ASEAN+3 Senior Officials Meet to Discuss Poverty Reduction Priorities

BEIJING, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Senior officials from the ASEAN+3 countries convened in Beijing today to open five days of meetings and field visits to advance progress on regional poverty reduction efforts.

Supported by the Goverment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and ADB, the Second ASEAN+3 Seminar on Poverty Reduction draws together senior delegations from countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, PRC, Japan, and Republic of Korea. It offers a forum for the discussion of regional experiences in poverty reduction and aims to promote consensus on key issues as well as priorities and new directions for policies and cooperation.

Following upon the first such forum - held in Vientiane in July 2005 - and organized by the PRC State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation (LGOP) and International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC), the Seminar comes at a critical turning point in Asia’s development.

Despite dramatic progress in addressing the needs of 920 million poor living on incomes below $1-per-day in 1990, roughly 620 million residents of the Asia and Pacific region remained in poverty in 2003, with millions more suffering from various forms of non-income poverty.

At the seminar’s opening ceremony, speaking alongside PRC Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, LGOP Director Liu Jian, ASEAN Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General Soeung Rathchavy, and other regional leaders, Director General of ADB’s East Asia Department, H. Satish Rao reviewed tremendous progress in poverty reduction efforts in Asia, but noted that “the job is far from completed.”

“Income poverty reduction has been impressive but performance on the non-income poverty front still requires improvement,” Mr. Rao said. “Areas of concern include primary education, child and infant mortality, maternal mortality, prevalence of tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS, and severe environmental problems.”

Mr. Rao’s remarks, read on behalf of ADB Vice-President C. Lawrence Greenwood Jr., pointed to key lessons learned from regional experience.

Among these is the need to sustain and broaden growth, which has been a critical engine for past poverty reduction in ASEAN+3 countries and the Asia and Pacific region as a whole. Growth processes must also be inclusive and participatory, ensuring progress in areas such as social development and environmental protection.

Mr. Rao stressed that “there is no one-size-fits-all solution to poverty,” noting that country-specific approaches are needed to address key local constraints.

National development plans must be supported by sound policies and backed by sufficient budgetary resources. At the same time, governments need to create conditions for broader engagement in poverty reduction efforts by stakeholders such as the private sector and civil society.

The international community can play a key partnering role, including by supporting the building of expertise and experience within institutions to ensure countries can develop, implement, and monitor effective poverty reduction strategies. “Regional economies must accelerate their efforts to integrate further,” Mr. Rao added. “The region must replicate successful initiatives.”

As a leading regional development institution, ADB has redoubled its commitment to supporting country-led efforts as well as regional dialogue and cooperation in poverty reduction, under its enhanced Poverty Reduction Strategy, approved in 2004.