1. The First Informal Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication was held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 7 to 8 December 1998.

2. The Meeting was chaired by the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and Poverty Alleviation of Indonesia, H.E. Prof. Dr. Haryono Suyono. Among ASEAN Ministers attending the Informal Meeting were the Acting Minister of Home Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, H.E. Dato’ Paduka Haji Abidin bin OKP Abd. Rashid; the Minister of Manpower of Indonesia, Dr. Fahmi Idris; the Minister of Social Affairs of Indonesia, Prof. Dr. Justika S. Baharsjah; the State Minister for National Development Planning, Dr. Budiono; the Minister of Rural Development of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Haji Annuar Haji Musa; the Minister for the Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs of Myanmar, H.E. Col. Thein Nyunt, and their respective delegations. Also in attendance were the Ambassador of the Lao PDR to Indonesia, H.E. Mr. Somphet Khousakhoun; the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines to Indonesia, H.E. Ms. Belen Fule Anota; the Ambassador of Singapore to Indonesia, HE Mr. Edward Lee; the Counsellor of the Royal Thai Embassy to Indonesia Mr. Nat Pinyowattanacheep; the Director-General of the Agriculture and Rural Development Policy Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, Dr. Cao Duc Phat; the representative of the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Filemon. A. Uriarte, Jr., and their respective delegations. Representatives from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme also attended the Meeting.

3. The Ministers exchanged views on wide range of issues regarding ASEAN cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication, which include, among others, social impacts of the current monetary and economic crisis, with particular regard to the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets; projects under the Framework for the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication; and the draft Hanoi Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN Vision 2020. The Ministers also held discussions with multilateral donor institutions, namely, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme.

4. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to the vision of eradicating poverty, with particular emphasis on promoting the development of progressive, prosperous and self-reliant rural communities, and thus contribute towards creating a caring society in ASEAN, as stated in the Ministerial Understanding on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication adopted in October 1997 in Subang Jaya, Malaysia. The Ministers further reiterated their commitment to enhance regional cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication and agreed to increase the exchange of visits, as well as consultations, between and among Ministers and Senior Officials in preparation for the 2nd Meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication tentatively scheduled to be held in Davao City, Philippines, in October 1999. The Ministers also emphasised the importance of addressing poverty issues in the border areas of ASEAN Member Countries.

5. The Ministers adopted the Report of the 2nd Senior Officials Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication held from 29 and 30 October 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and commended the Senior Officials for the progress made in developing three priority projects to implement the Framework for the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication.

6. The Ministers noted with concern the financial and economic crisis, which had adversely affected the social well-being of the region. In this regard, the Ministers commended the SOMRDPE for taking the initiative to address the social impact of the crisis by preparing an ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets and in establishing an ASEAN Task Force on Social Safety Nets. The Ministers adopted the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets and thanked Indonesia for chairing the Task Force on Social Safety Nets. The Ministers noted with appreciation the summary report of the Task Force Chairman and adopted the Report of the First Meeting of the ASEAN Task Force on Social Safety Nets.

7. The Ministers noted that a Hanoi Plan of Action will be adopted by the Sixth ASEAN Summit Meeting to be held from 15 to 16 December 1998 in Hanoi and agreed to propose that the section entitled Promote Social Development and Address the Social Impact of the Financial Crisis should include the following action:

“Elaborate and implement the Framework for the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication and, in view of the financial and economic crisis, implement the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets on an urgent basis.”

8. The Ministers also discussed with representatives of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regarding the possibilities for collaboration in implementing the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets. The Ministers welcomed the interest of the ADB in exploring a close linkage with ASEAN in implementing a second phase of an ADB Regional Technical Assistance (RETA) for a social assessment of the financial crisis. The Ministers also welcomed the initiative of the World Bank in organising a Regional Meeting on Social Policy Issues arising from the East Asia Crisis, scheduled to be held in January 1999, and the interest of the World Bank in ASEAN participation at the meeting and the subsequent follow-up meetings, so that the Bank could learn about ASEAN’s current and future assistance needs and strategy.

9. The Ministers expressed appreciation to the UNDP for its timely assistance to ASEAN in developing a Sub-Programme on Responses to the Social Impact of the Regional Financial and Economic Crisis comprising the following components, among others:

  1. building regional capacity to assess and monitor the social impact of the financial crisis and economic crisis and the promotion of public awareness on the impact of the crisis;
  2. developing and implementing social safety nets; and
  3. capacity for delivering and monitoring of social safety nets programmes.

10. In view of the urgency to address the social fallout of the crisis, the Ministers requested the UNDP to expedite the release of funds for the Sub-Regional Programme on Responses to the Social Impact of the Regional Financial and Economic Crisis so that priority projects could be implemented without further delay. They urged other multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to assist ASEAN in implementing the Action Plan on Social Safety Nets.

11. The Ministers also urged the private sector of Member Countries to assume a greater role in providing resources for supporting social services to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

12. The Ministers commended the ASEAN Secretariat for its initiative in securing funding support from donor agencies for the implementation of projects and activities under the Framework for the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication and the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets. The Ministers requested the ASEAN Secretariat to also explore with the ASEAN Foundation the possibility of funding support for priority activities of the action plans at an appropriate time.

13. The Ministers expressed their sincere appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN cordiality and solidarity.