ASEAN’s efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the region continued unabated in the year under review. At the 14th ASEAN Summit held in Thailand in March 2009, the ASEAN Leaders, in the Joint Declaration on the Attainment of the MDGs in ASEAN, called for the development of a Roadmap on the MDGs. The Roadmap would serve as a framework for collective action among ASEAN Member States to achieve the MDGs focusing on five key areas, namely advocacy and linkages, knowledge, resources, expertise and regional cooperation and regional public goods.

To address the social impacts of the global financial crisis, the High-Level Forum on Reducing Vulnerability in the Face of Crisis was held in February 2009 at the ASEAN Secretariat. Attended by relevant government officials from the ASEAN Plus Three Countries and representatives from various international organisations, the Forum came up with a number of recommendations to be undertaken at both regional and national levels. As a follow up to the Forum, the ASEAN Assessment on the Social Impact of the Global Financial Crisis will be conducted in the second half of 2009 with the support of AusAID.

In addressing issues pertaining to rural development and poverty eradication and in narrowing the development gap in the region, a more concerted effort by Member States in the spirit of “ASEAN Help-ASEAN” has been stressed. Such initiatives would include documenting best practices and challenges of ASEAN Member States in implementing their respective policies and programmes on rural development and poverty eradication to facilitate information sharing among Member States.

Various initiatives carried out under this sector mainly involve promoting community-driven activities and people-to-people interactions aimed at narrowing the development gap in the region. These include (i) the ASEAN Rural Youth Volunteers Movement to bring together youth professional volunteers from the region to support rural communities in their development efforts, (ii) ASEAN Plus Three Village Leaders Exchange Programme in building the capacity of village leaders among Member States in promoting development in rural areas through building of networks, enhancing knowledge through study visits and exchanging of experiences, and (iii) the sharing of Thailand’s best practices on the Baan Mankong Programme, which is a citywide “Cities without Slums” housing development programme, and other grass roots economic development and poverty alleviation programmes, such the One Tambon One Product (OTOP), Urban Community and Village Fund (UCVF) and the Sufficiency Economy Fund.