ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan was invited by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to brief the Indonesian Cabinet at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Dec. 17, 2010. It was a historic occasion for the secretary-general of ASEAN to contribute to high-level strategic discussions ahead of Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2011.

The briefing, which represents part of the government of Indonesia’s coordinated and sustained efforts to prepare for its chairmanship, has won praise from the secretary-general. “This certainly reflects a full commitment on the part of the Indonesian President to lend the full measure of his engaging and dynamic leadership to the ASEAN agenda for the year ahead,” Surin said.

He expressed hope that Indonesia would adopt a proactive role in its leadership of ASEAN. “Indonesia has the weight, the international legitimacy and a global appeal to draw tremendous support and attention from around the world to the ASEAN community-building efforts that we are all engaging in now,” he said.

At the briefing, President Yudhoyono also charged his Cabinet ministers to work closely with Surin and the ASEAN Secretariat to ensure a successful chairmanship. The need for meaningful and successful follow-ups with concrete outcomes well into the future was also highlighted during the President’s conversation with the Secretary-general.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said President Yudhoyono had invited the secretary-general of ASEAN to brief the Indonesian Cabinet to support the realization of Indonesia’s vision for its ASEAN chairmanship. In welcoming the vision, Surin expressed his confidence that the ASEAN member states would support the proactive role played by Indonesia as the ASEAN chair. He further added that Indonesia’s membership in the G20 economic forum paved the way for ASEAN to enter the global stage, as Indonesia was Southeast Asia’s representative at the forum.

Indonesia has traditionally set “milestones” for ASEAN and the international community. This includes the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, the 1994 APEC Summit in Bogor and the 1976 and 2003 ASEAN Summits in Bali, which enhanced ASEAN solidarity and laid the groundwork for the eventual goal of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

President Yudhoyono said he expected the ASEAN and East Asian Summits in 2011 to be a success. US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to attend the East Asia Summit in October 2011.

In his directive to the Cabinet, President Yudhoyono also stressed that as “ASEAN is a people-centered association, the public should be involved in all ASEAN events.” He also said that Indonesia during its Chairmanship would engage with youth, students, business communities and civil society organizations.

President Yudhoyono also informed his Cabinet that the ASEAN Secretariat deserves full support in all possible areas to facilitate its work in the implementation and coordination of ASEAN’s work.

The ASEAN Secretariat has been invited to work closely with the National Committee for the Indonesian ASEAN Chairmanship 2011 under Vice President Boediono, with the full support of Foreign Minister Marty and the participation of other relevant ministers. As the host country to the ASEAN Secretariat, Indonesia has extended full hospitality and facilitation to all ASEAN officials since the establishment of ASEC in 1977.

The full realization of Indonesia’s agenda for ASEAN and its ambitious program of activities for 2011 is indeed a noble objective. Indonesia has its own problems and challenges, but the experience it has will certainly help ASEAN, integrate ASEAN and lead ASEAN to become one of the key players in the global community. The world and ASEAN member states are expecting that ASEAN, under Indonesia’s leadership, will achieve a higher profile on many issues.

The author is deputy secretary-general of ASEAN. The views expressed in the article are those of the author.