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Strengthening the capacity of ASEAN member states

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Maham Farhat, Rodolfo Beazley

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made significant progress in poverty reduction in recent decades: over the past 25 years, the proportion of poor people has been reduced by more than two-thirds. At the same time, rising levels of economic growth have been accompanied in many countries by increased income inequality and vulnerability to shocks.

'Strengthening the capacity of ASEAN member states (AMS) to develop risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection for resilience' is a joint-UN project funded by ECHO. It aims to strengthen the capacity of AMS to design and implement risk-informed and shock-responsive systems to reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk populations, and strengthen their capacity to respond to and recover from shocks. By enhancing households’ resilience, this will mitigate the effects of shocks and improve preparedness for further crises.

As part of this initiative, the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific commissioned OPM to conduct a regional study on shock-responsive and risk-informed social protection systems in the ASEAN region.

The challenge

AMS are located in the most disaster-prone region of the world. Addressing the root cause of disaster vulnerability in the ASEAN region and building long-term resilience to climate extremes is vital to breaking the cycle of recurrent humanitarian crises and the remaining high levels of poverty.

The overarching research question for this regional study is: what factors enable social protection systems and programmes in ASEAN countries to be responsive to shocks and to deliver an effective response? This research served as a basis for national and regional dialogue to develop the ASEAN guidelines and protocol under ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (ADMER) for risk-informed shock responsive social protection.

Our approach

Our research drew on our previous pioneering work on shock responsive social protection. This research included:

  • a regional literature review – which included a general overview of recent shocks experienced by countries in the region and of poverty and vulnerability, and identified experiences in the use of national social protection mechanisms to respond to shocks;
  • a Thailand case study – which aimed to identify the factors that would enable the national social protection systems to be responsive to shocks;
  • a Lao PDR case study – which aimed to identify the factors that would enable the national social protection systems to be responsive to shocks; and
  • a regional synthesis report – which synthesised the findings of the other products and provides recommendations to the ASEAN Secretariat, AMS, and cooperating partners.

Outcomes

The project supported the generation of new evidence around shock-responsive social protection in the ASEAN research. It also enabled learning and knowledge generation across various international organisations, as we participated in wider dissemination and learning efforts in collaboration with WFP and other development partners. Moreover, this research served as a basis for national and regional dialogue to develop the ASEAN guidelines and protocol under AADMER for risk-informed shock responsive social protection.