Urgent need to support regional recovery

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has emphasised that ASEAN’s recovery would require a strategic and holistic approach, to rebuild a resilient and sustainable ASEAN community.

“ASEAN needs to urgently support the regional recovery by: first, prioritising the peoples’ well-being and livelihoods including by enhancing regional safety nets and addressing social issues such as unemployment and mental health; second, improving ASEAN’s preparedness by building resilience through enhancing regional capacity to detect and respond to emerging challenges; and third, keeping regional economies open and ready for businesses, so ASEAN can rapidly recover and prosper,” said the monarch in a titah yesterday.

His Majesty also looked forward to the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, which will signify ASEAN’s firm commitment towards an open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral trading system. In addition, building up bilateral and regional travel arrangements is encouraged, so that professionals can move safely and without risk to health and lives.

At the same time, His Majesty emphasised that ASEAN needs to work with partners, to collectively overcome future challenges and ensure an ASEAN community that can provide more opportunities to its people.

His Majesty concluded the titah, at the summit themed ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’, held virtually via video conference, from Baitul Mesyuarah, Istana Nurul Iman, by assuring that as ASEAN Chair for 2021, Brunei Darussalam will work with all ASEAN member states and partners towards a caring, prepared and prosperous region.

At the summit, the leaders were presented with reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the COVID-19 pandemic situation and global response.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the 37th ASEAN Summit. PHOTOS: INFOFOTO
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the virtual conference.

This was followed by a progress report on ASEAN by Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi, which included achievements throughout the year under the three community pillars; more action to push transformation and bolster recovery, including higher productivity; and strengthening human capital.

Afterwards, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Pham Bình Minh, as Chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC), also delivered a progress report on ASEAN, including the promotion of its identity and sub-regional development.

At the end of the summit, ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement of the 37th ASEAN Summit; the Hanoi Declaration on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision; the ACC’s Report on ASEAN 2020’s Deliverables and COVID-19 Response Initiatives; ASEAN Strategic Framework for Public Health Emergencies; the ASEAN Declaration on an ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement; the Hanoi Declaration on the Adoption of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025); the ASEAN Declaration on Digital Tourism; the Narrative of ASEAN Identity; and the Hanoi Declaration on Strengthening Social Work Towards Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community.

This was followed with the launch of the Mid-term Reviews of the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025, ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies.

The Plenary Session was preceded by the opening ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, to welcome the ASEAN heads of state and government which featured cultural performances and the ASEAN theme song, The ASEAN Way.

This was followed with opening statements from General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam and President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Phú Trong; and Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuân Phúc, as the ASEAN Chairman for 2020, which focussed on effective responses to emerging challenges towards regional economic growth and recovery, forming a suitable position for a post COVID-19 world, as well as enhancing ASEAN’s global role.

At the ceremony, a video on ASEAN’s progress in 2020 was presented, and the ASEAN Prize 2020 was awarded to the ASEAN Studies Centre (ASC) of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) – Yusof Ishak Institute in the Republic of Singapore.

The ASEAN Prize honours the outstanding achievements of individuals or organisations who foster the ASEAN identity, promote the ASEAN spirit, champion the ASEAN way and have significantly contributed towards ASEAN community building efforts.