketing a huge area of Central Luzon in billions of cubic yards of volcanic debris. Nearly 300 people died, and the once green countryside was transformed into a desolate moonscape. The plants and trees that formed much of the region's ecological heritage lay under inches of volcanic ash.
A group of Filipino scientists volunteered to help reclaim the land from the volcano and regenerate the local forests in the Longos Upland area. By focusing on the tree species that grew naturally in the area, they were confident that the seedlings would have the best chance for survival once they were planted. With funding from the GEF Small Grants Program, a nursery was established to propagate indigenous species for replanting in the community. During its first year, the nursery produced 10,000 seedlings.

UNFPA, together with FAO, has launched a project entitled Population - Environment Information, Education and Communication. It seeks to increase awareness among grassroots organizations on how population, environment and natural resources are interconnected.

UNICEF assistance in water and sanitation programs incorporates environmental concerns, and WHO actively supports community water supply and sanitation projects. UNV has organized water and sanitation volunteers, and has deployed "eco volunteers" to work on reforestation with local NGOs.

In close cooperation with workers, employers and the Philippine government, ILO has a project called "Environment and the World at Work," aimed at integrating environmentally sound and sustainable components into policy changes that will improve working conditions, employment, poverty and training. As part of the project, practical examples of the integration of environmental concerns and the world of work will be collected, analyzed and disseminated.

Sustainable Human Development:

The new paradigm of sustainable human development seeks to correct that flaw by unifying the disparate elements of development. By putting people first, sustainable human development expands people's choices and opportunities, and empowers them. It generates growth and ensures that the benefits are distributed equitably. And it regenerates the environment for future generations, instead of destroying it for short-term gain.

Philippines 2000 is an example of the new paradigm at work. Its goals - poverty reduction, economic growth, social equity - are closely interrelated, but progress in one area must not come at the expense of others. This new strategy means that many different groups are now working together to address the needs of the Philippines within the context of sustainable human development.

The successful partnership between the UN and the Philippines demonstrates how the knowledge and experience of the UN can support consensus-building at all levels of government and civil society to strengthen and enrich equitable, people-centered and sustainable development.

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Last Updated October 21, 1997 by Alain and Ruben