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16th ASEAN senior officials meeting on Social Welfare and Development to commence


16th ASEAN senior officials meeting on Social Welfare and Development to commence

ASEAN Senior Officials meeting for Social Welfare and Development to commence

The 16th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting for Social Welfare and Development plus three begins today in Bangkok, Thailand.

The annual gathering seeks to strengthen cooperation among ASEAN members, Japan, South Korea, and China to promote and enhance the accessibility of social protection measures. Social protection responses to the pandemic will likely continue to be a main concern given a sharp rise in COVID infections in East Asia. In many ASEAN countries, deficiencies, including limited healthcare capacity and constrained national budgets—due to long-term economic disruptions—have hindered efforts to sustain inclusive social protection systems throughout the pandemic and recovery.

ASEAN members will likely expect support from Japan, China, and South Korea to enhance public healthcare capacity—the “plus three” countries will seek to further their own geopolitical interests through this expanded assistance. For example, three months after China donated 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines, Chinese vessels were spotted at Whitsun Reef. Japan also pledged to donate COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand to strengthen its financial and security ties with the region to counter Chinese aggression. Expect ASEAN countries be active geopolitical players and to consistently maintain their positions of strategic hedging in the region.

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Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty Images

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