Mechai Viravaidya and PDA
Mechai Viravaidya is the Founder and Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), one of Thailand's largest and most successful private, non-profit, development organizations. Since 1974, PDA has initiated community-based family planning services, innovative poverty reduction and rural education programs, large-scale rural development and environmental programs, as well as groundbreaking HIV/AIDS prevention activities throughout Thailand.
Mechai Viravaidya had a pivotal role in Thailand’s hugely successful family planning program, which saw one of the most rapid fertility declines in the modern era. The rate of annual population growth in Thailand declined from over 3% in 1974 to 0.6% in 2005, and the average number of children per family fell from seven to under two. Mechai Viravaidya pioneered and championed many of Thailand’s social mobilization and community development efforts that are now taken for granted.
Although Mechai Viravaidya has spent much of his time in the NGO sector, he has also served in the Thai government as a Senator and as a member of the cabinet on four occasions. As a Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister in 1991-92, Mechai Viravaidya was the chief architect in building Thailand’s comprehensive national HIV/AIDS prevention policy and program. This initiative is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding national efforts by any country in combating HIV/AIDS. By 2004, Thailand had experienced a 90% reduction in new HIV infections. In 2005, the World Bank reported that these preventative efforts helped save 7.7 million lives throughout the country and saved the government over US$18 billion in treatment costs alone. In 1999 Mechai Viravaidya was appointed the UNAIDS Ambassador.
Additionally, he has also served as CEO of the Provincial Waterworks of Thailand, Chairman of Krung Thai Bank, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Company and the Telephone Organization of Thailand.
For his efforts in various development endeavors, Mechai Viravaidya has been acclaimed with numerous awards, recognition and honorary doctoral degrees as well as the United Nations Gold Peace Medal (1981), the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1994), one of Asiaweek’s “20 Great Asians” (1995), the United Nations Population Award (1997), and one of TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” (2006). More recently, Mechai Viravaidya has been awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2007). Mechai and PDA have recently been the recipient of the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health in 2007, and the Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship in 2008. Each of these prizes are accompanied by one million US Dollars.
The Business for Rural Development Co., Ltd. (BREAD) was established after the generous contribution from the Skoll Foundation in 2008 to ensure that NGOs could maintain long-term financial sustainability with social enterprise.