Monday, August 2, 2010

Addressing Development Gap and Poverty in Southeast Asia

Copyright © 2010 by Chester B. Cabalza

The ASEAN Summit in 2007 agreed that narrowing the development gap remains an important task which will ensure that the benefits of ASEAN’s integration efforts are fully realized. The efforts to narrow the development gap should be aligned with the broader aspects of ASEAN’s Integration Initiatives to its acceleration in the realization of the ASEAN Community by 2015.

The overall goal of Narrowing the Development Gap (NDG) is to promote effective cooperation and mutual assistance through concerted efforts among ASEAN Member States (AMS) and between ASEAN and the rest of the world. In operational terms, NDG efforts should assist to meet the targets and commitments towards realizing the ASEAN Community.

The efforts to narrow the development gap will be driven mainly by the IAI (Initiative for ASEAN Integration) Work Plan. The IAI Strategic Framework provides the policy direction for the formulation, implementation, monitoring and reporting for the period of 2009-2015.

An ASEAN community which is conscious of its ties of history, aware of its cultural heritage and bond by a common regional identity will be realized. It is also a community which is based on free track, common democratic ideals and shared social goods including a democratic identity.

We talked about community which means that there must be some degree of commonality with in the region but the problem is that we know ASEAN is made up of countries of varying nature, cultures and values. It should not be a problem as long as everyone is committed to the same universal principles including human rights and democracy.

In the Philippines, the challenges that we foresee is about poverty which is the most common feature also in most ASEAN countries. Reducing it is not a matter of redistributing wealth to the poor countries which is associated to ASEAN communities. It is not only the empowerment of the countries through the enhancement of capacities of communities and institutions, but most importantly, the empowerment of the citizens or individuals. ASEAN’s poor communities about enhancement of capacities are the most important turning point in the empowerment of the citizens because they lack the abilities to build their coalitions, their basic organizing skills; them sending issues to local media, their horizontal information sharing and their other skills that they give to the presentation of their concerns, needs and their abilities.

As a threat to national security, poverty has become the roots of many security issues, be it national or regional, in perspective, causing the continuous rise of armed rebellion, secessionism, and terrorism, where marginalized sectors are not developed and given equal opportunities. Thus, poverty is a common feature not only in the Philippines but in most Asean countries. Reducing poverty is not a matter of redistributing wealth but also empowerment through the enhancement of capacities, institutions, and individuals. Capacity building in communities is also crucial step in the empowerment of citizens. Hence, ASEAN’s poor communities lack the abilities to build coalitions, basic organizing skills, sending issues to local media, horizontal information sharing, and other skills necessary to give presentation to their concerns, needs, and abilities.

What could be the strategies is the demonstration of effective citizen participation is the Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) used and implemented in Vietnam in its poverty reduction policy. Other countries in the region use the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approach developed jointly by World Bank and the IMF – participation of citizens in political decisions allowing them to take part in deigning their lives and in creating the definition of what democracy means in their own local context. Lastly, democratic process requires Education of individuals and of communities to understand the extent of its associated entitlements and responsibilities. The belief that its educational approach binds the community and the individual to the wider network of national and regional communities.

The Philippines and other poor countries in the region should have the responsibility of addressing the issue of political security community and how it relates to citizenship and concept of borders. The Philippines can begin the dialogue by engaging the diverse communities within the country, by establishing their rights and responsibilities, giving voice to their concerns, activating their potential, and affirming the opportunity to be engaged citizens of a dynamic Philippines.

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