MFA shifts focus on ASEAN Chairmanship

Azlan Othman

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will be focussing its attention on Brunei’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year.

Minister of Foreign Affairs II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof said this during the fourth day of the 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.

“The world has changed a lot since Brunei last hosted the ASEAN meeting in 2013. Since its establishment over 53 years ago, ASEAN has faced challenges such as SARS, H1N1, financial crisis, energy crisis and food security. However, ASEAN has never experienced challenges like the COVID-19 where its impact affected the wider population and deeply impacted regional and international socio-economies,” he said.

It has also shown weaknesses in systems in the ASEAN Community passing three ASEAN Pillars namely political-security community, economic community and social-cultural community and ASEAN sectoral.

With the theme for the ASEAN Summit 2021 ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’, the minister said it aims at focussing the welfare of ASEAN in grabbing opportunities and being ready to overcome challenges in the future and stress the role of ASEAN people in enhancing the three ASEAN Pillars while jointly heading towards peace as a unified region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof at the 17th Legislative Council session. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Under the theme ‘We Care’, ASEAN member states will strive to assist each other to continue initiatives that benefit the people, including developing the regional recovery from COVID-19, which is in line with the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan believes it may be difficult for ASEAN nations to tackle the COVID-19 issue individually, especially in acquiring the vaccine, due to uncertain geopolitical situation in addition to Western countries rushing to get them.

“But collectively and united, we could have a bigger impact. In addition, we should think about the mental health experienced by the public including youth because of issues like long duration of quarantine period, repetitive and recurring restrictions and closure,” he added.

On ‘We Prepare’, the minister said the pandemic has brought changes in lifestyle. “In this context, ASEAN will assist the people in adapting to the new normal. ASEAN will give attention to human capacity building and resources, and people will be ready in the future through knowledge and skills enhancement in line with global changes.

On ‘We Prosper’, the minister said Brunei will also showcase the role of youth in becoming agents of change. It is estimated that 213 million youth in ASEAN will be part of it.