Jakarta, 8 May 2011

As ASEAN approaches the first target of an ASEAN Community by 2015, the partnership between governments and the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) will grow in importance.

In his speech to the delegates at the 18th ASEAN Summit here yesterday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, pointed out that the partnership was designed and provided right from the start, and enshrine in the ASEAN Charter.

“The ASEAN Community is of the people and by the people,” he said, and governments and CSOs can work hand in hand.

He added that it is important that CSOs participate in ASEAN Community building. He encouraged CSOs to continue their engagement with the relevant Sectoral Bodies in a sustained dialogue, and welcomed the convening of last week’s ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF). He thanked the CSOs for arranging various activities and work that have engaged the people of ASEAN.

The CSO representatives responded that the recent ACSC/APF hosted over 1,300 people.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak, informed the meeting that the CSOs’ work is appreciated, but they should not focus solely on issues but should instead be focussed on values. He added that the CSOs should provide ASEAN with feedback on what they want ASEAN to do, and act in line with the government. He said that the government has to partner the CSOs to implement and solve issues in ASEAN.

He added further that CSOs will be the catalyst to drive the issues, and that although the CSOs have been cooperating at the local level, they now need to cooperate at the regional level.

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, expressed that he was very happy with the progress made by the CSOs. He informed the meeting that the the CSOs in Thailand are involved in public policy making. Thailand, he said, has two initiatives involving CSOs on health.

One of them, “Health Assembly”, is “a process in which the relevant public and State agencies exchange their knowledge and cordially learn from each other through a participatory and systematically organised forum, leading to recommendations on Healthy Public Policies or Public Healthiness, ” said Prime Minister Abhisit.

It is a social innovation of Thailand, established under the National Health Act (NHA) 2007. It is one of the most important social mechanisms to support the participatory, constructive and peaceful reconciliation among all stakeholders towards consensus agreement on specific Healthy Public Policy.

This extensive participatory approach through the NHA enables partners from all related sectors at all level to have ownership of the policies as well as building up their collective capacity. The resolutions or recommendations from the NHA will be submitted to the National Health Council of Thailand which will consider taking appropriate actions to achieve the recommendations, including, if necessary, submitting to the Cabinet.

But observing there is gap in trust between governments and CSOs, Prime Minister Abhisit urged that the parties keep an open mind, engage in dialogue and have a “good faith” and trust with the government.

He added that at this Summit, Thailand had proposed that the ASEAN governments create projects under APSC Blueprint that emphasise on governance and transparency. This will help to build up trust of the people.

The Prime Minister of Viet Nam, Nguyen Tan Dung, welcomed the meeting with the CSOs in moving forward with building of ASEAN Community. He informed the meeting that Viet Nam supports CSOs in taking greater responsibility based on common goals and contributing to the building of an ASEAN Community. He expressed his appreciation that the CSO submission focussed on the development of health and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

He requested the CSOs to act as a bridge, to provide information to the people on ASEAN. He noted that healthcare is an important sector and will increase cohesion of the ASEAN people.