ASEAN member states cohesive and responsive to overcome difficulties

Saturday, 2020-06-27 09:31:56
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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the plenary session of the 36th ASEAN Summit. (Photo: NDO/Tran Hai)
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NDO – The 36th ASEAN Summit, held via video conference under the chair of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020, has come to a productive conclusion.

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During the event, ASEAN leaders focused on discussing an array of issues, including controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting economic recovery and intra-bloc cooperation; building a strong ASEAN Community according to set goals; expanding ASEAN’s external relations with its partners in the spirit of mutual respect, mutually beneficial cooperation, and upholding ASEAN’s central role in the region; pledging to maintain a peaceful and stable environment for cooperation, sustainable development and prosperity and upholding the spirit of goodwill and compliance with international law in addressing regional differences. The conference adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN: Rising Above Challenges and Sustaining Growth. This is considered a guideline for ASEAN to be confident in its upcoming strategic steps.

This was the first time ASEAN’s regular summit was held in the form of a video conference due to the context of the global COVID-19 outbreak. The emergence of the disease has triggered additional challenges that are inherently hidden in the political, economic and social environment of the world and each region. While the whole world is struggling to cope with the pandemic, there are still irresponsible acts and acts in violation of international law, affecting security and stability in some regions, including Southeast Asia.

In that context, the ASEAN Community has acted promptly to proactively adapt and unite the member nations. ASEAN’s emergency medical response system (EMRS) and cooperation with partners have been activated ever since the initial period of the pandemic. ASEAN countries have actively shared information and experiences, as well as coordinating with each other in disease prevention and control. With the highest level of political commitment and a comprehensive approach at national and regional level, the entire ASEAN bloc has demonstrated the steadfastness of a united, cohesive and mutually affectionate ASEAN.

During the summit, leaders of ASEAN member states spoke highly of Vietnam’s leading role and dynamism as ASEAN Chair 2020, while hailing ASEAN’s initial encouraging results in battling COVID-19 and the bloc’s initiatives to establish a regional response fund and a reserve of essential medical supplies to combat COVID-19, set up a Standard Operating Procedure for public health emergencies and develop a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan. ASEAN has sent a strong message about a regional organisation that is cohesive and proactive and plays a nuclear role in regional processes. Member countries agreed to enhance ASEAN’s resilience – both via effectively curbing the disease and restoring economic and trade activities, thereby stabilising the lives of people and enterprises. The leaders said that the completion and signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2020 sends a strong message affirming ASEAN’s support for the multilateral trading system, trade and investment liberalisation, contributing significantly to the region’s post-pandemic recovery process.

Within the framework of the 36th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Leaders’ Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age was held for the first time, vividly manifesting ASEAN’s strong commitment to promoting gender equality and enhancing the role and contribution of women in social life, and practically celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for gender equality. The ASEAN leaders also had useful interactions with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), chaired by Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, representatives of ASEAN youth and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Affirming ASEAN as an open community and a partner for peace and sustainable development, the ASEAN leaders discussed and agreed on measures to unceasingly expand and deepen equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with partners. Accordingly, ASEAN will continue to promote its cohesive ties with the United Nations in 2020, when both Indonesia and Vietnam are both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, while actively contributing to the UN’s efforts to maintain peace, security and development.

On the basis of affirming ASEAN’s central role in the region, the participating leaders recommended upholding ASEAN’s principle stance in ensuring peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea. They emphasised the need to uphold the rule of law, promote trust-building cooperation, use peaceful measures based on international law, fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and work towards an effective and legal-binding Code of Conduct (COC) between ASEAN and China in accordance with international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982). Many countries said the pandemic has affected the COC negotiations, stating that ASEAN needs to promptly resume this process, thereby asserting its centrality and contribution to peace and stability in the region.

The successful conclusion of the 36th ASEAN Summit once again affirmed ASEAN member states’ solidarity, strong political will and strong determination to overcome challenges and move steadfastly forward. It is believed that ASEAN countries will continue to effectively control the COVID-19 pandemic, promptly address the consequences of the disease, revive and develop the economy, and further step up their efforts to accomplish the ASEAN cooperation and integration goals in 2020.