|ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi (Photo: VNA)
In an interview granted recently to the Vietnam News Agency in Jakarta on June 25, Lim said the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN” adopted for its ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020 suits current realities, adding that the 36th ASEAN Summit is a concrete demonstration of ASEAN’s solidarity and leadership, manifested in robust regional cooperation. Such solidarity is needed in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leaders have openly declared their shared commitment to strengthening regional cooperation in addressing public health emergencies, enhancing social safety nets, and preserving the regional supply chain, he said.
According to the ASEAN chief, ASEAN needs to continue working together to articulate a collective response to COVID-19 to complement and amplify national and local responses, he said. The 36th ASEAN Summit, therefore, serves as an opportunity for the bloc to further enhance its cohesiveness and responsiveness.
He said the summit reaffirms the need for a regional recovery plan, which ASEAN continues to focus on following the ASEAN Special Summits on COVID-19 in April. The plan will involve collaboration among ASEAN member states’ government agencies, industries, private sector, and other relevant stakeholders.
“We expect a greater collaborative effort in information and knowledge sharing, in medical development, and in domestic policies relating to social and health security,” he said.
“Managing public health risks and reviving economies until an effective vaccine treatment is found are high on this summit’s agenda. Other highlights will be leaders’ interfaces with core stakeholders of the ASEAN Community, for example Youth, Business Community, and Parliamentarians, all of whom can contribute significantly to regional integration efforts.”
He said that, from the outset, ASEAN member states have promptly responded to COVID-19 nationally, regionally, and globally. The quick response and information sharing among ASEAN health officials, and the robust collaboration between ASEAN and external partners, for example with ASEAN Plus Three, the EU, and the US, have also proven critical during the outbreak.
On the whole, ASEAN has come together and responded quickly to the pandemic, through the two special summits as well as the various measures undertaken collectively and specifically by sectoral bodies. Moving forward, the key task is for ASEAN to have a robust, holistic, and practical recovery framework to minimise the socio-economic effects of the pandemic.
He affirmed that in its capacity as ASEAN Chair, Vietnam has demonstrated strong leadership in spearheading a collective regional response to the pandemic. He expressed his appreciation of Vietnam’s contributions, in particular giving aid to some ASEAN member states and also to partners, and congratulated the country on its effective fight against the pandemic.
“Vietnam has been recovering very well and done a lot of good things internally,” he said. “And now it is in the recovery stage.”
Led by Vietnam, work is also underway to finalise the establishment of a “COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund”, a regional reserve for medical supplies and a standard operating procedure on public health emergencies.
Vietnam has also kick-started discussions on ASEAN’s post-2025 vision. This is critical for the bloc to attain greater cohesiveness and responsiveness in its regional integration journey, while adapting to the “new normal” and factoring the key lessons learned into considerations, he added.