Singapore hosted the 6th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (SOMRDPE) and the 1st SOMRDPE + 3 from 13 – 15 October 2008, at the Carlton Hotel, Singapore.  The 6th SOMRDPE was attended by delegates from Brunei Darussalam, Kingdom of Cambodia, Republic of Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Union of Myanmar, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Kingdom of Thailand, Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the ASEAN Secretariat, on 13 – 14 October 2008.  They were joined by delegates from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea for the First SOMRDPE + 3 on 15 October 2008.

The Meeting was opened by Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore.  In her opening address, the Minister of State noted that the Meeting was important and relevant in meeting the pressing needs of rural development and poverty eradication in the region.  She noted that narrowing the development gap remains an important task which will ensure that the benefits of ASEAN’s integration efforts are fully realised.  She emphasized that narrowing development gaps within and between Member States must be done in tandem with larger ASEAN goals of community-building.

At the 6th SOMRDPE, ASEAN Member States took the opportunity to re-affirm their commitment to alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable rural development. The meeting reviewed the completed, ongoing and planned activities undertaken by member countries since the 5th meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication, held in Thailand in January 2007. The meeting also discussed further activities to be implemented under the Framework Action Plan on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (2004 – 2010).

The meeting discussed and endorsed the sections of the draft ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint related to poverty alleviation. In addition, the meeting discussed the implementation of the ASEAN Roadmap for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The First SOMRDPE + 3 meeting was held on 15 October 2008 to facilitate closer collaboration between ASEAN Plus Three countries in matters relating to sustainable rural development and poverty reduction. The ASEAN Plus Three countries reaffirmed the importance of the exchange of information, ideas and expertise between our countries to the process of narrowing development gaps and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The meeting exchanged ideas on furthering the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation on rural development and poverty eradication.  The meeting noted the joint actions and measures set out under the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007 – 2017) adopted by the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Plus Three countries in Singapore in November 2007 at the 11th ASEAN Plus Three Summit, and also the priorities set out under the Framework Action Plan on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (2004 – 2010). The meeting also discussed joint projects and activities that were proposed in these areas which included micro-financing; narrowing the development gap; climate change adaptation in the context of rural development and poverty alleviation; addressing poverty among the socially vulnerable groups; engaging community leaders; rising food prices, natural disasters and poverty reduction; and the feminization of poverty. The meeting agreed that details of these proposed joint projects and activities should be developed for further discussion and brought before the Second SOMRDPE+3 for consideration. The ASEAN Secretariat will assist in compiling the details of the proposed projects and activities and working towards matching them under the Framework Action Plan on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (2004 – 2010) and the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017).

The 6th ASEAN Ministers Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication is scheduled to be held in 2009 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, whilst the 7th SOMRDPE is scheduled for 2010 in Thailand. The 2nd SOMRDPE + 3 will be hosted by Thailand in 2010, immediately following the 7th SOMRDPE.