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Transformational Partnerships in AVCs: a Game-Changer in the attainment of the SDGs in ASEAN

Propelled with the need to define a pathway in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically inclusive economic growth, zero poverty and hunger, and reduced inequality, participants from ASEAN countries gather together for the First Women’s Economic Empowerment and Social Enterprise Regional Visioning and Engagement Conference (WEE-SERVE Asia) last April 19-22, 2017 at the AIM Conference Center, Makati City.

More than fifty (50) representatives of social enterprises/ social enterprise networks, resource and support institutions of social enterprises, civil society organizations, inclusive businesses and companies practicing CSR in the agricultural, government agencies and policy makers, multilateral agencies, social impact investors, and academe took part in the 4-day conference. 

With the theme, “Promoting Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Empowerment in Agricultural Value Chains (AVCs) in ASEAN,” the conference served as a multi-stakeholder platform to promote agricultural value chain interventions and investments in ASEAN.

Specifically, the conference showcased social enterprise models that have had significant impact on the lives of the men and women small scale producers. These models were involved in the two-year action research from the countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines. It also validated and enriched the benchmarks for transformational partnerships derived from the cases. It also, to a certain extent, initiated dialogue with ASEAN agencies and member governments, as well as multilateral agencies operating in ASEAN, the business community, and social impact investors about the various social enterprise models present and of the benchmarks.

Senator Loren Legarda, a known staunch advocate of women and the environment, served as the Keynote Speaker. She highlighted the potentials of this sector in the attainment of inclusive economic growth, while also stressing the urgent need to pass laws supporting social enterprises both in the Philippines and at the ASEAN level. 

 “While programs and incentives enjoyed by MSMEs apply to social enterprises as well, it is imperative that legislation for social enterprises is passed. Pending in the Senate is the proposed Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Act, which would provide social enterprises with incentives such as tax exemptions, special credit windows and guarantee funds, and local government support, among others,” Senator Legarda said.

Further, she said that the ongoing ASEAN economic integration would make both MSMEs and social enterprises susceptible to greater competition with their constraints in finance, technologies, and markets. The participants came up with a joint declaration that enumerates their commitment to implement, promote, and mainstream the benchmarks for transformational partnerships in agricultural value chains in ASEAN and beyond.