ASEAN’s unity vital in rapidly changing world: His Majesty

Rokiah Mahmud

ASEAN has made a good progress in advancing ASEAN community-building efforts while at the same time, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 said in a titah chairing the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits held virtually via video conference from Baitul Mesyuarah, Istana Nurul Iman yesterday.

His Majesty also emphasised on ASEAN’s unity and collective efforts being vital for the region’s future in a rapidly changing world.

“This year, Brunei Darussalam has emphasised the importance of caring for the people and preparing them for the future. At the same time, ASEAN has continued to empower its youth to be resilient and dynamic by developing their skills and knowledge.”

The monarch shared that ASEAN has established the ASEAN Junior Fellowship Programme, which Brunei Darussalam will fund for the next 10 years. At the same time, ASEAN is also making efforts to ensure the youth will inherit a region that can progress and develop in a
sustainable way.

His Majesty believes that the circular economy model that ASEAN has developed will enhance efficiency and lay the foundations for green recovery.

The monarch also welcomed ASEAN’s work to protect vulnerable groups through the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy to ensure the recovery is inclusive.

His Majesty concluded that these initiatives will strengthen ASEAN’s preparedness and safeguard people’s welfare and development, and enable sustainable prosperity for all.

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 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. 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 and ASEAN leaders during the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summit.

At the beginning of the summit, leaders were presented with a progress report by ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi. He highlighted ASEAN’s recovery efforts in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the prioritisation of vaccine security and successful implementation of recovery frameworks, as well as the need to operationalise interconnectivity and digitalistion to spearhead regional recovery.

The ASEAN leaders also commended ASEAN’s collective efforts in the successful development of the ASEAN Post-2025 Community Vision, and urged for the continued cooperation with external partners in promoting ASEAN’s regional frameworks.

In preparing for future public health emergencies, they emphasised the importance of affordable, accessible and equitable distribution of vaccines as well as medical, technical and financial support across the region. The leaders believe that ASEAN should also leverage on opportunities to develop its digital sector to accelerate economic regional recovery.

Meanwhile, at the 39th ASEAN Summit, His Majesty highlighted on ASEAN’s significant progress in strengthening cooperation with external partners, noting the expansion of work to collectively address COVID-19 and prepare for the future.

ASEAN-led processes continue to be the best way for ASEAN to effectively address issues of common concern, His Majesty added.

The monarch also welcomed the United Kingdom as the first new dialogue partner of ASEAN in over two decades and highlighted the need for ASEAN to uphold an open, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture, with ASEAN at its centre.

“ASEAN should foster strong and diverse partnerships and consider how partners can enrich the ASEAN-led processes towards the shared pursuit of regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

His Majesty believes that it is important to reflect on developments within the region, while ASEAN should also uphold its integrity and credibility.

It was acknowledged that the situation in Myanmar has captured global attention this year. To this end, His Majesty reaffirmed that Myanmar is a part of the ASEAN family and, with respect to the principle of non-interference, it is important to give Myanmar space to return to normalcy.

His Majesty also expressed hopes that Myanmar will fully implement the Five-Point Consensus in a timely manner to help the country regain the confidence of the regional and
international community.

At the summits, the leaders underscored that, in light of geopolitical tensions and conflicts between major powers, ASEAN centrality and unity are especially vital when engaging with external partners on issues such as the Indo-Pacific, South China Sea, Korean Peninsula as well as new security agreements. Leaders also urged for the mediation of the situation in Myanmar to uphold ASEAN’s credibility and preserve regional peace, security and stability.

At the summits, the chairman’s statement was issued and endorsed by the ASEAN leaders.

They also adopted Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD); ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Upholding Multilateralism; ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Blue Economy; Terms of Reference for the High-Level Task Force on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision and the Roadmap; Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution for ASEAN; ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Advancing Digital Transformation in ASEAN; ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy; ASEAN Strategic Policy Framework on Promoting an Adaptive ASEAN Community of Greater Understanding, Tolerance and a Sense of Regional Agendas among Peoples of ASEAN; ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-26); Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Importance of the Family for Community Development and Nation Building; ASEAN Declaration on Promoting Competitiveness, Resilience and Agility of Workers for the Future of Work; ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Reformulation and Production of Healthier Food and Beverage Options; and Declaration on the Elimination of Bullying of Children in ASEAN.