Jakarta, 7 May 2011
As ASEAN readies itself for the final sprint towards an ASEAN Community by 2015, the regional grouping must remain aware of the challenges ahead, and to seize the opportunities.
In his comprehensive welcome speech to the delegates to the 18th ASEAN Summit held here, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono first outlined the complex international situation that emerged at the beginning of the 21st century.
These issues posed challenges in the traditional and non-traditional arena. They also become increasingly intertwined with domestic, regional and global issues.
“We cannot face these challenges merely at the national level, but instead produce solutions that are more comprehensive, and cooperation that are more intense amongst countries in the South East Asian region,” said the President.
He pointed out that when ASEAN was first established, it was “based on the strong desire to establish peace, building Consensus, promoting stability, through regional cooperation and integration”.
Although ASEAN has made substantial progress over the years, these principles had continued to anchor the foundation of the regional grouping.
This is particularly important, in view of the new challenges emerging over the horizon.
“The world population is expected to grow fast from seven billion and will reach nine billion by 2045. Nations on this Earth will face a competitive situation for the scarce resources of daily needs,” the President pointed out.
“The competition for energy, for food, and for clean water will become part of the global competition.”
One way to deal with this, he said, is for ASEAN to strengthen cooperation on renewable energy sources and alternative energy. Another another alternative is through the development of research centers and renewable energy in our region.
The urgency of the matter is stark.
“History shows that the rise of food and energy prices usually cause has always caused the increase in the number of people living in poverty. Yet we know very well that decreasing the poverty level is not an easy task,” said the President of Indonesia. Indonesia is the Chair of ASEAN this year.
While Asia had emerged from the 2008 financial crisis in better shape today, other serious challenges are still ever present.
Such as the threat of natural disasters.
“First, we must enhance the capacity and coordination at the regional level, through the establishment of ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre),” he said.
“And second, we must intensify joint exercise in disaster management, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise in Manado in March,” the President said. The Exercise was jointly chaired by Indonesia and Japan.
On Indonesia’s responsibility as ASEAN Chair this year, the President said we have to ensure the attainment of concrete progress in realising the ASEAN Community.
Secondly, the grouping will have to ensure the maintenance of favourable conditions for development objectives, with better interaction with our key Dialogue Partners, while maintaining the centrality of ASEAN.
“Third, we have to ensure successful discussion on the urgent need for a “post-2015 ASEAN” vision, namely the role of ASEAN Community in a global community of nations,” he said.