Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends, my fellow ASEAN citizens:
On behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs, it is my honor and pleasure to greet you on the occasion of the 55th Founding Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Every August, we come together to commemorate the singular vision that ASEAN represents and to mark the achievements of this community that we share with over 660 million brothers and sisters across the region.
From its founding 55 years ago, ASEAN has become the core institution of Southeast Asia, rightfully occupying its primacy in shaping our region’s security architecture and engagement with the world.
We have succeeded on multiple fronts: forging cooperation among our diverse peoples to come together in peace, freedom, and security; engaging towards enhanced opportunities and prosperity for all ASEAN citizens; and persisting to achieve our shared goal of improving the quality of life, well-being, and health of our peoples, all while striving towards the realization of an ASEAN identity. Our success rests on our own unique approach — quiet strength and diplomacy, steadfast work, and a determined commitment to leave no one behind.
We did not allow the ongoing challenges to arrest our progress and curb our enthusiasm in realizing our shared vision. Our will to move forward did not waver. We continue to deliver and achieve breakthroughs for our region and the citizens of ASEAN.
ASEAN continues to forge ahead in our collective COVID-19 recovery efforts. We are pleased to note that the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund (CARF) finalized vaccine procurement arrangements with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in October 2021, with vaccine distribution taking place in the first half of 2022. There is likewise progress in the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED). We are hopeful that this progress will be sustained as the ACPHEED will be instrumental in our efforts in further strengthening our regional capabilities to address public health emergencies and emerging diseases, including the potential resurgence of pandemics similar to COVID-19.
On the economic front, we saw progress with the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) for the majority of ASEAN and all of the non-ASEAN signatories.
ASEAN is moving towards a more equal and gender-fair region. Last September, ASEAN launched the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework 2021-2025, which is not only a recognition of the critical importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment to sustainable development, but also brings us closer to ASEAN’s goals of leaving no one behind and realizing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of reaching the furthest behind first.
This year’s theme for Cambodia’s Chairmanship is “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together.” This thrust is evident in the initiatives I have just mentioned. Through these and the other programs that ASEAN has been working on in the past year, we can see ASEAN’s collective commitment to care for its people in the midst of unprecedented crises, prepare them for the opportunities and challenges ahead, and ensure the prosperity of the ASEAN community.
As we emerge and build back from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and ramp up collective efforts for a comprehensive and sustainable recovery, we move ahead with a renewed purpose and resolve. The past years have made evident how much we need each other to address regional and global challenges. It is clear that bolstering a rules-based regional architecture founded on international law and fostering inclusive and mutually-beneficial multilateral cooperation is the way forward for ASEAN.
I wish ASEAN the very best in the coming years and I trust that we will all continue to stay true to the values and principles that have made us greater than the mere sum of our parts.
Mabuhay ang ASEAN!