Heading to the ASEAN Summit scheduled for 26 to 28 October, 2021, member nations held virtual conferences to review preparations like drafting of the working programme, agenda for the summits and documents tobe submitted to senior leaders.
The 2021 ASEAN Summit includes ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) (September 30), the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and the 24th ASEAN Political – Security Community (APSC-24), which took place on October 4.
At meetings held to discussASEAN’s priorities in 2021, delegates reaffirmed their support for chair Brunei’s initiatives to strengthen co-ordination in responding to natural disasters (ASEAN shield) and promoting multilateralism and cooperation in the blue economy (ocean-based economy) co-operation.
Leaders discussed and acknowledged the progress in implementing the outcomes of ASEAN 2020, which include the conduct of the ASEAN Charter, the post-2025 ASEAN Community vision, and sub-regional cooperation.
Participants appreciated and agreed to continue implementing Vietnam’sinitiatives asASEAN chairin 2020.
The meeting hailed the ASEAN Reserve of Medical Supplies initiative and establishment of theASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, under which the first humanitarian assistance was delivered to the Myanmar Red Cross Society including medical supplies worth US$1.1 million (on September 15, 2021).
Meanwhile, members agreed to use $10.5 million from the COVID-19 fund to buy vaccines and deliver the first batch to countries in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2022.
Being an alliance of compassion, ASEAN encourages the sharing of vaccines to help members in need.
The meeting appreciated the efforts of Singapore involuntarilysharing vaccines with other countries.
Members promised to make further contributions to the ASEAN Reserve of Medical Supplies and soon ensureefficient functioning of theASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED).
One of three member countries to spare no effort to independently research and develop a vaccine, Vietnam called on ASEAN to strengthen its vaccine self-reliance by building vaccine supply chains at the regional level.
Member states also agreed to seek approval from ASEAN Senior Leaders for an ASEAN travel corridor arrangement to facilitate transportation of essential business and travel within the bloc.
The delegates welcomed Vietnam’s proposal to organize an ASEAN high-level forum on sub-regional co-operation for sustainable development and inclusive growth on November30 this year.
Theysaid sub-regional co-operation is crucial to efforts to narrow the development gap and foster sustainable development, and to building the ASEAN Community.
Participants also discussed the East Sea, Myanmar and other issuesof concern.
On the East Sea issue, delegates underscored ASEAN’s stance and principles, promoting the bloc’s sense of responsibility and common voice on issues affecting regional peace and security, peacefully settling disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and building an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) that is consistent with international law.
In building the ASEAN Community, member countries attached importance to the maintenance of ASEAN solidarity and unity as a key factor to ensure the success of the Community building process and promote ASEAN’s central role in the region.
Discussing foreign relations, delegates unanimously agreed to continue urging partners to make contributions to achieving the common goalsof peace, security and stability in the region, supporting the central role of ASEAN, and participating in regional co-operation through ASEAN-led mechanisms, which contribute to building an open, transparent, inclusive, and international rules-based regional architecture.
Alluding to current challenges facing ASEAN and the region, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son said the increasingly fierce competition between major world powers has great implications for the region.
He said ASEAN should keep a close watch on developments, maintain solidarity and self-resilience, and sustain its central role within an independence and resilient ASEAN.
Vietnam also suggested that ASEAN should maintain a harmonious approach in line with its stances and principles towards issues affecting regional peace and security, while encouraging its partners to actively engage in ASEAN-led mechanisms to promote dialogue and trust in case of mutual concerns.
The upcoming ASEAN Summit and related summits is expected to achieve a new and vital step in building the ASEAN community and responding to the pandemic as well as post-pandemic recovery.
Conferences are considered an affirmation of the ASEAN spirit of solidarity in constructing an open, transparent, inclusive, and international rules-based regional architecture and setting up discussion, dialogue and co-operation partnerships as the key factor in diplomatic relations.
With careful preparations, the outcomes of the upcoming ASEAN Summit are expected to safeguard ASEAN solidarity, unity and centrality andvoiceits common concerns on peace, security and stability in the region based on its theme of ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper,’ Brunei, the ASEAN chair,suggested./.
Mean Sambath – Soy Sok
Images Caption: Delegates at the virtual ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on September 30. Photo: VNA