Representatives from various sectoral bodies in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) met virtually Thursday for a high-level roundtable to discuss accelerated actions to leverage social protection to address COVID-19 pandemic and to officially launch the ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster Responsive Social Protection to Increase Resilience.
The ASEAN region is facing a socio-economic crisis due to COVID-19. Average growth in GDP in 2020 has been estimated at just 0.1 percent, compared to a pre-pandemic forecast of 4.5 percent.
The pandemic threatens food security and livelihoods of 218 million informal workers, who constitute 67 percent of the total employment in ASEAN, and many other vulnerable children, older persons, people with disabilities, women and youth. Protecting these most vulnerable individuals calls for social protection to go beyond poverty reduction objectives. Existing social protection beneficiaries who are the poor and most vulnerable, need additional assistance, as they are usually the hardest hit.
Developed by three ASEAN sectors, namely disaster management, social welfare and development and health, with support from the United Nations, the European Union, Asian Development Bank and the Government of Canada, the Guidelines reflect ASEAN’s strong commitment for a multi-sectoral, integrated approach in building resilience.
“More than ever, as we live through this global pandemic, there is an urgent need for social protection systems and a multi-sectoral approach,” said Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “COVID-19 has delivered a devastating blow to the world economy, many ASEAN countries are also hit by drought, floods and cyclones, while Fall armyworm and the impacts of African swine fever continue to pose a menace to food security and livelihoods. The United Nations family, together with other development partners is delighted to provide support to ASEAN in this endeavour,” said Kim on behalf of the UN System.
Strengthening and expanding existing systems
This approach promotes working together to strengthen, adapt and expand existing social protection systems in order to anticipate and meet the needs of vulnerable groups and mitigate the impact of potential crises. It requires integrated information systems to capture vulnerabilities and the at-risk population to reach them in a timely manner. It also requires social protection programmes to be designed and implemented with flexibilities to scale up support for their regular beneficiaries as well as to deliver support to other vulnerable people in case of a disaster.
Such social protection systems simultaneously help mitigate the potential impacts of disaster on vulnerable people and reduce resources required for the costly response when the disaster strikes. Preparing and acting early to better manage disaster risks calls for stronger linkages between social protection and humanitarian assistance.
“The development and implementation of the Guidelines will ultimately accelerate coherent actions across sectors, including the implementation of the AADMER Work Programme, the ASEAN Declaration and Regional Implementation Framework on Social Protection, as well as the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Agenda and other regional frameworks,” said Kung Phoak, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, ASEAN Member States have spent hundreds millions US dollars to provide social assistance to the most vulnerable and affected people and for economic stimulus measures. As the Member States develop COVID-19 recovery plans, they were reminded of evidence from past economic crises that social protection is one of the most effective fiscal tools governments have at their disposal to provide economic stimulus.
Commending ASEAN Member States for their significant progress in supporting citizens through introducing crucial social protection mechanisms as part of their COVID-19 response, Lukas Gajdos, Deputy Head of the Mission of the European Union Mission to ASEAN said “the ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster-Responsive Social protection to Increase Resilience is a vivid example of how we should – and indeed must – work together. Coordinating effectively and efficiently within this space is about reinforcing each other’s comparative advantage to reach those who are most vulnerable”
“The European Union maintains that true mitigation and protection can only be achieved by including women and girls, as well as those with a disability, who are particularly at risk and the Guidelines help to reach this goal,” he added.
Note to editors:
The ASEAN Guidelines for Disaster Responsive Social Protection to Increase Resilience was an output from a joint UN (FAO, ILO, WFP, UNICEF) project on “Strengthening capacity of ASEAN Member States in developing and implementing risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection”, funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) during 2017-2019. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) with funding from the Government of Canada provided technical support. Other outputs include Country Roadmaps for risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection in ASEAN Member States (Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Viet Nam).
Following the success of the project, ECHO provides continued support for its phase II (2019-2021) to implement the Guidelines and the Country Roadmaps. Phase II also promotes the linkages between shock responsive social protection and Anticipatory Actions with both informed by improved risk analytics, forecast and early warnings and social protection being an effective instrument to deliver early, anticipatory actions to manage disaster risks and build resilience. The partnership has expanded to also include the Red Cross and Red Crescent and NGOs.