1.         The Seventeenth ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting was convened from 8 to 9 May 2003 in Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia, preceded by the 2nd Senior Labour Officials Meeting held from 5 to 6 May 2003.

2.         The Meeting was officially opened by Her Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri, President of the Republic of Indonesia. In her Keynote Speech, H.E. Megawati Sukarnoputri noted that the 17th ALMM was timely in view of the current regional situation. H.E. Megawati Soekarnoputri reminded the Meeting of the challenges ASEAN countries had faced and addressed over the past five years, in particular the 1997-98 financial and economic crisis which had caused decrease in foreign investment, job opportunities, and losses of income sources for workers.

3.         H.E. Megawati Soekarnoputri acknowledged that since the establishment of ASEAN in 1967, ASEAN’s founding fathers had worked very hard to build the foundation of cooperation and the spirit of solidarity among ASEAN nations.  The shared conviction of ASEAN Members that progress and prosperity would be possible only with stable political and security in the region, continued to be relevant to the present day.

4.         H.E. Megawati Soekarnoputri urged the ASEAN Labour Ministers to closely observe and overcome the issues of employment in the region, in the firm belief that more integrated and harmonious regional strategies and policies would assist ASEAN countries overcome the present challenges

5.         The Meeting was attended by Ministers of Labour from ASEAN Member Countries. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. ASEAN Labour Ministers also held consultations with their counterparts from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in the afternoon of 9 May 2003. The list of ASEAN Labour Ministers and their East Asian counterparts is attached.

6.         His Excellency Jacob Nuwa Wea, Minister for Manpower and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia and His Excellency Dato Adanan Dato Md. Yusuf, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Brunei Darussalam were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Meeting, respectively.

7.         As host of the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea extended a warm welcome to the Ministers and their delegations.   H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea observed that the discussions of the 17th ALMM would serve not only as an inspiration for the ASEAN Labour Ministers to seek a better manner to increase human resource development, but also assist in further strengthening the foundation of ASEAN labour cooperation. Observing that labour and human resource development have been the most dynamic issues in the ASEAN region, H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea informed of the numerous challenges faced by Indonesia to addressing labour and human resources development concerns. Several events at the international and regional level had added to this challenge, in particular the effect of the SARS outbreak.

8.         H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea informed of measures undertaken by the Indonesian Government to prepare for the future global economy and the attending requirements of labour and human resources.   These measures included, among others, the establishment of Manpower Law 2003, the proposal on Industrial Relations Dispute Settlement Bill, as well as further developing the capacity and skills of the labour force and skills in order to enhance the human resources competitiveness in the Southeast Asia region.  H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea observed that these endeavours would be best achieved through sharing of experiences and closer cooperation among the ASEAN countries. In this way, ASEAN would be able to counter the challenge on human resource development in the light of the rapid advancement of information and communication technologies (ICT) and closer economic integration.  H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea also looked forward to further exhcnage of views with the +3 countries regarding ASEAN+3 cooperation in human resource development.

Addressing the Challenge of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

9.         ASEAN Labour Ministers 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 strongly supported joint action at all levels and across all relevant sectors to counter SARS.

10.       The Ministers recognised the value of exchanging experiences and information in controlling and containing the spread of SARS among Member Countries.   The Ministers also acknowledged that the comprehensive and stringent measures taken by affected ASEAN members are necessary to prevent the further spread of SARS to minimise the human toll and economic fallout. The Ministers noted with concern the adverse impact that SARS had already caused in the region’s labour and employment situation.

11.       The Ministers agreed to task the Senior Officials to convene soonest a Special Meeting on SARS, to discuss the impact of SARS on labour, employment, human resources and occupational safety and health, share experience and best practices in managing the SARS outbreak, and discuss the role to be played by the social partners in helping to ease the SARS impact on retrenchments, unemployment, and workers protection. This Special Meeting should inform the Ministerial-level Task Force and the various national focal points on SARS set up by the ASEAN Leaders on the need for the Special Meeting and to coordinate the appropriate follow-up actions. The Ministers requested the Philippine Government to consider hosting this Special Meeting. The Ministers agreed to invite China, Japan and the ROK to a Special ASEAN+3 Senior Labour Officials Meeting on SARS.

12.       The Ministers requested the ILO, which participated in an exchange of views during the 2nd Senior Labour Officials Meeting, to assist the Senior Labour Officials prepare for their special meeting on SARS. Similar requests would also be made to other relevant agencies such as the WHO and the ADB.

Progress of ASEAN Labour Cooperation

13.       ASEAN Labour Ministers noted with interest the convening of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Development Cooperation Forum in August 2002 and expressed satisfaction at the positive response received from ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and international agencies to support the priority projects on labour and employment.

14.       The Ministers noted with satisfaction the steady progress made in the implementation of ongoing ASEAN labour projects, and commended the spirit of self-reliance among ASEAN countries that had facilitated the initiation and implementation of several priority projects on labour. The Ministers also acknowledged with appreciation the contribution and support of ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and looked forward to more joint initiatives to address labour and employment issues.

15.       The Ministers congratulated Indonesia on the successful convening of the 4th ASEAN Skills Competition in Indonesia in October 2002. The Ministers also welcomed Viet Nam’s offer to host the 5th ASEAN Skills Competition in October 2004. The Ministers looked forward to more cooperation on promoting mutual recognition of skills, and sharing best practices on skills training strategies and measures among ASEAN countries.

16.       The Ministers were pleased to note the progress of the ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET) in implementing activities under the ASEAN-OSHNET Plan of Action, on a cost-sharing basis. The Ministers also noted that H.E. Megawati Soekarnoeputri had made special mention of the ASEAN-OSHNET regional homepage with hyperlinks to national OSHNET homepages in every ASEAN country. The Ministers acknowledged Japan’s contribution and assistance in establishing a computer-based network for the ASEAN-OSHNET, and a follow-up activity to enhance the use and maintenance of the network.

17.       The Ministers were pleased to note the progress of the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations which had commenced implementation in June 2002, with support from Japan.   The Ministers noted that the project would initially focus on strengthening the framework for industrial relations and labour management, wages and productivity, and the impact of technological change on industrial relations.    

18.       The Ministers were also encouraged to note that ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners such as Australia, the People’s Republic of China, the EU, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the UNDP, had joined hands with ASEAN to pursue ASEAN’s priorities on labour, particularly addressing emerging concerns such as promoting mutual skills recognition, expanding pension insurance coverage, strengthening social protection and social dialogue, and the impact of closer ASEAN economic integration on HRD planning and labour market monitoring.

ILO Matters

19.       ASEAN Labour Ministers expressed appreciation to the ILO for its assistance in undertaking a Joint Review Mission with the ASEAN Secretariat to identify and recommend areas for ASEAN-ILO cooperation. The Ministers agreed that the recommendations could guide ASEAN-ILO collaboration in the short-term, and that ASEAN and the ILO explore the formulation of a possible framework for longer-term collaboration.  

20.       The Ministers noted that their Senior Labour Officials had a useful and constructive exchange of views with ILO representatives on the role of the ILO regional and country offices in assisting ASEAN countries address issues of common concern, including the promotion of core ILO conventions and the allocation of ILO resources for the region. The Ministers expressed their hope that such developments would further strengthen collaboration between ASEAN and the ILO.

21.       The ASEAN Labour Ministers also acknowledged the efforts made by the Myanmar Government in eradicating the practice of forced labour from the country. In particular, the Ministers noted the Myanmar Government’s willingness to co-operate with the ILO by developing a Plan of Action and continue discussions with the ILO Liaison Officer in the efforts to eliminate forced labour. The ASEAN Labour Ministers reaffirmed their support for the Government of Myanmar in their quest to comply with the ILO Core Convention 29 on Forced Labour and called upon the ILO to consider removing the measures taken against Myanmar by the ILO.

Acknowledgement

22.       The delegations of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and the people of the Republic of Indonesia for the generous hospitality extended to the delegations and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Ministers also registered their sincere appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for its valuable contributions to the success of the Meeting.

23.       The Ministers welcomed with appreciation the kind offer by Brunei Darussalam to host the 18th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting tentatively in May 2004.

23.       The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN solidarity and cordiality.