Third Regional Forum of Ministers of Social Development from South Asia

The Third Meeting of the UNESCO Forum of Ministers in charge of Social Development from South Asia was jointly organized by UNESCO and the Ministry of Social Services of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka between 20-22 February 2011 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The meeting focused on “Social Protection Policies in South Asia”, in order to raise awareness and foster commitment towards the development of social protection policies based on high quality research. Participants of the meeting included ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and High-level Representatives from Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal, as well as over 50 researchers and scholars, social activists, representatives of UN agencies and international organizations from across South Asia, who engaged in social policy dialogue over social protection measures designed for the benefit of the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Hon. D. M. Jayaratne addressed the Inaugural Session of the meeting on Sunday 20 February 2011, which held special significance as it coincided with the celebration of the World Day of Social Justice, recognizing the importance of promoting human dignity, harmony and equality of opportunity. The celebration of this event for the first time in Sri Lanka highlighted the importance of social inclusion and cohesion among the challenges of development.

The Forum concluded with the adoption of a political Declaration, affirming political will and determination to promote and expand the scope of social protection policies in the region. In the Declaration, Ministers and Heads of Delegations including Hon. Ms Amena S. Afzali from Afghanistan, Hon. Mr Enamul Hoque Mostafa Shaheed from Bangladesh, Hon. Mr Felix Perera from Sri Lanka, Mr Tshewang Tandin from Bhutan, Dr Narendra Jadhav from India, Ms Mariya Ali from Maldives, and Ms Bindra Hada from Nepal agreed to, among other commitments, “increase public funding to build the capacities of the social sciences in the region, through evidence based research, analysis and statistics; adopt a comprehensive approach to social protection, encompassing preventive, protective and promotional measure that address both individual and community risks and deprivations; strive to move towards a universalized, rights-based, gender sensitive approach in the extension of social protection and advance the agenda for a social protection floor in the region, ensuring universal access to essential social transfers and services”.

The Forum enabled exchange between social science researchers and policy makers, facilitated the exchange of experiences and best practices on social protection policies of the participating countries, highlighted the need for the advancement of social research on neglected themes and excluded groups such as the migrants and the urban poor and increased awareness about the Social Protection Floor Initiative and its practical eligibility in South Asia.

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For more information, please contact

Marina Faetanini
Programme Specialist
UNESCO Office in New Delhi 
Email: m.faetanini(at)
Phone: + (91) 11 267 13000

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