In the past 20 months, we have seen the impact of COVID-19 on rural communities and the policies and programmes undertaken by our governments to respond to this pandemic. Pre-pandemic, the number of job and production losses and rates of hunger, malnutrition, violence, and poverty were already alarming. The pandemic has only doubled, even tripled these figures. Unfortunately, rural communities were unprepared for these impacts and are likely to endure them longer. Let me discuss some of the now-established impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the worst crisis in living memory, with its impact falling on almost, if not all, aspects of people’s lives. However, for some, especially the vulnerable, the effects feel disproportionately greater, both in terms of health and social-economic impact.
FIFA and ASEAN proudly joined forces to launch #ReachOut on 2 August 2021. #Reachout is a “campaign designed to promote healthy lifestyles to help combat the symptoms of mental health conditions, and to encourage people to seek help when they need it.” Football players from all 10 ASEAN Member States lent their positive influence to spread one key message—all good habits keep our minds and bodies healthy and well.
Reducing poverty and promoting rural development remains high on ASEAN’s agenda, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 140 to 160 million people are estimated to have fallen into poverty in 2021 due to the pandemic, and people living in rural areas are the hardest-hit. In the Asia and the Pacific region, an estimated 89 million more have been pushed back into extreme poverty. A 2021 report by the UN ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific) says the total headcount would double if the higher income criteria of 3.20 or 5.50 US dollars per day are considered (UN ESCAP, 2021a) . Beyond income poverty, there are 640 million multidimensionally poor people in Asia and the Pacific region (UN ESCAP, 2021b). These are people who are deprived of at least one of three weighted indicators–health, education and standard of living.
In the realm of rural development and poverty eradication under the ASEAN Cooperation Framework on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication, two levels of concrete cooperation mechanisms have been established.
The ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2016-2025 is a statement of commitment of and a guideline for ASEAN in building a community that engages and benefits ASEAN’s peoples, one that is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and dynamic. As the year 2020 is a pivotal year that marked the halfway of the Blueprint implementation, ASCC Monitoring Division (AMD), through the support of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), conducted the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the implementation of ASCC Blueprint 2025 and a series of capacity building activities on the development of monitoring and evaluation system of the ASCC Sectoral Bodies work programmes in the ASEAN Member States. Both projects generated lessons learned for ASCC to keep the Blueprint relevant for the Member States and the people of ASEAN.
On 30 August 2021, the ASEAN youth ministers launched a report on “Understanding How Young People See ASEAN. The study aims to fill in the missing puzzle piece of the ASEAN Youth Development Index launched in 2017: its fifth domain, the ASEAN Awareness, Values and Identity.
Suharso Monoarfa has been actively participating in numerous development projects in the country. Those experiences have shaped his career as well as equipped him with various essential soft skills.
The World Expo, with its 170-year-long history, has become the birthplace of the world’s greatest inventions and iconic structures. It is often dubbed as the “world’s greatest show” and is held only every five years.
Climate change remains one of the most challenging environmental issues of our generation and is an ongoing threat to global security. Its adverse impacts are manifested across communities around the world including in the Southeast Asian region. Significant research has uncovered notable changes in climate variables and climate related hazards in the region, including intensified extreme weather events.
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