1.     The Third Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (AMRDPE) was held in Siem Reap on 16 December 2002. The Meeting was preceded by the Preparatory Senior Officials Meeting for the
3rd AMRDPE Meeting on 13 and 14 December 2002.

2. The Meeting was officially opened by His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. In his Keynote Address, Samdech Hun Sen Prime Minister observed that peace and development go hand in hand and therefore there is a need to ensure peace in order for measures for sustainable development to be put into place. His Excellency the Prime Minister noted that this philosophy also underlies ASEAN’s initiative for closer integration.

3.  His Excellency the Prime Minister provided the AMRDPE with a brief portrait of Royal Government of Cambodia’s long term reform agenda under the Second Socio Economic Development Plan (2002 2005) which had an overall thrust for poverty reduction. Cambodia’s poverty reduction strategy focused on decentralisation, diversified rural development, multi sectoral coordination and building on existing capabilities as key approaches.

4.  Samdech Hun Sen Prime Minister concluded with a reaffirmation of Cambodia’s commitment to ASEAN priorities. In the context of rural development and poverty eradication, Samdech Hun Sen Prime Minister exhorted the AMRDPE to declare war against poverty, and join hands in addressing the issue, building on existing strengths.

5.  The Meeting was attended by H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Adanan bin Haji Mohd. Yusof, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. Ly Thuch, Minister of Rural Development of the Kingdom of Cambodia; H.E. Mr. Djoharis Lubis, Deputy Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare of Indonesia, representing the Minister; H.E. Dr. Siene Saphangthong, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR; H.E. Dato’ Azmi Khalid, Minister of Rural Development, Malaysia; H.E. Colonel Thein Nyunt, Minister for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs of the Union of Myanmar; H.E. Teresita Quintos Deles, Secretary/ Lead Convenor of the National Anti Poverty Commission of the Philippines; H.E. Mr. Verghese Mathews, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the Kingdom of Cambodia, representing the Minister for Community Development and Sports of Singapore; H.E. Mr. Anurak Chureemas, Minister of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand; H.E. Dr. Cao Duc Phat, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, representing the Minister, and their respective delegations. Dato’ Ahmad Mokhtar Selat, Deputy Secretary General representing the Secretary General of ASEAN, and his delegation also attended the Meeting.

6. H.E. Mr. Ly Thuch and H.E. Mr. Verghese Mathews were elected Chair and Vice Chair of the Meeting, respectively.

Strategy and Role of Government on Poverty Reduction

7.  High on the agenda of the Third AMRDPE Meeting was the need for ASEAN cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication to respond effectively to the opportunities and challenges of globalisation and closer economic integration. In sharing their respective experiences on strategies pursued at all levels of government to address poverty, the Ministers were of the view that in further implementing ASEAN’s priorities for rural development and poverty eradication, longer term developmental challenges, such as the impact of globalisation and advanced technology, could not be ignored. To this end, the Ministers tasked their Senior Officials to formulate innovative and holistic strategies that would facilitate access of the rural and urban poor to public utilities and facilities; provide a conducive environment for income-generation, employment opportunities, and assistance to link small rural economies to markets, for the poor; assist community empowerment; and build capacity and occupational skills   especially in the area of information and communication technology, to facilitate participation in the new knowledge based economy. The Ministers also shared the view that in order for these strategies to be effective, various policies and programmes on rural development and poverty eradication need to be integrated into the overall national development process.

8.  The Ministers observed that the involvement of the private sector, NGOs and civil society organisations in ASEAN projects for rural development and poverty eradication had further  strengthened partnerships between government, private sector, non governmental and civil society organisations, thus contributing to successful initiatives at national and regional levels to alleviate the situation of the poor and the marginalised. The Ministers welcomed this development and expressed their hope that this approach of shared responsibility would continue, thus assisting the planning process for social safety and protection measures for the poor and the marginalised.

Current Programmes and Activities on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication

9.  The Ministers noted with satisfaction the completion of two of the three projects under the Framework of the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication. The Ministers noted that five of the six projects under the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets have been addressed through the implementation of the ASEAN Australia Social Safety Net Project and the UNDP funded projects on training of facilitators on rural development and building capacities for social impact assessment mechanisms in ASEAN. The Ministers expressed their sincere appreciation to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) for the timely assistance provided for implementation of these projects.

10.  The Ministers also noted with interest that ASEAN and the World Bank had embarked on a joint initiative to mainstream social development into national development agendas in ASEAN, and that two video conferences between ASEAN countries and the World Bank had been convened on topics such as sustainable rural development and targeted social protection. They welcomed the World Bank’s initiative to assist ASEAN to address emerging social development challenges, and looked forward to future joint activities with the World Bank related to rural development and poverty eradication. The Ministers were of the view that future collaboration with the World Bank could focus on managing the poverty impact of globalisation, trade liberalisation and regional integration.

11.  The Ministers also noted that the implementation of the projects had helped ASEAN to address the social impact of the Asian financial and economic crisis as called for by the Hanoi Plan of Action. They observed that with the intensification of globalisation, particularly as reflected in the increasing pace of trade liberalisation and regional economic integration, a new set of challenges have emerged. In order for ASEAN cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication to address these challenges effectively, the Ministers called for a review of the directions, scope and mechanisms of regional cooperation.

Revitalising Cooperation on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication

12.  In this regard, the Ministers endorsed their Senior Officials’ proposal to undertake a comprehensive review of ASEAN cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication  which would also include a reassessment of the mandate and objectives of the ASEAN Task Force on Social Safety Nets. The Ministers noted that this exercise would assist in identifying new priorities for ASEAN cooperation in rural development and poverty eradication, particularly with regard to effectively responding to the challenges arising from globalisation, trade liberalisation and regional integration. The Ministers looked forward to the results of the comprehensive review which would be discussed by an ad hoc working group, for further consideration by the 4th Senior Officials Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in 2003, for endorsement to the AMRDPE.

13.  The Ministers called for closer collaboration with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, relevant international agencies and ASEAN bodies to meet the new challenges for rural development and poverty eradication. To this end, the Ministers welcomed the initiative of their Senior Officials to explore the possibility of engaging ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and other international organisations as partners to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences. The Ministers were of the view that such initiatives to engage relevant partners in development for joint implementation of activities of mutual interest would assist in mobilising resources for ASEAN cooperation. At the same time, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to utilise cost sharing as a modality to implement priority activities in rural development and poverty eradication at the regional level.

14.  The Meeting welcomed the proposal by Malaysia to have direct communication among the ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication and agreed that their contact details would be provided to the ASEAN Secretariat for compilation.

15. The Ministers also endorsed the guidelines for the hosting and chairing of future AMRDPE and SOMRDPE Meetings.

ASEAN+3 Cooperation

16.        The Ministers welcomed the many opportunities opened up for closer
cooperation  with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea under the ASEAN+3 framework. The Ministers noted that the mandate provided by the Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation first enunciated by the ASEAN+3 Leaders in November 1999 had given a fresh impetus to many existing activities taking place in social development in collaboration with ASEAN’s   East Asian partners. In this regard, the Ministers expressed an interest to initiate closer collaboration with the Plus Three countries in the area of rural development and poverty eradication, and requested the SOMRDPE   assisted by the ASEAN Secretariat   to develop a framework of cooperation with China, Japan and the ROK for future SOMRDPE meetings.

New Projects/Initiatives

17.  The Ministers welcomed Indonesia’s proposals to continue the project to train facilitators on rural development and poverty eradication, focusing on mid-level professionals and practitioners, and to conduct a workshop on social safety nets for health in collaboration with the Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development. The Ministers also noted the initiative of the SOMRDPE to have an exchange of views on promoting productive economic activities as a strategy for poverty eradication. In this regard, the Ministers encouraged the SOMRDPE to use the Meeting as a platform to facilitate more focused exchange of views and sharing of experiences on poverty eradication.

Next Host of AMRDPE

18.  The Ministers thanked Singapore for her gracious offer to host the Fourth Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in 2004.

Acknowledgement

19. The Ministers expressed their sincere appreciation to the Royal Government of Cambodia   in particular the Ministry of Rural Development of Cambodia   for the generous hospitality and excellent arrangements made for the Meeting.