ASEAN has persistently affirmed its commitment to uplift the quality of life and raise the standard of living of socially vulnerable groups in the region. Such commitment is reflected in ASEAN’s cooperation on social welfare and development in which social issues faced by children, older persons, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable and marginalised groups are addressed.
The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, in its General Principles, states that the rights of children, older persons, and persons with disabilities, among others, are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ASEAN Community Vision 2025 envisions “an inclusive community that promotes high quality of life, equitable access to opportunities for all and promotes and protects human rights of children, older persons, and persons with disabilities …”, among others. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community 2025 has identified strategic measures that seeks to reduce barriers faced by children, older persons, and persons with disabilities, promote and protect their rights, and ensure equitable access for all, among others.
The regional strategic direction that ASEAN is taking on social welfare and development is guided by the following regional instruments:
- Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Ageing: Empowering Older Persons in ASEAN (2015)
- Brunei Darussalam Declaration on Strengthening Family Institution: Caring for the Elderly (2010)
- Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in ASEAN Community (2011)
- Mobilisation Framework of the ASEAN Decade of Persons with Disabilities (2011-2020)
- ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection (2013)
- Regional Framework and Action Plan to Implement the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection (2015)
- Ha Noi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children (2012)
- ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Children (2015)
- Joint Statement on the Promotion of Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN (2017)
ASEAN’s cooperation on social welfare and development is also guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities, the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
- ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (AMMSWD). Composed of ministers in-charge of social welfare and development in all ASEAN Member States, the AMMSWD sets the strategic policy direction on ASEAN’s regional cooperation on social welfare and development. The AMMSWD is under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Pillar.
- Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD). SOMSWD is a subsidiary body of the AMMSWD composed of senior officials in the respective ministries in-charge of social welfare and development. The SOMSWD supports AMMSWD by recommending regional policies, developing and implementing the five-year regional work plan, and managing partnerships.
- SOMSWD Plus Three. This is an annual meeting of SOMSWD with the Plus Three Countries namely China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, and serves as a regular platform for exchanging policies and good practices on social welfare and development.
- ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). ACWC is an intergovernmental consultative body mandated to promote the implementation of international instruments, ASEAN instruments and other instruments related to the rights of women and children, develop policies and programmes, promote public awareness, and advocate on behalf of women and children.
- ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development. This consultative forum brings together government, civil society organisations, and the private sector to exchange knowledge and experiences on policy and programme development and implementation as well as best practices on rural development and poverty eradication.
- ASEAN Social Work Consortium (ASWC). The Consortium serves as a platform that brings together social work practitioners, educators and schools of social work to promote capacity building, and policy and action research in the social work profession.
ASEAN Strategic Framework on Social Welfare and Development 2016-2020
Building on the gains from implementing the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Social Welfare and Development 2010-2015, the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Social Welfare and Development 2016-2020 was developed. The overall objective of the five-year work plan is to enhance the well-being and improve the quality of life of older persons, children, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups in ASEAN.
For the priority: older persons, the objective is to promote healthy, active and productive ageing in an enabling and supportive environment.
For the priority area: children, the objective is to promote the survival, protection, participation and development of the rights of children.
For the priority area: persons with disabilities, the objective is to promote and protect the rights, and enhance the opportunities and participation of persons with disabilities for inclusive societies.
For the other priority areas, the objectives are to:
- Promote social protection policies for increased access and sustainability
- Strengthen the resilience of families and caregivers in the societies
- Enhance the participation and social responsibility of stakeholders
ACWC Work Plan 2016-2020
Building on the gains from implementing the ACWC Work Plan 2010-2015, the ACWC Work Plan 2016-2020 was developed. The overall objectives of this five-year work plan are to promote and protect the rights of women and children, and work towards achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls. The work plan contains the following thematic areas:
- Strengthening the institutional capacity of ACWC
- Elimination of violence against women and children
- Right of children to participate in all affairs that affect them
- Trafficking in women and children
- Promotion and protection of the rights of women and children with disabilities
- Child Protection System: Comprehensive/Integrative approach for children in need of special protection (e.g., victims of abuse and neglect, trafficking, child labour, children affected by statelessness, undocumented migrant children, HIV/AIDS, natural disasters, conflicts, and children in the juvenile justice system/children in conflict with the law)
- Right to early childhood care and quality education
- Promotion of the implementation of international, ASEAN and other instruments related to the rights of women and children
- Gender equality in education (textbook, curriculum, equal access)
- Social impact of climate change on women and children
- Strengthening economic rights of women with regard to feminization of poverty, women’s rights to land and property
- Gender perspective in policies, strategies and programmes for migrant workers
- Gender mainstreaming
- Women participation in politics and decision making, governance and democracy
- Early marriage
The AMMSWD, with the support of SOMSWD and ACWC, continues its strategic partnership with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, international organisations and civil society organisations such as the European Union, US, UN Women, UNICEF, UNOHCHR, CRC Asia, HelpAge and ECPAT, among others.