New Asean Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi has called on all member states to stay united as different challenges lie ahead, saying the grouping must ensure it advances towards inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Over the years, Asean has made outstanding progress, with the region enjoying continued peace, stability and security, Mr Lim stressed in his speech during the transfer of office at the Asean secretariat in Jakarta yesterday.
The Brunei diplomat succeeds Vietnam’s Le Luong Minh.
“The constantly evolving global and regional landscape means the challenges and opportunities facing Asean today are different compared to its early days,” Mr Lim said.
As an inter-governmental organisation, its 10 members have occasionally had a hard time finding a common voice on sensitive national issues. But the principle of non-interference has been a useful glue to maintaining unity.
“The world is looking at Asean and will measure its success on Asean resilience, how it stays on course in its integration efforts and how it responds to emerging issues and developments arising from the interconnected world,” he said.
The transfer of office ceremony coincided with the ground-breaking for the expansion of the Asean secretariat building, situated next to the existing secretariat.
The 16-floor, two-tower project will be completed in December, and cost about 448 billion rupiah (S$44.5 million), Mr Yudi Setiawan, a general manager of state-owned construction company PT Pembangunan Perumahan that is handling the project, told The Straits Times.
Commenting on this, Mr Lim said: “Greater demands on the role of the Asean secretariat coincide with the expansion of the Asean secretariat building. Once completed, the new home of the Asean secretariat will greatly elevate Asean’s profile as an important institution on the international stage.”
Asean has witnessed several milestones in recent years. Last year, it celebrated its 50th anniversary and, in 2015, it formally established the Asean Economic Community, aimed at loosening business restrictions and enhancing trade opportunities for its member-countries.
Singapore is the chair of Asean this year and wants to connect the grouping’s people and economies seamlessly in a network of Asean smart cities, while at the same time boosting cyber security, said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan last month.
“You can’t have a smarter world and seamless digital transactions if you don’t have cyber security. It’s the flip side of the coin,” the minister told about 200 business leaders, diplomats and academics on Dec 5.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said: “The global role of Asean must be strengthened. This requires the unity of Asean. With its unity, the centrality of Asean can be maintained.”
She also said that this year, Asean is entering the second phase of another 50 years, which calls for a modern, responsive, effective and better-equipped Asean secretariat.
“Aside from continuing to strengthen its sense of community, bring benefit to its people and maintain its role in peace and stability in the region, Asean must also be able to contribute more to the world,” she added.
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ASEAN Trade Union Council.
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