Asean acknowledges ‘critical juncture’ for Socio-Cultural Blueprint
Danial Norjidi

ASEAN’S Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint is now at a crucial turning point, according to a report by an independent consultant.

The report, approved by Southeast Asian leaders and adopted at the 23rd Asean Summit chaired by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, states that the implementation of the blueprint has been “generally positive” over the past four years.

“Its implementation has reached a critical juncture,” reads the report. “While many stipulated action lines are achieved or are on track, it is important to closely monitor ongoing action lines including those still under formulation to ensure concerted and timely actions are taken.”

According to an Asean press statement, the report, dubbed the “Final Report of the Mid-Term Review of the Implementation of the Asean Socio-Cultural Blueprint”, contains nine priority recommendations.

Among these recommendations is the review and resetting of targets in the various socio-cultural sectors covered by the blueprint, along with enhancing monitoring tools and strengthening the Asean Secretariat.

Other priority recommendations highlight the need for strengthened coordination through cross-sectoral mechanisms, resource mobilisation, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches, a communication strategy that takes into account an even wider Asean Community and special consideration for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The same report also stresses the need for a commitment to implement the recommendations, calling for the creation of a core group of senior officials – along with representatives of ministerial sectoral bodies and the Asean Secretariat – to set priorities for an action plan.

The report also lists findings under five of the six characteristics on which the blueprint is based. These include human development, social welfare and protection, social justice and rights, ensuring environmental sustainability and building Asean’s identity.

“Implementation of the human development characteristic is positively progressing towards realising its goal to enhance the well-being and livelihood of the peoples of Asean by providing them with equitable access to human development opportunities,” says the report, which reveals that under this particular characteristic, 57 out of 61 action lines have been addressed.

“In the overall implementation of the social welfare and protection characteristic, progress is more than satisfactory,” says the report, noting activities relevant to 91 out of 94 action lines having been carried out. “Implementation appears to be on track while recognising the challenges involved.

“Likewise, in the social justice and rights characteristic, overall implementation is steady,” relating to 21 actions out of 28 having been addressed. “A feature under this characteristic is the continuing engagement with civil society through sectoral dialogue platforms and partnerships with dialogue partners that augur well for long-term sustainability,” the report says.

For environmental sustainability, the assessment was based on environmental performance index scores for 2010 and 2012. “In general, progress is satisfactory in this characteristic, but there is still a considerable amount of work to be done towards 2015.”

Building the Asean identity, according to the report, has “progressed through various confidence building activities”, with completed and ongoing activities and projects having addressed 48 of the 50 actions.

“Overall, the achievement of targets is commendable in some elements but needs improvement in others, especially in terms of dissemination of information.”

The report concludes by saying that the review of the blueprint has “helped build confidence, infused excitement and brought the ASCC community close, and the momentum needs to be maintained and the pace increased”.

This final report adopted by Asean leaders on Wednesday comprises the regional component of the Mid-Term Review and was funded by Brunei Darussalam. - Borneo Bulletin (10 October 2013)