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Regional Seminar seeks to enhance family well-being in Asia and the Pacific

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education. Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society. Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality.

Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality.

Social Development Division

This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies. Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged.

Fighting inequality in Asia and the Pacific | United Nations ESCAP

So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality.

Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response. The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted.

Social Protection to Support the Poor and Vulnerable in Asia and the Pacific

Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced. My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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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.

Such projects complemented other efforts to alleviate poverty and had significantly benefited the social capital of the country.

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 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.

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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.

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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.