1. The Sixteenth ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting was convened from 9 to 10 May 2002 in Vientiane, Laos, preceded by a Senior Labour Officials Meeting held from 6 to 7 May 2002.
2. The Meeting was officially opened by His Excellency BounNhang Vorachith, Prime Minister of the Laos.
3. In his Keynote Speech, H.E. BounNhang Vorachith noted that ASEAN was facing new opportunities and challenges, and that ASEAN countries need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities. He noted specifically the need for a qualifed and competitive work force in order to meet the emerging demands of development.
4. The Meeting was attended by Ministers of Labour from ASEAN Member Countries. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. ASEAN Labour Ministers also held consultations with their counterparts from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea on 10 May 2002. The list of ASEAN Labour Ministers and their East Asian counterparts is attached.
5. His Excellency Mr. Somphanh Phengkammy, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and His Excellency Jacob Nuwa Wea, Minister for Manpower and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Meeting, respectively.
6. As host of the 16th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, H.E. Somphanh Phengkammy extended a warm welcome to the Ministers and their delegations. H.E. Somphanh Phengkhammy noted that this gathering of ASEAN Labour Ministers in Vientiane is of great significance because it gives us a good opportunity to deliberate ideas and wisdom into the review of the decisions made at the 15th Meeting and to set directions for the next year, particularly the implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI)
Initiative for ASEAN Integration
7. The ASEAN Labour Ministers welcomed the formulation of a Work Plan to realise closer regional integration as called for by the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI). They noted the IAI Work Plan’s inclusion of eight priority projects under the ASEAN Labour Ministers Work Programme plus the Technical Assistance Programme for the CLMV countries, a flagship project of the ASEAN Labour Ministers. The Ministers expressed their confidence that the projects on labour and employment to be implemented under the IAI framework would facilitate a smooth integration of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) into the regional labour market, in line with the Ha Noi Declaration on Narrowing the Development Gap for Closer ASEAN Integration, adopted by the 34thASEAN Ministerial Meeting at Ha Noi in July 2001.
Work Programme to Help Realise the ASEAN Labour Ministers Vision
8. The Ministers noted that activities under the Work Programme had commenced implementation. They commended the prioritisation of project proposals under the Work Programme, undertaken by the Symposium Workshop on Preparing Workers for Changes in the Labour Market in October 2001, and also noted that these project proposals had been included for priority implementation under the IAI framework. The Meeting also thanked the Philippines for successfully implementing the project.
9. In view of the Work Programme’s important role in contributing to closer regional integration by its focused activities on enhancing the quality of ASEAN’s manpower; strengthening capacity to better manage the impact of economic downturns on labour and employment; and safeguarding the well-being of workers, the Ministers reiterated the call made by the 15th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting for technical and financial support from ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners to assist ASEAN implement its priorities in labour and employment.
10. The Ministers noted with satisfaction the information provided by the Myanmar Labour Minister on the progress made towards the elimination of forced labour in consistent cooperation with the ILO. The ASEAN Labour Ministers accordingly welcomed the agreement between the Government of the Union of Myanmar and the ILO on the appointment of an ILO Liaison Officer not later than June 2002, which is a major step forward in the process of dialogue and cooperation between Myanmar and the ILO.
11. In view of this positive and constructive gesture of the Myanmar Government directed towards further promotion of cooperation with the ILO, the ASEAN Labour Ministers called upon the ILO to consider removing the measures taken against Myanmar by the ILO.
12. With regard to the election of the Chairman to the ILO Governing Body, the Meeting agreed that if it is the turn of the Asia-Pacific Group to assume the chairmanship of the Governing Body, the Titular Member representing ASEAN should, in consultation with the ASEAN Member Countries, nominate an appropriate candidate to the post.
13. The Ministers welcomed the formation of a World Commission of Eminent Persons to study the impact of the globalisation on the developing countries.They expressed hope that this study will shed light on the needs of the developing countries to face the challenges of globalisation.
14. The Ministers noted the progress in the implementation of the ongoing ASEAN projects in the field of labour. They noted with satisfaction the completion of several projects and activities that had contributed significantly to closer cooperation among ASEAN countries as well as addressing the region’s labour and employment concerns. They observed that the successful preparation of the ASEAN Labour Ministers Work Programme and the evolution of the ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network from a project into a self-sustaining network with its own Secretariat and coordinating mechanism were indeed accomplishments that the ASEAN Labour Ministers and Senior Officials could refer to as success stories in ASEAN labour cooperation. The Ministers expressed appreciation to Singapore for agreeing to host the 4th Coordinating Board Meeting of the ASEAN-OSHNET in 2003.
15. The Ministers also noted that the ASEAN Regional Project on Informal Sector Development was also nearing completion with the finalisation of a regional plan of action and welcomed the offer by Indonesia to coordinate the project.
16. The Ministers also noted the ALMM initiative to develop a Technical Assistance Programme for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV), with the aim to assist these countries to integrate into ASEAN, had been prioritised for implementation under the IAI Work Plan as a flagship project, and that the initiative would include a component to address informal sector issues in these countries.
17. The Ministers welcomed with anticipation the scheduled convening of the 4thASEAN Skills Competition in Indonesia in October 2002. The Ministers also expressed appreciation to Viet Nam for its offer to host the 5th ASEAN Skills Competition tentatively in 2003.
18. The Ministers also noted that the project Promoting Mutual Recognition of Skills as a Means to Enhance Employability and Regional Mobility would commence implementation in late 2002 under the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Programme (AADCP) Framework on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Integration. The Ministers expressed appreciation to Australia for assisting ASEAN in its endeavour to further strengthen regional capacity in the area of skills recognition and the facilitation of labour mobility as called for in the Hanoi Plan of Action.
19. Similarly, the ASEAN Labour Ministers expressed appreciation to Japan for its interest and support in assisting ASEAN develop and implement the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations. They noted that the project’s design included a consultative process where specific needs of ASEAN countries would be canvassed for inclusion into a regional programme for sustained follow-up.
20. The Ministers welcomed Malaysia’s initiative to propose a project on Lifelong Learning in the Digital Age and noted that the project directly addresses a key concern of the ASEAN Labour Ministers Vision and Mission Statement to work towards bridging the digital divide and to assist CLMV countries. The Ministers recognized that the implementation of past and current initiatives were made possible with both support and assistance from ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners as well as with the commitment of ASEAN countries to implement important priorities by cost-sharing arrangements. The Ministers registered their appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for the valuable assistance rendered in seeking funding support for projects of the ASEAN Labour Ministers Work Programme.
21. The Ministers expressed their confidence that ASEAN’s important priorities would continue to be pursued building on existing partnerships among ASEAN countries and with the Dialogue Partners.
East Asia Cooperation
22. The Ministers convened a meeting with their counterparts from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea on 10 May 2002, in the spirit of East Asia cooperation and to further intensify existing linkages and cooperation in human resource development with ASEAN’s East Asian partners.
23. The Ministers thanked China for implementing the China-ASEAN Higher Level Seminar on Social Security in November 2001. They requested Member Countries to submit project proposals under the agreed Work Plan and looked forward to continued dialogue with China in sharing lessons learned on strengthening social security systems.
24. The Ministers noted with appreciation the Government of Japan’s assistance in implementing the Japan Institute of Labour (JIL) Invitation Programme for Senior Labour-related Leaders which had been expanded to benefit more participants from ASEAN, and expressed their hope that the similar activities should be continued, so that ASEAN and Japanese labour officials could share experience and learn from each other. The Ministers also acknowledged with thanks the assistance provided by Japan to implement the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations, and the project on establishing a computer-based network for the ASEAN-OSHNET.
25. The Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Republic of Korea (ROK) for its continued assistance in implementing annual Human Resources Development Programmes for Officials of ASEAN Countries.
26. In exploring areas for continued cooperation in the field of labour, ASEAN Labour Ministers proposed, and their East Asian counterparts agreed to consider support for the projects on labour and employment to be implemented under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration which aims to bridge the development gap within ASEAN by assisting the new ASEAN Member Countries, with priority given to the Technical Assistance Programme for the CLMV Countries and the ASEAN Regional Project on Human Resource Development Planning. The Ministers observed that learning from East Asian partners would also assist ASEAN further in building capacity to manage their labour situation in the changing global economy.
27. In this spirit, the Ministers requested their counterparts from East Asia to provide their response through the ASEAN Secretariat channel on possible joint initiatives to be developed and implemented under the labour framework.
28. The Ministers had an exchange of views on, and noted with much interest, the Japanese proposal regarding the utilisation of the ILO’s budget surplus. Regarding the review of the ILO supervisory mechanisms, the Ministers agreed that the review be undertaken with a view to enhancing transparency and to ensure that the mechanisms would be promotional in nature. ASEAN welcomed China’s invitation to attend the China Employment Forum scheduled in October 2002 and the seminars on child labour to be organised by Japan and the ROK.
29. The Meeting also had an exchange of views on the impact of regional integration. It was noted that the topic was important and timely; however, since ASEAN is in the process of preparing several studies to look into these issues, further discussion could be considered when the results from these studies are available.
30. The delegations of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and the people of Laos for the generous hospitality extended to the delegations and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Ministers also registered their sincere appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for its valuable contributions to the success of the Meeting. The delegations of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea similarly expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Laos.
31. The Ministers welcomed with appreciation the gracious offer by Indonesia to host the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in May 2003.
32. The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.
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