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Curated by ASEAN Disability Forum (ADF)

The ASEAN Ministers on Social Welfare and Development has just had a Special Meeting on Mitigating Impacts of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on Vulnerable Groups in ASEAN on 10 June 2020.

The meeting expresses concern on the pandemic outbreak and largest yet adverse impact towards the vulnerable and poor groups of society in ASEAN. Therefore, ASEAN supports the acceleration efforts or measures to mitigate the risks and worse has implications to the groups of poor and vulnerable in the ASEAN region.

In that regard, ASEAN recognizes the differentiated and disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 in ASEAN towards the poor children, older persons, women and girls, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups, and the pressing need to guarantee their protection and to promote their welfare.

The genuinely concerned also goes to children with disability whose particular risks faced by vulnerable children in the condition under migration, trafficking, conflict situation, forced labour, and many more.

The persons with disabilities have varied needs prior and during the pandemic, especially on the risk-responses, recovery, assistive device cares, most significant and light accessibility to basic health-cares, facilities, information centres, safety instructions, and secured livelihoods during quarantine and containment.

Being that said, an inclusive disability perspective should have been and has to be implemented in the undertaking measures to COVID-19 response and recovery. In that way, persons with disabilities with other various types of disabilities will not encounter barriers and discrimination for the foster consultation and participation in living amid the spread of COVID-19.

To mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, facilitate speedy recovery, and strengthen the resilience of the poor and vulnerable groups in ASEAN, the ASEAN member states resolve to do these followings according to the national laws, policies, and regulations:

a. Facilitate the access to social protection with appropriate allocation of public funds for social spending. Provide access to all essential goods and services to safeguard the well-being and livelihoods of the poor children, older persons, persons with disabilities, women and girls, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups in time of crisis.

b. Protect the rights, safety and dignity. Promote protection of the rights of the general public against all forms of discrimination, violence, neglected and exploitation, and to be included in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Identify and respond to child protection and gender-based violence risks, multiple vulnerabilities experienced by persons with disabilities and older persons at home and care facilities, migrant workers, and to prevent family separation and institutionalization.

c. Secure the health and safety of social workers at the forefront of pandemic response at all level. Allot sufficient public expenditure that would warrant the continuity of social welfare, social safety net and social protection delivery.

d. Strengthen inter-agency cooperation at the national level, and inter-sectoral cooperation at the ASEAN level. Strengthening multi sectoral collaboration, especially between social welfare, health, education, justice and finance sectors as well as synergy between Governments, development partners, private sector and civil society organizations and volunteers. Enhance effective and transparent public information and communication through official form of media for timely update of government social and development policy and measures in response to the pandemic and counter misinformation

e. Endeavor to develop comprehensive and integrated post-pandemic recovery programmes through stock-taking and sharing of good practices, development of guidelines and evidence-based data and knowledge building among others that recognize the specific vulnerabilities of the poor, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, and women and girls, migrant workers as well as other vulnerable groups.

f. Commit to develop continuity plans and measures that are disability inclusive, gender-responsive, age-sensitive and promotes social solidarity, children’s participation in close consultation with and meaningful participation of vulnerable groups and all stakeholders. It is imperative for the poor and vulnerable groups to have improved capacities and resilience to withstand, absorb and respond to the impacts of risks and shocks in the future.

g. Strive to leverage on technology and recognize the need to address the digital divide across and within ASEAN Member States, so as to assist in the development and implementation of the policies covering the vulnerable groups as well as minimize the negative impacts of the pandemic on them, particularly the older persons, women and children.

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