The 8 th ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD 8) was held in Hanoi on September 13.

In his opening remarks, Vietnam ’s Deputy Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) Nguyen Trong Dam said that over the past few years, ASEAN member nations have focused on raising the level of social welfare and security for their citizens with many projects, activities and initiatives at both national and regional levels.

They have carried out their commitments to improve social welfare and included them in their national programmes and policies, he said.

However, Dam noted that the region still faces high poverty and unemployment rates and continuous natural disasters, resulting in many fatalities and serious financial losses.

ASEAN countries need to boost cooperation and the exchange of information and experiences to effectively address emerging social issues, especially those related to the rights and interests of women, children, the disabled, old and other disadvantaged groups, he suggested.

The SOMSWD 8, themed ‘Promoting Social Welfare and Security for Disadvantaged People’, took place in the context of intensive and extensive ASEAN commitments on social welfare and development.

The grouping’s priorities on social welfare for women and children as well as providing more services for the disabled have been pledged by ASEAN leaders in a number of declarations.

The selection of the theme as well as measures to ensure social welfare is down to ASEAN efforts and determination to implement the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) plan to help speed up the formation of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

SOMSWD 8 focused on the implementation and supervision of the ASCC’s plan on social welfare and assessed the ASEAN’s progress in reaching its Millennium Development Goals. The group’s declaration to promote the inclusion of the disabled and action plans on social welfare, the family and children was also debated.

The meeting agreed on the agenda and contents for discussions at the 7 th ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Social Welfare and Development with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (SOMSWD+3).

The outcomes of the SOMSWD 8 will be presented at the ASEAN Minister’s Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (AMMSWD), which will convene in Cambodia in 2013.

The results will also be shared at an ASCC meeting held during the 21 st ASEAN Summit, to boost social service and security for disadvantaged people proposed by Vietnam .

SOMSWD is an important annual forum for ASEAN senior officials in charge of social welfare to discuss their policies for disadvantaged groups to implement the AMMSWD’s decisions. SOMSWD 7 took place in Thailand with the theme ‘Establishment of the Social Protection Floor on Social Welfare and Development in ASEAN’.-VNA