The main threats to food and water security in South-East Asia in the short- to medium-term, are demographic stresses, labour-force availability, crop and labour productivity and natural disasters. In the long-term, climate change threatens to exacerbate these issues and create a number of new problems.
To reduce the effect of these threats, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) encourages the adoption of trade facilitation mechanisms, to both reduce barriers to trade and improve local competitiveness. Collaborative regulation measures between ASEAN states can decrease food price volatility and increase food security, particularly in the dominant rice and maize industries. Regional water security is promoted using policy instruments enacted as part of ASEAN Integrated Water Resource Management projects.
Australia has a healthy trade and investment relationship with ASEAN, which is valued at over $100 billion. For this reason alone, it is in Australia’s interest to ensure continued improvement in the future of food and water security in the South-East Asian region. Australia plays a significant role in addressing issues stemming from food and water insecurity in the region; directly, through the provision of strategic aid funding and development programmes, and indirectly, by providing advantageous and flexible trade terms to agribusiness ventures. This has occurred largely in partnership with ASEAN, in the form of collaborative programmes, such as the ASEAN–Australia Development Co-operation Program.
- Over 60 million people in South-East Asia suffer from food and water insecurity, with significant disparity in human security within, and between, member states.
- ASEAN has sought to address this through co-ordinated efforts in strategic investment and policy framework development, with some success.
- The region continues to focus on increased food production to improve food security.
- ASEAN’s approach to overcoming food and water insecurity, however, is called into question when long-term considerations such as climate change are taken into account.