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Commentary: Social cohesion, a challenge for ASEM partners

by ES Subong

Iloilo City (3 November) -- They at last recognized that if they do not engage in a coherent dialogue and cooperation, if they do not work together in maintaining social harmony, and if they don't combine this with economic growth, then no lasting and sustainable growth will be achieved.

In the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM-7), partner countries stressed the importance of sharing a common interest in strengthening social cohesion as mutually supportive with sustainable development, believing that the latter will facilitate increase in wealth of society, improve people's lives, human rights respected and improved, and guarantee social equity and justice.

In their declaration in Beijing during the October 24-25, 2008 meeting, ASEM partners recognized the fact that they are facing big challenges in narrowing gap in wealth among nations and maintaining social harmony, at the same time considering cultural diversity, job creation, health care and social security, against the backdrop of globalization.

Together, they have emphasized some measures and policies to be put into action for social justice and social cohesion to prevail.

One is for ensuring the universal access to education and they want more efforts by ASEM partners to invest in human capital and optimal utilization of human resources, provision of basic education by extending the coverage improving the quality of secondary and higher education, promoting professional and vocational education as well as enhancing lifelong learning for everyone.

Another is the ASEM partners' recognition for the promotion of full and productive employment, and decent work for all which is crucial to safeguard and improve people's livelihood, realize effective social cohesion and achieve the Millennium Development goals.

They further emphasized the need for social protection systems for social security and achieving a fair distribution of incomes which is of great relevance to social cohesion. They also welcomed the strengthening of the International Labor Organization's (ILO) capacity to promote the Decent Work Agenda and ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.

As the ASEM partners noted the need for ensuring social cohesion mitigating economic and social imbalances within and among countries, they also emphasized the importance of self-reliance and mutual cooperation of local communities.

Among others also, the partners have recognized the need to explore possibilities to develop cooperation with one another on international migration through policy dialogue, development cooperation and the pursuit of mobility partnerships.

More importantly also, they have recognized that harmony between man and nature is part of social harmony, and that ecological civilization is an important building block for social cohesion.

ASEM partners have tasked themselves to promote corporate social responsibility at both national and international levels, hence they are encouraging businesses to voluntarily undertake social responsibilities, complying with respective national conditions and international norms and laws and contribute to fostering a prosperous, harmonious and socially business environment.

These ASEM-7 statements may sound motherhood statements, but they actually are workable guide posts to those who mean to create a just and socially cohesive society of nations. It remains now for the ASEM partners to conduct more activities in the implementation of their declaration. (PIA 6) [top]

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