1.                               The Fourth Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (AMRDPE) was held in Singapore on 7 October 2004.  The Meeting was preceded by the Preparatory Senior Officials Meeting for the 4thAMRDPE from 4 – 5 October 2004.

2.                               The Meeting was officially opened by His Excellency Prof. S Jayakumar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law of the Republic of Singapore. In his keynote address, Prof. S Jayakumar emphasised ASEAN’s desire to forge a social agenda that is focused on poverty eradication and human development. The work of the AMRDPE will therefore play an important role in ASEAN’s goals for closer integration. He added that it is ultimately employment which will enable poverty to be alleviated. Human capital development through education and skills upgrading will be important for the poor. He noted that in addition to support from their families, the poor depend on their community as support mechanisms when they face difficulties. Hence, efforts by government must be complemented by strong, self-reliant communities and their organisations. He also encouraged the formation of an integrated regional co-ordinating mechanism for poverty reduction and to create self-reliant communities. He congratulated the AMRDPE for its numerous initiatives and urged the AMRDPE to intensify its efforts, remain united and committed to the reduction of poverty in the region.


3.                               The Meeting was attended by ASEAN Ministers responsible for rural development and poverty eradication or their representatives.  The Secretary-General of ASEAN was represented by the Deputy Secretary-General (Functional Cooperation) at the Meeting.  The list of the ASEAN Ministers or their representatives is attached.


4.                               His Excellency Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports of Singapore, and Mr. Sakhon Boonkhum, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand representing the Minister for Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, were Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Meeting, respectively.


Enabling Self-Reliant Communities


5.                               The 4th AMRDPE noted that the efforts of the governments alone would not be sufficient to ensure the success of any rural development and poverty eradication process. Apart from encouraging and facilitating the poor and the marginalised community to be self-reliant, the participation and contributions of various organisations would be critical success factors.  In sharing their respective experiences on facilitating poverty eradication and self-reliance, the Ministers acknowledged and encouraged the efforts of various sectors in alleviating poverty and noted that there was room for more participation and involvement of the private sector,civil society organisations, and grassroots organisations in the process of poverty reduction both at the national and the ASEAN levels.  Their participation and commitment would contribute to the realisation of a Community of Caring Societies envisioned by the ASEAN Leaders in their Vision 2020 statement adopted in November 1997.


6.                               The Ministers noted the importance of accelerating the implementation of rural development and poverty eradication strategies in ASEAN, within the framework of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Ministers also recognised the important role and participation of the local government and/or local stakeholders in this process.


7.                               The Ministers added that the participation and contributions of Dialogue Partners and interested regional and international organisations in the various ASEAN initiatives would be another modality of achieving a Community of Caring Societies which would in turn contribute towards the growth of more self-reliant communities.


8.                               The Ministers agreed that ASEAN Member Countries should continue to use SOMRDPE and AMRDPE as platforms for the sharing of initiatives and experiences in encouraging and enabling self-reliance amongst communities in ASEAN.  Where relevant, workshops could also be organised to facilitate the sharing.


Progress of ASEAN Cooperation on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication


9.                               The Ministers commended their Senior Officials for putting together a comprehensive Framework Action Plan containing strategies to address priorities such as globalisation; narrowing the digital divide; social protection; employment and income generation; partnerships, decentralisation, local participation; narrowing the development gap; and exchange of young professionals and volunteers and information.  The Framework Action Plan, which would be implemented over the next 6 years, would serve as the key strategic plan for ASEAN to respond to the challenges of poverty alleviation in the face of the changing economic and social environment in the ASEAN region.


10.                           The Ministers noted that projects have already been initiated to address some of the areas highlighted in the framework.  Malaysia, for example, had conducted a regional workshop from 31 May to 2 June 2004 to share best practices on empowering rural communities to utilise ICT as a tool to enhance income.  Thailand would also coordinate the implementation of an ASEAN Regional Workshop on rural development and poverty eradication. It would share its experience on the “One Tambon One Product” initiative, an innovative strategy used to help the depressed economy from the grassroot level, through a full package of rural entrepreneurship promotion that integrates local production and local trade.   ASEAN’s joint programme with World Bank was also assisting ASEAN countries in building capacity to involve greater participation of local communities and stakeholders in poverty reduction endeavours.  This was an important contribution to ensureintegrated mechanisms for poverty reduction coordination in order to create self-reliant communities, particularly in the case of countries with decentralised structures of government.  


11.                           The Ministers recognised the role of non-governmental and community organisations participating in the formulation and implementation of national policies and programmes, and looked forward to similar opportunities for collaboration in pursuing regional priorities.


AMRDPE’s contribution towards a Community of Caring Societies


12.                           The 4th AMRDPE Meeting emphasised the need for ASEAN cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication to continue to respond effectively to the opportunities and challenges of globalisation and closer economic integration.   The Ministers noted that the Declaration on ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) adopted by the 9th ASEAN Summit held in October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia, highlighted the link between ASEAN’s economic and social agendas.


13.                           The Ministers stated their commitment to address the priorities outlined for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community as the social pillar of the Bali Concord II, in particular the development of human resources as a key strategy to generate employment, alleviate poverty and socio-economic disparities, and ensure economic growth with equity. The Ministers also expressed their commitment to address the 9th ASEAN Summit’s directive to “foster cooperation in social development aimed at raising the standard of living of disadvantaged groups and the rural population” and to “seek the active involvement of all sectors of society, in particular women, youth and local communities”, as part of the regional effort to realise a strong, secure and self-reliant community of caring societies by the year 2020. 

14.        The Ministers welcomed the preparation of the Vientiane Action Programme (2004-2010), as an action-oriented agenda for regional cooperation over the next six years. The Ministers noted that the Vientiane Action Programme included priorities that called for regional collaboration in increasing the effective participation of family, civil society and the private sector in tackling poverty and social welfare issues through networking and exchange.  The Ministers looked forward to continuing efforts to raise the standard of living of marginalised groups, and to promote approaches that engage these groups in society.

15.        As the Vientiane Action Programme was the second in a series of plans to realise the ASEAN Community envisioned by the Leaders, the Ministers noted with satisfaction that the priorities for rural development and poverty eradication identified in the Hanoi Plan of Action (1999-2004) had been addressed. 

Cooperation with East Asian Partners


16.        The Ministers commended the Senior Officials and the ASEAN Secretariat for their continued efforts to identify opportunities for closer collaboration with the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in pursuing rural development and poverty eradication priorities for the region.  Such collaboration would enrich and enhance ASEAN’s efforts in poverty reduction. 


Next Host of AMRDPE


17.            The Ministers thanked Thailand for offering to host the Fifth Meeting of theASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in 2006.


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