As many Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) citizens celebrate the Lunar New Year this week, I would like to take this opportunity to express my well wishes to all. I would also like to reflect on new beginnings and look toward the future.
As I am into my first month, many are asking me: How I do see myself in the role of ASEAN Secretary-General, and what do I see for ASEAN in the five years horizon.
To the first question of how I see my role as Secretary-General of ASEAN, I am guided by the mandate of the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN leaders. As one entrusted by the Charter with the demanding task of seeing through the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions, as well as reporting on ASEAN’s work in the next five years, I should be able to provide a frank and learned analysis to our ASEAN leaders to assist them in sustaining their vision and aspirations for ASEAN.
I should also be able to promote ASEAN and convey its common positions to our dialogue partners and other external parties.
I believe that a large part of my role is to lead and guide the dedicated staff of the ASEAN Secretariat. As front-liners and the backbone of ASEAN’s operations, we serve the ASEAN member states, the various ASEAN organs and ministerial-sectoral bodies in the building of the ASEAN Community.
The strengthening of ASEAN Secretariat has already received the imprimatur of our leaders and it will be upon us to carry on the measures to make the Secretariat more efficient and effective in the delivery of its services. To the latter question, for the next five years, I believe that ASEAN will continue to build on the gains of the last 45 years in the three community pillars.
In the area of peace and security, ASEAN would still continue to provide a platform for peaceful dialogue and cooperation among member states and with the rest of the international community.
In doing so, I believe ASEAN has acquired the necessary experience and confidence to consistently hurdle any challenge to ASEAN centrality and our regional stability.
ASEAN will also continue to deliver on the wide-ranging measures needed to transform ASEAN into a strong economic bloc and integrate it into the global economy.
Likewise, ASEAN will continue to invest in our people and on various areas such as culture, education, health, environment, food security, among others, to ensure the ASEAN Community’s well-being and resilience.
But more than building on our achievements, I also see the next five years as the reckoning time for us — a time for reflection and greater action.
ASEAN will be hitting two critical milestones. By the end of 2015, we should already have achieved our target of creating the ASEAN Community.
In 2017, we will also be celebrating 50 years of ASEAN’s founding.
To build the ASEAN Community, we need to implement various ASEAN agreements and decisions by translating regional commitments into national actions.
We must strengthen ASEAN mechanisms and processes, and coordinate various plans and actions — especially in issues that cut across the three pillars. Greater support from the general public, civil society, business groups, etc would be indispensable, thus, we need to redouble our efforts in communicating and fostering a greater understanding of ASEAN.
Increasingly, the world is watching ASEAN, and consequently, they need to learn more about our vision and commitments within and outside the region.
Since my first day on the job, I have given my full support to efforts in conducting more rigorous public outreach and welcomed media through the gates of the Secretariat.
We are reviewing our roadmap to the ASEAN Community 2009-2015 with its three community blueprints. There is also the possibility of the ASEAN Summit deciding to review the ASEAN Charter.
This review process would enable us to stock-take our progress as a Community. More importantly, this time in ASEAN’s history would not only engage us to do more soul-searching on the direction and future of our organization, but also present an opportunity for us to affirm our commitment to ASEAN’s future.
With all these in store for the next five years, I, together with the ASEAN Secretariat, have pledged to work closely with the ASEAN member states, as we move further into 2015 and beyond.
Le Luong Minh
The writer is the Secretary-General of ASEAN for the period 2013-2017.
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