Join hands to accomplish goals
By James Kon in Hanoi

The goal and roadmap towards the Assean Community have been clearly defined and with just five years to go, the most important thing for Asean now is to join hands in action to undertake concrete steps and measures to accomplish the set goals and plans.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam in his speech at the opening ceremony of the 16th Asean Summit highlighted the need for all Asean leaders to push forward efforts in realising the Asean community 2015.

Among the Asean leaders and representatives attending the summit was His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. Also present was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Thai Prime Minister Abisit Vejjajiva was the only leader who didn't attend the opening of the summit due to the emergency in Thailand.

The Prime Minister of Vietnam said, "The overall theme for this year 2010 'Towards the Asean Community: From Vision to Action' underlines Asean's focus and strong sense of action for this year and beyond."

Therefore, he said, "The 16th Asean Summit carries an important mandate of setting forth the directions and appropriate solutions to accelerate Asean's integration and enhance its strength in effectively addressing regional issues as well as global challenges."

Outlining five proposals in progressing forward, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said, "First, while important progress has been made in the implementation of the Asean Charter and Roadmap for Asean Community, much remains to be done. It is now imperative to make stronger efforts to really bring the Charter into line, especially with the finalisation of the related legal documents, improve and enhance the efficiency of Asean's new organisational structure and working method.

"At the same time, we should provide necessary guidance on the concrete ways and means to accelerate the effective implementation of our agreements on Asean community building where it would be important to promote the culture of compliance, strengthen coordination of implementing agencies and the mobilisation of resources."

"Secondly, economic recovery and sustainable development are among the top priorities of Asean as well as the international community. Due to the connectivity and interdependency of economies, Asean should simultaneously act on following three directions namely accelerate Asean economic integration and work out a suitable model for sustainable economic development, to enhance East Asian economic and financial cooperation, wherein Asean plays a central role and finally, actively contribute to the common efforts of the international community through the promotion of global solution. "

With regards to Asean integration, he said, "We should give guidance on the strict adherence to and full implementation of the existing agreements including those on narrowing the development gap while at the same time set the direction for the development of a master plan on Asean Connectivity to foster closer linkages on infrastructure, transport and information technology, especially in the Mekong Sub Region.

In addition, he highlighted, in efforts toward an early and strong recovery, Asean should also identify a suitable model to ensure a balanced and sustained development, incorporating economic growth with social development and environmental protection. "In this spirit, I propose we consider and adopt a joint statement," he said.

"Thirdly, transnational issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, natural disasters and pandemic now pose a permanent and direct threat to the livelihood of our people as well as the sustainable development of each country. While effective global solutions are yet to be found in the existing international frameworks and mechanisms, Asean should make greater efforts at both national and regional levels to respond to these challenges and contribute actively to the common endeavor of the international community. With that in mind, we shall consider and adopt a statement on our joint response to climate change, underling Asean's resolve to intensify cooperation and sending out Asean's strong message on international negotiation process for an effective climate change regime.

"Fourthly, Asean member states share a strong desire and determination to promote peace, security and cooperation for mutual development. This is indeed the very source of Asean strength and outstanding achievements over the past decades. Asean should continue to build upon these achievements and maintain an important role in promoting dialogue and cooperation for peace and stability in SE Asia and Asia Pacific. Efforts should be renewed to facilitate dialogue and intensify cooperation on political and security issues.

"Lastly, the association should further consolidate external relations, mobilise support for Asean community building and enhance its international role and position. It is necessary to strengthen Asean+1 cooperation through enhanced dialogue at all levels, especially at the leaders' and ministers' level, and with added substance and efficiency in the implementation of plans of action and joint statements in comprehensive partnership.

"The goal of an Asean Community manifests in itself the member states' shared vision, earnest desire and strong determination. This goal is firmly premised upon the significant achievements in Asean cooperation over more than four decades."

Following the speech, Asean leaders went on stage for the group photo and joined hands to forge a link in a show of unity

Three special colourful performances displaying the unique culture and 52 ethnic groups of Vietnam were also held. - Borneo Bulletin (9th April 2010)