Excellency Ministers of Social Welfare and Development of ASEAN and ASEAN+ Countries,
Excellency ASEAN Secretary General,
Excellency Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen Distinguished guests
It is my pleasure to attend the opening of the 8th ASEAN and 4th ASEAN+3 Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development and Related Meetings organized by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation in the country of Angkor, the Kingdom of Cambodia.
On behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I would like to extend warm welcome to delegations from ASEAN member countries, People’s Republic of China, Kingdom of Japan and Republic of Korea who participate in this important meeting held in this historic and wonderful city of Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia. In this friendly atmosphere, I believe that the meeting will help enhance relations among all ASEAN and ASEAN+3 countries as it enables us to share information and broaden and deepen our cooperation in all fronts, from politics, security, economy to socio-cultural affairs. Moreover, your presence underline the strong friendship and cooperation among ASEAN member countries and their continued commitment to the realization of ASEAN Economic by 2015, based on the three interlocking and inseparable pillars i.e. ASEAN Political and Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
As you are aware, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in 2012, successfully hosted the 20th and 21st ASEAN Summits and related meeting, along with emphasis on Phnom Penh Agenda to take stock and review past achievement, and propose appropriate solutions aimed at accelerating social development, cementing ASEAN’s centrality and its consensus on international affairs, especially ensuring regional security and contributing global peacekeeping. In addition, during the whole year as ASEAN Chair, Cambodia fulfilled its role with a great sense of responsibility and worked hard with other ASEAN member countries to harness opportunities of Asia century and enhance the role of ASEAN on the global stage in order to achieve important outcomes towards the establishment of a strong ASEAN Community under the theme of “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”. The achievement represents the national pride of Cambodia as the Chair of ASEAN, especially progress in all sectors, including great and long-lasting solidarity and friendship among ASEAN member countries. In addition, Section 23 of ASEAN Leader’s Joint Statement in 2012 views social welfare and development sector as an important part of poverty reduction of the ASEAN peoples.
Overall, past and present achievements of ASEAN play an important role in shaping ASEAN identity, raising awareness on ASEAN among the ASEAN peoples, and transforming ASEAN into a closely integrated political, economic and socio-cultural entity, an influential player in Asia as well as an indispensible strategic partner of major countries and organizations in the world. This shows that ASEAN has a great sense of responsibility in working with the international community to address various regional and global issues.
This meeting is an important event that will help realize objectives of the ASEAN’s three pillars, including the enhancement of welfare and livelihood of ASEAN peoples by ensuring equitable access to opportunities for human development, social welfare and justice, especially the development of Social Services for All.
Social welfare and development is indeed a global issue, especially for developing countries, including ASEAN member countries. In the new decade, social welfare and development has been incorporated into socio-economic development strategies of ASEAN countries and viewed it as an important component to bring about equity and prosperity, and good social safety net which help enhance social welfare and socio-economic development.
For this objective, the Royal Government of Cambodia has drawn up the National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and the Vulnerable 2011-2015, aimed to consolidate all programs and services being implemented by various institutions to be under a single social protection framework to facilitate analytical work, reform, resource mobilization to protect the whole Cambodian society.
In the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Royal Government views social welfare sector as a priority as set in the fourth side of the Rectangular Strategy-Phase II and will continue its attention to this sector, especially social safety net, during the new legislature of the National Assembly. Cambodia has gradually increased social interventions by stepping up cooperation with national and international organizations to enhance employment opportunities, reduce vulnerability of the poor, increase rescue services for victims of natural and other disasters, and expand rehabilitation program for the persons with disabilities as well as welfare enhancement program for the elderly, orphans, female victims, homeless people, veterans and their families.
In general, the Royal Government has always paid attention to the welfare of the poor, the vulnerable and responses to natural and social disasters. In particular, disabilities have been incorporated into the national action plan for persons with disabilities by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022 and Incheon Strategy to Make the Right Real, and enacting the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that ensures persons with disabilities have equal rights and equal opportunities as those of normal people, enabling them to contribute to social development and gain esteem.
Besides, the Royal Government of Cambodia also focuses attention on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child while ensuring attention on the four basic rights of children in the legal framework, important mechanisms and all activities. In fact, Cambodian National Council for Children has been implementing activities relating to the four rights i.e. survival, development, protection, and participation of children as well as enhancement of their welfare aimed to protect the four rights of children and implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Alongside, the Royal Government of Cambodia is a signatory to the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and through this declaration, the Royal Government has been promoting the implementation of Policy on Welfare of the Elderly, and Social Security Scheme for Civil Servants and Veterans. As a consequence, welfare of the elderly has been strengthened and expanded through the establishment of associations of the elderly and elderly care facilities in communities.
In addition, the Royal Government of Cambodia has paid attention to implementing the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. All these show the government’s attention on strengthening and improving social protection towards Development of Social Services for All.
It is true that the progress of this sector also highlights the Cambodia’s aspiration: “By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, Cambodia is to reclaim a full ownership of its own destiny, while becoming a real partner in regional and global affairs and a nation of genuine freedom and being free from poverty”.
All above further reaffirm that Royal Government of the Fifth Legislature of the National Assembly, expected to take office in the near future, will double its attention and effort to bring about in-depth development of the social sector that is more comprehensive to improve welfare of the people through strengthening social services to support all kinds of victims and the vulnerable while also strengthening social security system to help insure against risks, move social services closer to the people and increase participation from the public.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
With connection to Development of Social Services for All, a very important theme ASEAN member states have been actively working on to include it in the 10th Socio-Cultural Community Council Meeting, and subsequently, the 23rd ASEAN Summit to be held in October 2013 in Brunei Darussalam, I would like to share with you a number of recommendations as follows:
First: To strengthen the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Pillar, attention should be focused on promoting social protection at both national and sub-national levels according to the context of each ASEAN member state in order to enable everyone, especially the poor, the vulnerable, persons with disabilities, the elderly, drop-out students, migrant workers and all groups of victims receive equal social protection services and other necessary services for everyday’s life.
Second: The implementation of social protection is the achievement of each ASEAN member state and a cross sectoral issue, therefore appropriate methods and involvement from all stakeholders are necessary to ensure successful implementation.
Third: Identify key principles, strategies and mechanisms for expanding the coverage of social protection which is badly needed by the people, especially persons with disabilities, the elderly, children and the vulnerable.
Fourth: Prepare action plans, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for all levels of social protection services to respond to the demand of the people.
Fifth: Continue working closely together to maintain ASEAN’s centrality in the region and step up all levels of cooperation, especially through ASEAN and ASEAN+3 frameworks based on ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Plan of Action, including provision of recommendations and implementation of measures aimed at strengthening ASEAN cooperation.
Sixth: Step up cooperation among ASEAN Ministers of Social Welfare and Development, a key for addressing and overcoming challenges to realize the Development of Social Services for All. We should focus our attention on examining social issues and understanding the potential impact on the peoples, especially the poor, the vulnerable, due to challenges caused by ASEAN integration 2015.
Seventh: Strengthen and expand cooperation among national and international organizations, development partners and NGO to mobilize technical and financial resources for the development of social welfare. In this regard, social welfare is an investment in national development, contributing to poverty reduction.
Eight: Discuss and provide recommendations the draft ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection and the draft ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children to provide inputs to the ASEAN Summit in Brunei Darussalam in October, 2013.
In this connection, the Royal Government of Cambodia will further implement strategic plans and important mechanisms to promote sustainable development and enhance welfare of its people, especially the poor, the vulnerable, women and children. In this spirit, it is necessary for ASEAN member states to continue working together through good cooperation and coordination to jointly address issues in the region, by jointly exploring policy options and strategies, as well as new initiatives to bring about common development, towards the realization of “our peoples, our future”.
I believe that all participants from ASEAN member countries will discuss and come up with effective measures to step up our cooperation, and sharing of information, experiences, methods and best practices in social protection, especially for Development of Social Services for All. In addition to the meeting of ASEAN member countries, there will also be the meeting of ASEAN+3, i.e. ASEAN member countries, People’s Republic of China, Kingdom of Japan and Republic of Korea which I hope will bring about close cooperation and fruitful outcomes.
Finally, I would like to wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen good health and pleasant moment during your stay in this country of Angkor. I look forward to the smooth conduct and fruitful outcomes of the meeting.
May I now declare the opening of the 8th ASEAN and 4th ASEAN+3 Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development and Related Meetings.