JERUDONG, 26 September 2013 – The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council met Thursday with Brunei calling for the human dimension to be incorporated into regional activities to ensure benefits are shared by all.
In an opening address, His Excellency Pehin Hazair Abdullah, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, said he was confident that ASEAN could achieve its socio-cultural goals – if the momentum of recent years is maintained.
“In the process, incorporating the human dimension in our broader work of regional integration and community building will ensure that development and the benefits of economic integration are equitably enjoyed by all member states and our citizens,” he said. Pehin Hazair was speaking at the tenth meeting of the ministerial council, its final gathering under Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year.
“When this Council first met in Thailand in 2009, the theme for the year included empowering people. In subsequent years, themes have focused on moving from vision to action, ASEAN’s place in the global community and how we share a single destiny,” he said.
“All of these themes continue to place importance on the people and their progress and development. They have a common thread with our theme this year, ‘Our People, Our Future Together’, which puts priority on building a people-oriented and socially-responsible ASEAN Community.”
Pehin Hazair noted encouraging signs from ASEAN’s increased economic integration between 2000 and 2011 such as lower incidence of poverty and higher life expectancy. At the same time, health and education have improved along with overall levels of human development.
As an example, the Minister cited ASEAN Community Progress Monitoring System figures published this year showing that the average number of school years completed by adults in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand rose from 7.5 years in 2005 to 8 years in
2010. For Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, the average climbed from 4.6 to 5 years in the same period.
“Such developments have been accompanied by increased prosperity, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank on the rising middle class in the region,” he said.
The report showed that Malaysia and Thailand were among the five countries with the largest middle class by population share among 21 emerging economies across the whole of Asia.
“Viet Nam and Indonesia were among five countries to make the greatest progress in increasing the share of the middle class between 1990 and 2008. And Lao PDR and Cambodia were both in the Top Ten.”
Holistic approach to social protection
Pehin Hazair stressed that social responsibility required social protection. “We must ensure that the community to which we aspire does not also neglect the welfare of the less fortunate,” he said.
“In Southeast Asia, we recognise that social protection requires a holistic approach, commitments, not just from governments, but all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.
“We need to empower targeted groups, especially through education, entrepreneurship, developing soft skills and promoting corporate social responsibility.”
The Minister said the region’s socio-cultural activities also offered unique opportunities to ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, notably Japan in the area of youth and Germany with the environment.
“These and other partners such as China, the European Union, the Republic of Korea and the United States – through activities under the socio-cultural pillar – are building important bridges between cultures,” he said.
Emerging network of young professionals
“Yet we are no longer solely reliant on expertise from outside the region. We have now an emerging network of our own young professionals and
entrepreneurs doing important volunteer work and social enterprise.
“Some of these young people could be among the future leaders of the region in the decades beyond 2015,” Minister said.
The Council meeting was held two weeks ahead of the Twenty-Third ASEAN Summit on October 9.
The ASCC Council coordinates the third pillar of ASEAN. Two other community councils coordinate the political-security and economic pillars.
Mr Abdul Khalid Mohammad Noor
Special Duties Officer
Public Relations Unit
Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports
Tel: (673) 238-1391 or 238-2903 (Ext 1135) Mobile: (673) 825-8692
Read JOINT MINISTERIAL STATEMENT OF THE 10TH ASEAN SOCIO-CULTURAL COMMUNITY (ASCC) COUNCIL here