Minister Fast Continues Sustained Engagement with ASEAN

Four-day trade and development mission to Laos and Burma to strengthen commercial and economic ties

August 26, 2014 – Vientiane, Laos – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, today kicked off a trade and development mission to Laos and Burma from August 26 to 29, 2014, to continue to build stronger economic ties with the region and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Minister Fast’s first official visit to Laos also represents a milestone in the bilateral relationship; it will be the first time in history that a Canadian trade minister has visited the country. Through meetings with government officials and representatives of Canadian companies operating in Laos, Minister Fast will also highlight opportunities to deepen trade and bilateral relations between our countries.

In Burma, Minister Fast will participate in the third ASEAN Economic Ministers-Canada Consultations and will continue Canada’s sustained engagement with the 10 ASEAN member nations on trade, investment and economic ties.

Including his visit to Laos, Minister Fast will have led trade missions to all 10 members of ASEAN, a priority objective under the Global Markets Action Plan. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has also visited every ASEAN member nation. Together, Ministers Fast and Baird are engaging comprehensively with ASEAN in supporting human rights, improving regional security, reducing transnational crime, and increasing trade and investment opportunities.

The four-day, two-country trade and development mission will be Minister Fast’s fourth visit to Asia this year and his 16th visit to Asia in total.

Quick Facts

  • The 10-member ASEAN bloc consists of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • In 2013, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade grew by 7.3 percent, amounting to almost $17 billion. It has increased by 30.3 percent over the last five years.
  • In August 2012, Minister Fast announced the creation of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council, which focuses on increasing private sector cooperation between Canadian and ASEAN businesses.
  • In September 2013, Minister Fast led a trade mission to Burma, following his announcement of a permanent, full-time Canadian trade commissioner at Canada’s embassy in Burma.
  • In August 2014, during the ASEAN-Canada Post-Ministerial Conference, Minister Baird announced the expansion of Canada’s diplomatic footprint in the region to include resident representation in Laos, bringing a Canadian presence to all 10 ASEAN member states. Baird had earlier announced a new, dedicated Canadian ambassador to ASEAN.


“Our government made a point of engaging with ASEAN, a group of countries that represent important markets for Canadian business. We will continue to advance Canada’s interests throughout the dynamic and fast-growing Asia-Pacific region in order to support job creation and economic growth back home.”

– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade

Associated Links


Shannon Gutoskie
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade
Like us on Facebook: Canada’s International Trade Plan-DFATD

Singer Sami Yusuf Joins WFP As Global Ambassador Against Hunger

WFP Ambassador Against Hunger Sami Yusuf at Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan,  April 2013 where he saw at first hand the plight of refugees who fled the conflict in Syria. Copyright WFP/Dina El-Kassaby,

ROME – The internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and composer, Sami Yusuf, has today joined the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) as a Global Ambassador Against Hunger.  Yusuf, who is a long-term supporter of WFP, will use his status as a hunger Ambassador to raise awareness about WFP’s life-saving work on the frontlines of hunger and to advocate on behalf of the hungry and vulnerable.

“I am honoured and delighted that Sami is adding his powerful voice to the push for zero hunger,” said WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin.  “He has demonstrated a deep commitment to helping WFP address the needs of the hungry and in his new role as a Global Ambassador Against Hunger he can take this to a whole new level.”

Yusuf has already visited WFP operations providing food assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan and he has seen how WFP works to improve access to nutritious food in Egypt.  In the past, he has donated proceeds from the sale of his records to support WFP’s work in response to the Horn of Africa drought in 2011 and, more recently, he dedicated one of his songs to the survivors of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

“Hunger is a tragic contradiction in an age that’s known for mass production and consumption,” said Sami Yusuf.  “It’s a sad reality that kills not only bodies but also a people’s spirit and hopes for future prosperity and peace of mind.  It is a privilege to have been appointed Global Ambassador Against Hunger for WFP and to be given the opportunity to serve such a noble and noteworthy cause.  I will strive to do my utmost to help eradicate hunger – something that simply should not exist in our time.”

As a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, Yusuf joins an influential group of international celebrities and sports men and women, including the actress, Drew Barrymore, the singer, Christina Aguilera, Chelsea Football Club Manager, Jose Mourinho and the footballer, Kaka.  

As a multi-million album-selling artist, Yusuf has a huge international following.  Yusuf actively engages with his loyal fan base on social media, reaching out to millions through his profiles on Facebook and Twitter, which he has used to draw attention to the activities of WFP in response to hunger crises around the world.

#                              #                                 #

Hunger Facts:
•    842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat.
•    Poor nutrition causes nearly half of all deaths among children under the age of 5 years.
•    One in four of the world’s children are stunted and in some developing countries, this figure can be as high as one in three.

#                              #                                 #

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food in emergencies and working with communities to build resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media and @wfp_mena

Follow Sami Yusuf on

For more information please contact (email address:
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Mobile: +2 010 6663 4352
Laure Chadraoui, WFP/Dubai, Mobile: +971506502338
Emilia Casella, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3854, Mob. +39 347 9450634

Philippines: How WFP And USAID Helped Prepare Sorsogon For Typhoon Glenda

Typhoon Glenda destroyed houses and other infrastructures in Sorsogon.
Photo credit: WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

One never knows the effectiveness of a disaster preparedness and response programme until a disaster strikes. So how did communities in Sorsogon fare when Typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun) hit their province?

The Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR) initiatives of the World Food Programme (WFP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), was recently tested when strong winds and rains battered the province of Sorsogon on Wednesday, the 15th of July this year. 

Typhoon Glenda stayed in Sorsogon for only four hours but it took the lives of two people and injured eight.  The devastation it left in its wake amounted to seven billion pesos worth of damages to agriculture, fisheries, livestock, houses, and government infrastructures.

“We were seriously hit by the typhoon,” said Casiguran Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Officer (MDRRMO) Luisito Mendoza.

“We compare this (Typhoon Glenda) to Reming,” said Juban MDRRMO Lizpeth Nicolas. 

Typhoon Reming (international name: Durian) was a tropical cyclone that devastated the Bicol region back in 2006 which killed six people and injured 26 in Sorsogon. 

“In our coastal areas, our people are telling us that they are experiencing things they haven’t experienced in the past. We’ve experienced a storm surge and the high rise of seas. It’s the first time. This is the strongest so far since we started the DPR programme in 2011,” added Nicolas.

Since 2011, WFP’s DPR programme has been in various stages of intervention in seven targeted communities — the province of Sorsogon, Sorsogon City, and in the municipalities of Casiguran, Irosin, Juban, Prieto Diaz, and Sta. Magdalena — with the help of partners from the academe (Bicol University) and non-government organizations (Green Valley Development Program and Integrated Rural Development Foundation) and through USAID/OFDA funding of PhP33 million.

Sorsogon is a province in the Bicol region which ranks fourth nationwide in terms of typhoon risk, and sixth in terms of volcanic risk. Glenda was the seventh typhoon to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility this year, and it made its first landfall in Albay province at around 5:00pm with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometres per hour.

The whole Sorsogon province sprang into action a few days before and after Typhoon Glenda made landfall. Before the typhoon hit, the province organized pre-emptive evacuation at the barangay (village)level, with more than 59,000 families evacuated from Sorsogon City and its 14 municipalities. 

“During our GIS (Geographic Information System) training, the community already learned about the hazards they were exposed to, so we conducted pre-emptive evacuation. When the storm surge occurred, there was no one left in the danger areas,” said Juban MDRRMO Nicolas. 

“As early as the day before the typhoon, our people went around the barangays, especially in the coastal areas. We informed them of the situation and told them it’s time to evacuate,” said Bim Dineros, emergency medical service staff of the City of Sorsogon. By the following day, the City of Sorsogon already evacuated their residents who lived in the danger areas.

After the typhoon struck, the local governments were immediately ready to respond. Emergency responders were deployed to assist injured people and clearing teams were organized to remove fallen debris from the roads.

 Casiguran MDRRMO

“Our barangays are trained to rescue because we just finished our basic life support training,” said Irosin MDRRMO Andres Grajo. 

“All of our equipment came from World Food Programme,” shared Casiguran MDRRMO Mendoza. “We were able to use the clearing tools to immediately clear the roads. The roads were passable the day after. We were also able to use the generator for the office and sleeping mats for the evacuees.

The DPR projects in the different areas of Sorsogon comprise capacity building for municipalities in GIS training, hazard mapping and contingency planning; establishment of emergency response teams with trainings on basic life support, water and search rescue and swift water training; setting up emergency preparedness structures such as early warning systems, disaster operations centre and evacuation centre; climate change adaptation initiatives like a climate change resiliency school, mangrove reforestation, and biochar training; academe and NGO innovations like tunnel-type agriculture, documentation of indigenous knowledge and skills, family and child-centred DPR trainings, and mobile DPR resource centre; and IEC on disaster preparedness.

Building Better Capacity For Preparedness

Aside from disaster response, years of careful groundwork has prepared the communities for the inevitable storm that came to Sorsogon. In Sta. Magdalena, a fifth class municipality in Sorsogon, the information, education, and communication campaign (IEC) proved effective as residents readied themselves before the onslaught of the typhoon. Sta. Magdalena had no casualties from Typhoon Glenda.

 WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

“I can say that the biggest achievement that we have is the increased awareness of the people on disasters, not only for the community but also us in the local government,” said Sta. Magdalena MDRRMO Marlon Futol.

Arvin Fuellas, 33, a resident of Barangay 2 Poblacion, Sta. Magdalena, said that the local government unit gave them early warning. “The people here were informed by the barangay officials of the oncoming typhoon as early as two days before,” he said. “When we learned there was a typhoon, we immediately prepared non-perishable food and water. We also charged our cellphones. People here are alert.”

“Our constituents are ready,” Nicolas said. “We started a capacity needs assessment where we identified all the gaps. We had a community-based disaster management planning that was participatory and inclusive together with persons with disability, where they made their contingency plans—identified vulnerable elements at risk and they planned the resources needed. So on my side, I am confident that the barangay can manage because they know what to do.”

 WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

“Juban is really very thankful for your kind heart. We are lucky enough that WFP and the US helped us to be prepared and so we quickly responded to the situation,” said Nicolas.

“On behalf of Sta. Magdalena, we would like to convey our great appreciation to USAID and of course, to WFP and other agencies. It’s really a great opportunity for Sta. Magdalena as the farthest town of Sorsogon,” said Sta. Magdalena municipal mayor Jocelyn Gallanosa. “We are looking forward for more partnerships for the betterment of everybody, and of course, in the name of being prepared during disasters.”

A Bold New Way of Measuring A Country’s REAL Wealth

Ed note. This piece appears in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission. The author, Mahmoud Mohieldin, is Corporate Secretary and the President’s special envoy at the World Bank

When the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline expires next year, the world will be able to point to several important achievements since their launch in 2000. Extreme poverty has been halved during this period; an estimated 100 million slum-dwellers have gained access to safe drinking water, and millions to health care; and large numbers of girls are now receiving an education. But considerable unfinished business and significant performance discrepancies remain.

The post-2015 development agenda will continue where the MDGs left off, while adding further objectives relating to inclusion, sustainability, jobs, growth, and governance. The success of the coming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will depend on how new programs are developed, implemented, and measured.

Strong economic growth enables people to improve their lives and creates space for new ideas to thrive. But such growth is often accompanied by environmental degradation, which diminishes human health and quality of life, threatens water supplies, and compromises ecosystems, impeding growth for future generations. Moreover, short-term growth that erodes natural capital is vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles, and can cause people who live close to the poverty line to fall far below it.

Taking a longer-term view of growth and accounting for social, economic, and environmental equity must be a top priority for the post-2015 development agenda. Discussion of the SDGs is now taking into consideration the need to incorporate food, water, and energy security, together with urban planning and biodiversity. But translating prospective goals into actions at the country level will not be feasible without measurable and meaningful indicators to guide policy and measure progress.

One method of measurement is “natural capital accounting,” which assesses the value of natural resources in development planning and national accounts, just as a family would account for their home’s value – and the cost of maintaining it – when deciding how much of their regular income to consume. A recent World Economic Forum report proposes a “dashboard” for inclusive and sustainable growth. This model brings together natural capital accounting, a human-opportunity index, a gender-gap index, measures of public investment as a percentage of GDP, a competitiveness index, indicators of shared prosperity, and disaggregated unemployment data.

A World Bank-led partnership, Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES), shows governments how certain behavior depletes natural assets, and how natural capital accounting can help to establish more sustainable development policies. Following a campaign at the 2012 Rio+20 Summit, 70 governments, including those representing 40 middle- and low-income countries, endorsed natural capital accounting.

The method has already been put to good use around the world. “Forest accounts,” for example, have revealed that Guatemala has the fastest deforestation rate in Central and South America, with most uncontrolled logging being carried by households for their cooking needs. This information has spurred the Guatemalan government to review the country’s forestry law, and to fund new strategies to control firewood use, prevent unauthorized logging, and encourage families to use alternative energy sources.

Botswana’s attempts to diversify its economy are constrained by water shortages; but “water accounts” are helping the government to identify sectors – including agriculture, mining, and tourism – that can grow with minimal water consumption.

In the Philippines, where 60% of GDP is generated by industries and associated services in the Laguna Lake region of Metro Manila, pollution and siltation has already reduced the lake’s depth by one third. “Ecosystem accounts” have become instrumental in determining how better to manage this resource. These accounts are also being used to improve forest management in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, where forests are a vital resource for two major growth sectors, tourism and hydropower generation.

These experiences are vital in shaping the post-2015 development agenda. Incorporating sustainability forces governments and businesses to consider the environmental impact of their decisions. A UN report calls on all governments to adopt natural capital accounting so that their sustainability efforts can be consistent, accurate, and comparable over the long term. Institutionalizing sustainability in this way will make it an intrinsic part of day-to-day governance.

Only by shifting to a broader understanding of growth and development can the world address the pressing problems of inequality and sustainability. Placing that understanding at the heart of the SDGs will help to improve the health and wellbeing of all societies long into the future.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, is Corporate Secretary and the President’s special envoy at the World Bank

Synthetic drugs a major drag on development and the rule of law in East and Southeast Asia

20 August 2014 – East and Southeast Asia remain the world’s largest markets for synthetic drugs, and the methamphetamine problem is showing signs of accelerating, according to senior policy, law enforcement and justice delegates at a special regional conference organized by UNODC’s Global SMART Programme which started today in Yangon, Myanmar.

Growing demand in East and Southeast Asia for methamphetamine is being met by large-scale production in China, Myanmar and several other countries in the region. Information presented at the conference confirms continued high, and rising, demand and supply of methamphetamine.

“Organized crime groups are well positioned to take advantage of regional integration agreements to expand the trafficking of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “Capacities to ensure the rule of law vary greatly across the region, and this evolving and growing threat diverts increasing amounts of scarce state resources away from efforts to develop and improve governance. It can’t be ignored that the billions generated for organized crime exceed the size of several national economies in the region. Where is the money going?” added Mr. Douglas. 

While most of the methamphetamine produced in East and Southeast Asia is consumed within the region, large quantities are also being trafficked to nearby major markets such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and more recently to neighbouring South Asia. Transnational criminal groups also continue to identify new precursor sources and methods for production, and are diversifying trafficking routes.

Myanmar remains a major source of both methamphetamine pills and crystal methamphetamine, or “ice”, with significant volumes from the country being seized in neighbouring states. At the same time officials from the Government of Myanmar acknowledged that methamphetamine use is rapidly increasing across the country.

“A much greater degree of information sharing and cooperation is needed to effectively respond to the synthetic drug and precursor problems in our country and across ASEAN” said Pol. Brig. Gen. Kyaw Win of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), Ministry of Home Affairs. “No country can tackle these challenges alone, and there is no doubt we need improved training and support for frontline law enforcement and justice officers, especially along the Mekong corridor and in remote areas of the region.”

Several delegations raised concerns about new psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as “legal highs”, being produced by introducing slight modifications to the chemistry of controlled drugs. The fast-paced nature and evolution of the regional drug market has raised concerns that transnational organized criminal groups are expanding product lines to target young people.

Background – the Global SMART Programme

UNODC launched the Global SMART Programme in 2008 to enhance the capacity of states and authorities in East and Southeast Asia to generate, manage, analyse, report and use synthetic drug and precursor information, and to apply this evidence-based knowledge to strategy, policy and programme design and implementation. Eleven countries in the region receive related assistance from UNODC through Global SMART – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The Global SMART Programme receives financial support from the Governments of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Related information:

UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

Lessons in traditional music revitalise indigenous self-identity

18 Aug 2014

Listen /

UN Photo/Mark Garten

Traditional music is being used in the Philippines as a creative way to engage indigenous youth in the dialogue about self-identity.

Julius Ceasar Daguitan is a member of the Igorot people living in the Cordillera Region of the South-East Asian country.

Sophie Outhwaite asked him how he uses music and song to help children explore the distinctive nature of their culture.

Duration: 1’13″