1. We, the ASEAN Ministers responsible for social welfare and development convened the Fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development (AMMSWD) on 16 December 2004 in Bangkok. The meeting was chaired by H.E. Mr. Sora-at Klinpratoom, Minister for Social Development and Human Security of Thailand.
2. The Meeting was officially opened by H.E. Mr. Sora-at Klinpratoom, on behalf of H.E. Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Thailand. In the keynote address, H.E. Mr. Sora-at Klinpratoom extended a warm welcome to all ASEAN delegations attending the meeting. He noted that the cooperation and betterment of social welfare and development were among the core elements of the Vientiane Action Programme that would help build the ASEAN Community and enhance a community of caring societies. Thailand realised the importance of the ASEAN Community and also the East Asian Community in successfully meeting the common challenges arising from the impact of globalisation.
3. H.E. Mr. Sora-at Klinpratoom cited some of Thailand’s successful projects that had raised the quality of life of the Thai people, especially the poor, such as the OTOP (“One Tambon One Product”) project, the Micro-funds, the health insurance scheme and the housing projects. Such projects complemented other efforts to alleviate poverty and had significantly benefited the social capital of the country. He pointed out that the keys to Thailand’s success lay in having the right strategies, a holistic approach, people participation and harmony within the socio-cultural context. At regional level, he suggested developing social indicators, regional action plans and conducting research as possible initiatives for future cooperation. Moreover, he cited that even though ASEAN Member Countries were now increasingly relying on a self-help approach and south-south cooperation, ASEAN should also strengthen cooperation with friends and partners, bilaterally and multilaterally, and at both the regional and international levels. The role and contribution of NGOs in social welfare and development should also be recognised and promoted. He offered Thailand’s full support to help ASEAN achieve a Community of Caring Societies. He believed that with the wealth of knowledge and experience of the Ministers, the 5th AMMSWD would be a fruitful meeting and would achieve its objectives at the country and regional levels.
Building a Community of Caring Societies
4. We met under the theme “Enhancing a Community of Caring Societies”. We exchanged views on developments and emerging issues in the social sector that would have an impact on well-being of the peoples of ASEAN. We noted that social, economic and cultural changes arising from globalisation had added to the complexity of challenges in the social sector, affecting human security. We advocated a people-centred community-based approach to ensure the people’s access to all basic social needs.
5. Guided by ASEAN Vision 2020 and the Bali Concord II, we discussed the AMMSWD’s contribution towards realising the ASEAN leaders’ shared vision of an ASEAN community of caring societies by 2020 in the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community Plan of Action. In this context, we welcomed the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP) adopted by the Tenth ASEAN Summit on 29 November 2004 and pledged to implement the measures contained in the VAP that would help reduce the social risks faced by children, women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities. We also welcomed the VAP’s emphasis on the role of the family, civil society and the private sector in tackling social welfare issues.
Progress on the ASEAN Work Programme on Social Welfare, Family and Population
6. We were pleased to note that regional cooperation in the social sector had been given a firm footing with the adoption of the ASEAN Work Programme on Social Welfare, Family and Population (2003-2006) by the inaugural ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development held in October 2002 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
7. In reiterating our firm belief that the family is the fundamental institution of society, we noted with interest that the Work Programme had highlighted the challenges arising from demographic developments in the region, in particular, the implications of the changing structure of the family on its role as a care-giver. In the light of this, we advocated strengthening the family to enable them to take the lead in caring for the young, elderly and vulnerable.
8. We welcomed the convening of the first ever East Asia Ministerial Forum on the Family held in Ha Noi in April 2004. We noted that the Ha Noi Statement issued by the Ministerial Forum highlighted priorities for East Asia cooperation in strengthening the families to protect them from negative effects and enable them to face fast and dramatic socio-economic changes.
9. We noted with satisfaction that the Senior Officials had prepared an ASEAN statement for the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 and that a Regional Family Forum had been convened in November 2004 in Singapore.
10. We also noted that the workshop on Community Strategies on the Prevention of Domestic Violence in ASEAN had been conducted in October 2003 in Manila and we welcomed the Resolution of the ASEAN Plan of Action against Domestic Violence. We tasked our senior officials to work closely with the ASEAN Committee on Women in addressing the issue of violence against women. We also welcomed the signing of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 30 June 2004.
11. In recognition of the importance of building self-reliant communities, we noted with satisfaction that the Interregional Seminar and Demonstration Regional Workshop on Accessible ICT was conducted in Manila in March 2003 and agreed to submit the recommendations of the workshop as ASEAN’s input to the proposed “Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities”.
12. We also reaffirmed the need to continuously develop and build the individual and collective capacity to meet the challenges facing the social sector. We acknowledged the contribution volunteers had made to the work of professional social workers, as well as the role of non-governmental and community organisations in the implementation of social welfare policies and programmes. We look forward to future joint government/non-government initiatives and welcomed the proposal from the Senior Officials to strengthen ASEAN-NGO cooperation by convening an ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development that would be held in Bangkok in 2005.
13. We shared the view that ASEAN should build partnerships with organisations like the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organisation-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC) to better address the challenges of the social sector.
Child Protection and Cooperation with UNICEF
14. We highlighted the issue of child protection as a major area of concern for ASEAN and recalled the priorities highlighted in the Declaration of Commitments for Children in ASEAN, adopted by the Fourth Meeting of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Social Welfare (AMRSW) in August 2001. ASEAN Member Countries had participated in the adoption of “Bali Consensus on Partnerships with and for Children in the East Asia and Pacific Region” at the Sixth East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children in 2003. We look forward to similar ASEAN participation at the upcoming Seventh East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children in Cambodia in March 2005. To continue the work on child protection, the Philippines invited ASEAN Member Countries to attend the First Regional Conference of National Bodies and Lead Government Agencies for Children in East Asia and the Pacific to be held in Manila in May 2005.
15. We noted with satisfaction that our Senior Officials had consolidated pending activities for child protection into a comprehensive project focusing on capacity-building from the perspective of training of personnel across agencies such as police, social workers and health workers, and to ultimately develop a multi-disciplinary framework for child protection and intervention against abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect.
16. We thanked the UNICEF for its support for the development and implementation of the Early Child Care and Development Project which would benefit the future generations of ASEAN Member Countries. We agreed that the Senior Officials should explore working in partnership with UNICEF to realise ASEAN’s commitments on child protection.
Expanding and Deepening Regional Cooperation
17. We agreed to increase cooperation on emerging social issues/trends, including those with trans-boundary implications, in line with the broad direction laid out by the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Plan of Action of the Bali Concord II, and in concert with the priorities of the relevant international instruments. We highlighted the following priorities:
• Strengthening the social welfare mechanisms to make them more responsive to emerging social issues resulting from globalisation as well as demographic shifts;
• Strengthening the family as the fundamental institution in building a community of caring society;
• Preparing for a future with an ageing population structure in the ASEAN region where the elderly are adequately cared for by promoting community-based support systems to supplement the role of the family as caregiver;
• Ensure the access of persons with disabilities to opportunities and protection against all form of discrimination;
• Promoting the welfare of children by safeguarding their rights, ensuring their survival and full development, and protecting them from abuse, neglect and violence;
• Strengthening the capacity to provide timely social services and basic necessities for vulnerable groups affected by HIV/AIDS and Avian Flu, among others; and
• Addressing the welfare and social reintegration of women and child victims of human trafficking in the ASEAN region, as highlighted in the ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons, Particularly Women and Children, endorsed by the ASEAN Leaders at their Summit Meeting in Vientiane in November 2004.
18. Reiterating the approach of the ASEAN Work Programme on Social Welfare, Family and Population, we requested our Senior Officials to address the above priorities through the following:
• Building capacity in the region to address emerging priorities in the social sector;
• Conducting research in areas of mutual interest, in particular issues that have an impact on the standard of living and well-being of ASEAN’s population;
• Developing and implementing concrete activities and projects on emerging social concerns;
• Opening up national activities and projects that all ASEAN Member Countries could participate in and share their experiences, in order to develop a truly integrated regional approach to social welfare and development;
• Intensifying existing cooperation within ASEAN, between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners, and within the ASEAN Plus Three framework (People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are the Plus Three partners); and
• Involving greater participation of civil society and NGOs in assisting ASEAN address social welfare and development priorities.
First ASEAN Plus Three Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development
19. In anticipation of the upcoming First ASEAN Plus Three Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development on 17 December 2004, we welcomed the opportunity to broaden and deepen cooperation in the social sector in East Asia.
Sixth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development
20. We expressed our appreciation to Thailand for graciously hosting the Fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development, and to Viet Nam for offering to host the Sixth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development in 2007.
21. The Fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Development was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.