Collective Effort Needed to Build People-centered ASEAN Community

3:36:14 PM | 4/28/2024

The ASEAN Future Forum 2024, themed “Toward a fast and sustainable growth of a people-centered ASEAN community”, was successfully held in Hanoi, drawing the participation of nearly 500 delegates. The forum was graced by the presence of Prime Minister of Laos Sonexay Siphandone, who is also the ASEAN Chair for 2024, ASEAN Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn, along with ministers, ambassadors, and representatives from the governments of ASEAN member states, dialogue partner countries and international organizations.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh addresses the ASEAN Future Forum 2024

The forum is “for ASEAN, of ASEAN and by ASEAN”

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, the unique distinction of the “ASEAN Future Forum” lies in its dedication to being “for ASEAN, of ASEAN, by ASEAN, and for the people of ASEAN”. The forum was regarded as a platform for both intra-regional and extra-regional stakeholders to contribute ideas and initiatives, thereby shaping the ASEAN Vision 2045 and its subsequent implementation. It also aimed to represent the region’s voice and contribution toward shaping the future of global development through the United Nations Summit of the Future in 2024, slated for next September.

This forum also signifies Vietnam’s specific contribution toward the collective effort of building a people-centric ASEAN Community and accelerating the rapid and sustainable development of ASEAN.

Addressing the forum, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said that, in the nearly six decades since its establishment, ASEAN has never been as well-positioned or faced as many challenges as it does in the present day. ASEAN has served as a catalyst for dialogue, cooperation, and development, and has been instrumental in spearheading numerous initiatives to enhance regional connectivity. Concurrently, it has also become the focal point of intense strategic competition. While the centrality of ASEAN is widely recognized, its role has occasionally lacked substance in certain domains. Despite being the 5th largest economy globally, a significant disparity persists in the level of development within ASEAN, and the strength of intra-ASEAN cooperation and connectivity has not met expectations. These realities require that ASEAN adopt a strategic and comprehensive vision, enhance its proactivity and responsiveness, and seize opportunities to address challenges and ensure stable and sustainable development.

Prime Minister Chinh said, for almost three decades since its accession to ASEAN, Vietnam has always regarded the ASEAN as one of its top foreign policy priorities and tried its best to help create a united and strong ASEAN Community with an ever-greater role and influence in the region and the world. Vietnam’s path of development in its reform and integration process has been closely intertwined with ASEAN and reaped many important achievements in all fields within this close relationship.

Nevertheless, Vietnam has also faced numerous challenges as a developing country and a transitioning economy that remains modest in scale, highly open, and lacks resilience to external shocks. These are common obstacles that many ASEAN countries face on their development journey, requiring the need for unity, trust, and joint efforts among ASEAN member states, as well as cooperation and support from international friends and partners.

ASEAN has outlined its goals toward 2045, with an aspiration for a dynamic, united, and resilient community. To realize the ASEAN Community Vision 2045, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposed five enhancements as follows:

First, enhancement of cooperation and unity in diversity, while upholding ASEAN's spirit of independence, resilience, and strategic self-reliance. We need to build upon ASEAN centrality, respect differences, ensure harmonious interests, and steadfastly maintain ASEAN's positions and principles with regard to security and development issues in the region and the world.

Second, enhancement of strategic trust within ASEAN and between ASEAN and its partners. This will help prevent conflicts and maintain peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the region and in the world.

Third, enhancement of digital transformation, green growth, circular economy and digital economy while also expediting innovation and startup to foster new and sustainable drivers for ASEAN's growth going forward along with renewing traditional growth drivers.

Fourth, enhancement of harmonious, sustainable, inclusive, and people-centered development, with the people being at the heart, the actor, the driver, the resource, and the goal of development. We shall not sacrifice social progress and equality and the environment for mere economic gains.

Fifth, enhancement of efforts to mobilize all social resources, particularly public-private partnership, and seek strategic breakthroughs in terms of institutions, human resources, infrastructure, and national governance, with a view to fostering rapid and sustainable development for ASEAN.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and representatives of ministries, branches and international organizations attend the ASEAN Future Forum 2024

ASEAN: A resounding advocate for peace

According to ASEAN Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn, Vietnam has demonstrated remarkable foresight in hosting the ASEAN Future Forum. The forum’s emphasis on the future trajectory of ASEAN aligns seamlessly with ASEAN’s ongoing efforts to construct the 2045 ASEAN Community Vision and its four strategic derivatives.

This plan was initiated during Vietnam's 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship where leaders adopted the Hanoi Declaration on the ASEAN Community Vision beyond 2025.

ASEAN plays an increasingly important role in redefining global developments and global processes, he emphasized, adding that ASEAN must not only look inward but also outward. However, ASEAN needs to further strengthen itself while looking outward.

Mr. Kao Kim Hourn said that the ASEAN Future Forum can play a pioneering role at three levels. First, it helps build ASEAN, integration and the ASEAN Community. This is also ASEAN's top priority to foster ASEAN by enhancing intra-bloc trade, tourism and connectivity, placed in an overall promotion within ASEAN.

Second, it is necessary to uphold an ASEAN identity, ensure the unity and solidarity of ASEAN, and promote sub-regional cooperation to become the "backbone" for building the ASEAN Community.

Third, it is important to continue ASEAN's cooperation policy with external partners, consolidate and foster achievements, strengthen current mechanisms, identify areas that can be utilized and consider the formation of new mechanisms in the future.

ASEAN has always been part of the solutions over the years, he said. ASEAN is the voice for peace, the voice for cooperation, not conflict, the voice for support and cohesion, not compromise. And, this forum will serve as an ASEAN mechanism to welcome all new initiatives and policy recommendations.

Speaking through a video message sent to the forum, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted that ASEAN countries have built a dynamic, resilient and diverse regional economy over the past six decades.

ASEAN represents a strong voice for peace, frank dialogue, disarmament and non-proliferation globally, he stated. The ASEAN Future Forum will help the region develop sustainably and identify goals for the road ahead. Referring to the UN Future Summit next September, Secretary General Antonio Guterres affirmed that this will be an opportunity for the world to unite and share solutions to create a better and more prosperous future.

“ASEAN countries play a key role in that context, and we look forward to elevating our partnership with ASEAN to new highs,” he expected.

By Quynh Chi, Vietnam Business Forum