Stronger together

Danial Norjidi

High Commissioner of Canada to Brunei Darussalam Jeanette Stovel and Ambassador of Canada to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Diedrah Kelly recently issued a statement highlighting the importance of organised global collaboration.

In the statement, they described the COVID-19 pandemic as the most daunting crisis the world has faced in many years and said that countries face health and economic crises and great uncertainty as to what lies ahead.

The envoys noted that in Brunei Darussalam, thanks to early and decisive action by the government and society, the spread of infection has been contained, keeping people safe and allowing for economic recovery to begin.

“This crisis has proven to be both the biggest test to our modern multilateral architecture and the most significant opportunity to demonstrate that only together, through organised global collaboration, can we defeat this common threat and create a future that works for everyone.

“The effects of this disease have exposed the inherent inequalities that inhabit all of our societies,” they continued. “Some governments have determined that the best way through the crisis is alone, questioning the value of the multilateral system. Others have sought to advance their individual interests while the world is distracted.”

The high commissioner and the ambassador said that against this backdrop, the United Nations (UN) plans to hold elections this month to fill the rotational seats on the UN Security Council for 2020-2021.

They highlighted that Canada is vying for one of these seats and seeks to work together with all other member nations to sustain peace, address climate change, advance gender equality, and strengthen multilateralism.

“Canada has placed economic security at the centre of our Security Council platform. Indeed, for four years, Canada has pushed for more inclusive growth through the Group of Friends on innovative financing it co-founded with Jamaica. All this time, Canada has been striving to bridge the gap between private sector investors and finance ministries around the world by leveraging the economic potential of developing nations.

“Canada understands that peace requires economic opportunities both to prevent conflict and to maintain fragile truces,” they continued, adding that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made this one of the cornerstones of Canada’s presidency of the G7 in 2018.

“Now, in the face of this pandemic, Canada is redoubling efforts to address debt relief and food security and, together with Brunei, is one of seven countries which publicly committed to maintaining open and connected supply chains during this crisis.

“We must continue to work together to ensure that our markets remain open, that the Asia-Pacific region, with a strong ASEAN at its centre, continues to flourish and that the rules-based international economic order is upheld.”

Canada is closely working with ASEAN to advance a potential Canada-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which the envoys affirmed would serve as important post-COVID-19 economic recovery tool.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of food security. Canada and Brunei enjoy a long history of economic collaboration, and open, transparent and predictable trade is critical to keep food and other supply chains stable.”

“Canada’s commitments to promote women’s empowerment and invest in growth that works for everyone align closely with Brunei’s vision for the future, Vision 2035, which prioritises education and sustainable economic growth.”

The envoys added that Canada and Brunei have a shared interest in promoting respect for international rule of law, strengthening multilateral organisations, and in addressing climate change – the greatest threat to international peace and security.

They also noted that Canada’s 2018 G7 commitment to rid oceans of global marine litter and plastic pollution will have a direct positive affect on Brunei’s beautiful coastline.

“As a long-standing ASEAN Dialogue Partner, Canada believes that we are stronger together, and that Brunei’s upcoming Chairmanship of ASEAN will further strengthen that relationship. One of the many areas where Canada and ASEAN have been working together is an initiative to mitigate biological threats that aims to strengthen health security. Together we have strengthened capacities across the ASEAN region to prevent, detect and respond to emerging infectious disease outbreaks, including COVID-19.”

The high commissioner and ambassador also shared that, more broadly in response to the pandemic, Canada has announced a contribution of CAD850 million (approximately BND882 million) in support of global efforts to combat COVID-19 and another contribution of CAD600 million for vaccine research through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“Further, Canada has not forgotten about ongoing global challenges. It has also contributed CAD47.5 million to efforts to eradicate polio and CAD306 million to assist UN agencies and civil society organisations in delivering humanitarian assistance to address the needs of the world’s most vulnerable.”

The envoys noted that when the UN Security Council election is held this month, it will have been more than 20 years since Canada’s last term. “Much has changed since then. The world is more inter-connected than any time in history. The opportunities inherent in this inter-connectivity are immense but so are the challenges. No single state, no matter how big or how strong, can succeed in isolation.

“Canada will continue to leverage its membership in many international institutions and will unite forces, leaving no one behind, to support a post-COVID-19 global system that is better prepared to serve all countries,” they added. “Simply put, we are stronger together.”