Asean leaders to strive for equitable access to social protection
Danial Norjidi

SOUTHEAST Asian leaders agreed to strive for “equitable access” to social protection yesterday, as part of a set of 10 principles to be applied in accordance with the laws and policies of Asean member states.

The leaders outlined concrete actions to improve the quality, coverage and sustainability of social protection in a declaration that was adopted at the 23rd Asean Summit, which was chaired by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

“Everyone, especially those who are poor, at risk, persons with disabilities, older people, out-of-school youth, children, migrant workers and other vulnerable groups are entitled to have equitable access to social protection,” reads the declaration.

“Extending coverage, availability, quality, equitability and sustainability of social protection should be gradually promoted to ensure optimal benefits to the beneficiaries.”

According to an Asean statement, the implementation of this social protection should be realised progressively by governments and based on respect for fundamental freedoms, human rights, justice, solidarity, non-discrimination, accessibility, reasonable accommodation, gender equality, inclusiveness, coherence and accountability.

Social protection is described in the declaration as a “cross-cutting issue”, for which implementation requires “coordinated and holistic approaches” by multiple stakeholders.

The principles also stress the importance of strengthening families and community, ensuring an inclusive and participatory approach to social protection and investing in people by providing adequate resources to empower them to meet their basic needs.

At the same time, social protection should be “adaptive to the different risks”, such as lifestyle and individual risks, social risks and emerging regional risks and vulnerabilities.

In addition to the 10 principles, the gathered leaders also outlined 12 strategies and mechanisms to improve social protection.

These include collectively accelerating the progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in all Asean member states by strengthening capacity to assess and manage health systems to support UHC through the sharing of experiences, information and experts.

Concrete actions also include the promotion of “multi-sectoral responsiveness of social protection through consultations, sharing of information on good practices and policies, knowledge management, cooperation and coordination on social protection”.

In order to promote coordinated and holistic approaches, the Asean Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection calls for inter-sectoral regional consultations.

Such meetings, states the declaration, should be held as regularly as possible with the involvement of Asean sectoral bodies, including senior officials responsible for social welfare and development. - Borneo Bulletin (10 October 2013)