Enhancing cooperation to cope with post-crisis challenges was the main topic of an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum that opened in Hanoi on April 18.

More than 150 delegates from Asian and European nations and international organisations, and scientists and scholars both at home and abroad attended the event, co-organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Opening the event, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Doan Xuan Hung said the forum was being held at a time when all ASEM members are sparing no efforts to resolve the profound social impacts of the global economic and financial crisis.

Hung cited statistics from the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank as saying the crisis made around 205 million people unemployed and pushed approximately 64 million people into poverty.

The devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan on March 11 and severe natural disasters in many ASEM member countries, as well as political unrests in the Middle East and North Africa are threatening people’s social welfare and security, he said, stressing that stepping up international cooperation to ensure social welfare for all becomes an urgent task.

Accounting for 60 percent of the world’s population and 55 percent of the global GDP and boasting experience and advanced technologies, ASEM is fully capable of and has the responsibility for contributing to concerted efforts to people’s social welfare, the deputy minister added.

Eeva Kuuskoski, State Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said the ASEM forum aims to boost cooperation on the three pillars of politics, economics and society, covering the environment, culture and health care in order to create better lives for people.

Therefore, it was essential to build a Social Safety Net for all as it would not only bring benefits to people but also greater efficiency to the process of economic development, the official said.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan emphasised the need to work out a global solution to issues related to the Social Safety Net, including the protection of people’s fundamental rights, such as education, healthcare, safe water, essential goods, social security services and employment.

Vietnam always places top priority on fostering economic development and ensuring social welfare and progress, and these priorities are outlined in its international economic integration policy and national strategy on social safety for the 2011 – 2020 period, Ngan said./.