1. The Eighteenth ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting was convened from 13 to 14 May 2004 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, preceded by the 3rd Senior Labour Officials Meeting held from 10 to 11 May 2004.
2. The Meeting was officially opened by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. In his Keynote Address, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam welcomed the ASEAN Labour Ministers and their delegations to Brunei Darussalam. His Majesty noted that recent years had brought a great many new challenges to ASEAN which caused ASEAN to rethink many of its approaches to regional and economic development, regional stability and regional security. His Majesty expressed confidence in the judgment of the Ministers and their awareness of the impact that their decisions would have upon the lives of the 500 million citizens of ASEAN, especially in terms of the development, well-being and confidence of the labour force whom they represent.
3. His Majesty congratulated the ASEAN Labour Ministers on their many initiatives which proposed comprehensive approaches to the vital questions of Human Resource Development and sufficient sustainable employment. His Majesty stressed the need for workers to acquire multiple skills in order to adjust to all the changes brought about by globalisation. In spite of the many difficulties facing the ASEAN countries and the extreme diversity of the region, His Majesty called upon the Minister’s to address the need for action that would provide real benefits to the day-to-day lives of ASEAN people. His Majesty urged the Ministers to cooperate and co-ordinate closely with their colleagues in the public and the private sector, particularly businessmen and women.
4. His Majesty emphasised the need for ASEAN to be able to provide its citizens with the security that would enable them to live peaceful, stable and purposeful lives, whilst being able to regard the future with hope and confidence. Finally, His Majesty expressed his belief that the single overriding task of Ministers was to plan a future where the ASEAN people could provide for themselves and their families with hope and dignity.
5. The Meeting was attended by Ministers responsible for labour from ASEAN Member Countries. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. ASEAN Labour Ministers held consultations with their counterparts from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in the afternoon of 14 May 2004. The list of ASEAN Ministers responsible for labour and their East Asian counterparts is attached.
6. His Excellency the Honourable Pehin Dato Isa Ibrahim, Special Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Minister of Home Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, and His Excellency Mr. Nim Thoth, Secretary of State, Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation of Cambodia were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Meeting, respectively.
The Labour Factor in Achieving a Community of Caring Societies
7. High on the agenda of the 18th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting was the need for ASEAN labour cooperation to continue responding effectively to the opportunities and challenges of globalisation and closer economic integration, in line with the ASEAN Labour Ministers Vision and Mission Statement adopted by the 14th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in May 2000. The Ministers were heartened to note that the Declaration on ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) adopted by the 9th ASEAN Summit held in October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia, highlighted the link between ASEAN’s economic and social agendas, by committing to ensure that ASEAN’s work force shall be prepared for, and benefit from, economic integration by investing more resources for basic and higher education, training, science and technology development, job creation, and social protection.
8. ASEAN Labour Ministers expressed their commitment to address the priorities outlined for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community as the social pillar of the Bali Concord II, in particular the development of human resources as a key strategy for employment generation, and to ensure economic growth with equity. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to address the 9th ASEAN Summit’s directive to “continue existing efforts to promote regional mobility and mutual recognition of professional credentials, talents, and skills development” and to continue in their quest to reduce unemployment in the region, in support of the regional effort to realise a strong, secure and self-reliant community of caring societies by the year 2020.
9. The Ministers welcomed the preparations being made to develop an action-oriented agenda for regional cooperation over the next six years, as the second in a series of plans to realise the ASEAN Community envisioned by the Leaders. The Ministers noted that the labour priorities under the Hanoi Plan of Action (1999-2004) continued to remain relevant, particularly the priority area on promoting regional mobility and mutual recognition of technical and professional credentials and skills standards.
10. The Ministers pledged their support for the formulation of the six-year successor plan to the Hanoi Plan of Action, particularly with regard to promoting human resource development to build a competitive labour force in ASEAN; promoting an efficient labour market through mutual recognition agreements to enhance employability and labour mobility; strengthening social protection systems; and addressing the labour and employment impact of trade liberalisation.
Progress of ASEAN Labour Cooperation
11. Recalling that at their 17th Meeting in May 2003 in Mataram, Indonesia, ASEAN Labour Ministers had pledged to follow up on the employment-related measures recommended by the ASEAN Leaders at the Special ASEAN Leaders Meeting on SARS on 29 April 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Ministers were pleased to note the recommendations of the Special ASEAN+3 Senior Labour Officials Meeting on SARS, held from 2 to 3 July 2003 in Manila, Philippines. The Ministers expressed appreciation to the Philippines for hosting and organising this Special Meeting, and welcomed the joint initiatives proposed by the Special Meeting to address challenges brought about by SARS, as well as emerging communicable diseases, particularly through maintaining vigilance in the area of occupational safety and health, and developing national and regional policies on SARS prevention and control at the workplace through tripartite efforts.
12. ASEAN Labour Ministers noted with satisfaction the rapid progress with which the nine priority activities of the ASEAN Labour Ministers Work Programme had been operationalised, well ahead of the Work Programme’s conclusion date. The Ministers commended the dedication and commitment of the ASEAN Senior Labour Officials in implementing the projects initiated in 2001 as a response to the impact of globalisation and trade liberalisation on labour and employment. The Ministers also acknowledged with appreciation the positive responses from ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and other relevant partner agencies such as the ASEAN Foundation to support priority projects on labour and employment. The Ministers observed that the interest and support of ASEAN Dialogue Partners and international organisations had greatly facilitated the operationalisation of many important programmes and projects on ASEAN’s labour agenda. The Ministers pledged to continue their cordial relations with the Dialogue Partners.
13. The Ministers looked forward to the convening of the 5th ASEAN Skills Competition to be hosted by Viet Nam in September 2004. The Ministers recalled that since the convening of the 1st ASEAN Skills Competition in Malaysia in 1995, significant progress had been made to address the objectives to improve the skills levels of ASEAN workers; to assist the development of human resources in each ASEAN country; to develop a new generation of highly skilled workers and to prepare for ASEAN countries’ participation in the WorldSkills Competition.
14. The Ministers noted that many initiatives and projects were planned and ongoing to address the skills development needs of ASEAN, at the same time facilitating greater opportunities for sharing technical know-how and expertise among the ASEAN Member Countries. The Ministers called for an integrated approach to promote skills training and skills recognition and requested their Senior Officials and the ASEAN Secretariat to review the impact of completed and ongoing projects in this area and to report the results to the 19th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, including recommendations on future thrusts and the need for regional mechanisms to coordinate cooperation on skills development.
15. The Ministers also noted with satisfaction the progress accomplished by another cost-shared initiative of ASEAN, namely, the ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET). The Ministers commended the ASEAN-OSHNET on its spirit of self-reliance and commitment in implementing a majority of the projects under the ASEAN-OSHNET Plan of Action for 2000-2004, mainly on a cost-sharing basis among the ASEAN-OSHNET members. The Ministers expressed sincere appreciation to Indonesia for the pioneering step taken in operationalising the ASEAN-OSHNET Plan of Action and in hosting the ASEAN-OSHNET Secretariat for the period 2000-2004. The Ministers noted that Malaysia would be assuming responsibilities of hosting the ASEAN-OSHNET Secretariat for the period 2004-2007.
16. The Ministers noted the steady progress of the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations which had completed its second year of implementation, supported by Japan. The Ministers looked forward to the preparation of a regional framework of collaboration for sound and harmonious industrial relations in ASEAN, addressing priorities such as labour management, wages and productivity, and industrial relations in the light of globalisation and trade liberalisation.
17. The Ministers registered a note of thanks to ASEAN Dialogue Partners such as Australia, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and others such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the ASEAN Foundation, for assisting ASEAN to address its priority projects on labour.
18. ASEAN Labour Ministers noted with satisfaction the pledge made by Myanmar for continued cooperation with the ILO in her efforts to abolish forced labour practices. The Ministers were also optimistic that the remaining obstacles between Myanmar and the ILO could soon be removed and pave the way for the full implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.
19. The Ministers were pleased to note the follow-up undertaken by the ASEAN Secretariat and the ILO in response to the specific recommendations of the ASEAN-ILO Joint Review Mission conducted in January 2003, which the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in May 2003 had agreed could serve as a guide for future ASEAN-ILO collaboration. The Ministers noted in particular that an activity to address the Joint Review’s specific recommendation on assessing the labour impact of AFTA implementation had been prioritised for implementation in 2004 as a cost-shared ASEAN-ILO initiative. The Ministers looked forward to learning more of the findings of the ASEAN-ILO Joint Study on Labour and Employment Impacts of AFTA. The Ministers also noted with appreciation the ILO’s offer to assist ASEAN implement activities addressing priorities such as HIV/AIDS in the workplace and on youth employment.
20. The Ministers also noted that their Senior Labour Officials had continued the momentum established in 2003 for focused and constructive exchange of views with ILO representatives.
21. The Ministers welcomed the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. The Ministers instructed their Senior Officials and the ASEAN Secretariat to further study the implications of the Report and to propose appropriate follow-up actions on the recommendations which may have particular relevance to regional integration in ASEAN.
22. The delegations of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and the people of Brunei Darussalam, particularly the Ministry of Home Affairs, for the warm and generous hospitality extended to the delegations and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Ministers also acknowledged with appreciation the valuable assistance and support of the ASEAN Secretariat for the success of the Meeting.
23. The Ministers agreed that the 19th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting would be held in May 2006, at a date and venue to be confirmed in consultation among the ASEAN countries.
24. The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.
List of ASEAN Labour Ministers or Their Representatives attending the 18th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, Bandar Seri Begawan, 13-14 May 2004
1. H.E. Pehin Dato Isa Dato Ibrahim
Special Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Home Affairs
2. H.E. Nim Thoth
Secretary of State of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation
3. H.E. Tjepy F. Aloewie
Secretary General, Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration
4. H.E. Somphanh Phengkhammy
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare
5. H.E. Datuk Wira Dr. Fong Chan Onn
Minister of Human Resources
6. H.E. U Tin Winn
Minister of Labour
7. H.E. Manuel G. Imson
Undersecretary of Department of Labour and Employment
8. H.E. Dr. Ng Eng Hen
Acting Minister for Manpower
9. H.E. Uraiwan Thienthong
Minister of Labour
10. H.E. Dr. Nguyen Luong Trao
Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs