Thail diplomacy fostering social inclusion and resilience in public health beyond crisis


Development diplomacy is an integral part of Thailand’s foreign policy and represents the core mission of Thailand International Cooperation Agency, or TICA, which serves as Thailand’s national focal point of international development cooperation.

In addition to human resource development, where TICA undertakes development diplomacy primarily through the provision of educational cooperation, “Friends From Thailand” volunteer projects, scholarships and skills development programmes, Thailand also prides itself in being the steerer in building regional resilience in times of crises and beyond, in particular through public health cooperation along the border areas and in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, which is done in accordance with the 3rd Goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to foster good health and well-being.

For TICA, development diplomacy is aimed to carry out with the enhancement of fundamental human rights, especially rights to development, in mind. Its ultimate goal is to guarantee that everyone is entitled to and can enjoy equal rights to socio-economic development through improved well-being and quality of life, not exclusively within Thailand but also extends to other countries. Through development diplomacy, TICA’s works focus on improving living standards, promoting social inclusion and closing development gaps among partner countries near and far, regardless of nationality.

Thail diplomacy fostering social inclusion and resilience in public health beyond crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic gave a challenging task to TICA to make use of development diplomacy in handling with unprecedented and emergency health crisis. Indeed, public health challenges are not contained by national borders and the COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of that. Being praised for its ability to promptly and effectively control the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring inclusive access to the healthcare system, Thailand also actively reached out to its neighbours who were impacted by the pandemic. One prominent example includes the formulation of the Development Cooperation Roadmap with Thailand’s neighbouring countries – comprising Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia – on Strengthening Preparedness and Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The purpose of this is to increase their capabilities to sustainably tackle COVID-19 as well as possible emerging diseases through the containment of communicable diseases through the concept of “early detection, early treatment.”

In fact, such cooperation is not new. Here, Thailand has been proactively pursuing development diplomacy to address regional health challenges in the spirit of South-South and triangular cooperation. Since 2015, TICA has continuously been conducting international healthcare cooperation with Thailand’s neighbouring countries under the Three-Year Project on Healthcare Development, on Epidemiology and the Project on Building Awareness and Preparedness for Communicable Diseases and Emerging Diseases along the Thailand – Cambodia – Myanmar – Lao PDR borders. The project sought to match Thai border provinces with border provinces from these three neighbouring countries, comprising 15 province pairs to date. This is done in close collaboration with the Department of Disease Control (DDC), Ministry of Public Health of Thailand and respective Public Health Offices along the border areas by utilising the expertise of Thailand’s health agencies in spearheading the projects. Not only does this highlight Thailand’s ongoing efforts to share its experiences and best practices in curbing public health challenges, but it also reflects the country’s inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach to safeguarding health security by fortifying mutual readiness in tackling communicable diseases along the shared borders at the community level.

Thailand’s development diplomacy reaches even further. Beyond Thailand’s neighbouring countries, TICA has also been cooperating with countries in Africa and South Asia to improve the capacity of their healthcare services, while also placing importance on the social inclusivity aspect. Some of these projects include the development of Prosthetics Manufacturing Centre Projects in Senegal and Burundi, in collaboration with Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. The Princess Mother, to enable better access to healthcare and medical services for people using prosthetic and orthotic assistive devices. Derived from this project, the Centre in Senegal is soon to be the central training centre for Prosthesis and Orthosis for trainers in Senegal and other countries in West Africa.

Another exemplary case is the development of the Ear Nose Throat (ENT) Center and the collaboration on Kidney Transplantation at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan. These initiatives succeeded in developing advanced health services to the broader population of Bhutanese patients so as to reduce international referral cases of Bhutanese patients to other countries. To this end, it is a genuine effort to share our homegrown innovation and knowledge in providing high-quality and easily accessible healthcare services to countries outside the region which can, in turn, help elevate the overall relations with these countries at large.

In a borderless world, it is worth mentioning that wherever diplomacy reaches, development follows. As reflected through the cases of international public health cooperation, the purpose of diplomacy is not limited to being a conflict resolution tool, but also serves as an indispensable instrument in propelling positive societal and economic progress, promoting human rights, social inclusion as well as addressing common challenges facing the global community. All in all, this proves that development diplomacy can flourish even in trying times and active cultivation of development cooperation is the remedy we all need, in the spirit of the 2030 UN Agenda that ‘leaves no one behind.’


By Sukontha Kuakit, Third Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand