ASEAN should focus more on improving people’s quality of life

Tuesday, 2017-02-21 15:51:08
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Heads of delegations from ASEAN member nations at the event (Photo: VNA)
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NDO/VNA—Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has highlighted that ASEAN should focus more on improving the quality of people’s lives, ensuring all benefit equally from the building of the ASEAN Community.

Addressing the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Boracay in the Philippines on February 21, Minh, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, stressed the need to foster intra-bloc economic connectivity and cooperation, as well as the strengthening of the bloc’s attraction as a close-knit regional economy.

It is also necessary to narrow the development gap while improving infrastructure connections and paying more attention to the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the business community’s engagement in the regional connectivity process, he said.

Regarding external relations, Minh proposed that ASEAN should be more proactive in affirming its leading role in mechanisms it had launched such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit, along with enhancing the efficiency and supplementary features of the mechanism, thereby continuing attracting and maintaining the interest and involvement of partners, ensuring the central role of the association in regional processes and increasing its global role.

On regional and international issues, Minh laid special stress on the importance of peace, stability and security to the prosperity and development in the region.

The current complicated and unexpected situation requires that ASEAN promote its common voice in tackling strategic matters, proactively turning challenges into opportunities, upholding the supremacy of law and the code of conduct in the relations among countries, the Vietnamese FM said.

Minh suggested fostering measures to build trust, prevent conflict and issue timely alertsfor disputes, underscoring respecting and complying with international law as the most important point.

He also stressed the need for ASEAN to strengthen collaboration in coping with challenges amidst growing non-traditional security challenges like climate change, disasters and piracy, asking for the intensive sharing of information and close collaboration to prevent piracy to ensure safety for people and vehicles crossing the region.

On the East Sea issue, Minh raised his concerns about complicated developments in the sea, emphasising that ASEAN should reinforce solidarity and unity while staying persistent and promoting existing shared stances.

He also underlined the significance of the peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as respecting diplomatic and legal processes, strengthening consultations and dialogues on the East Sea, fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and striving to reach a framework for a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in mid-2017 with the aim of its early completion.

He also pledged that Vietnam will work closely with the Philippines and other ASEAN members to ensure the success of ASEAN in 2017 while voicing support for ASEAN’s priorities for the year that were proposed by the Philippines.

During the two-day retreat, participants adopted the ASEAN Year 2017 theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” and approved six priorities proposed by the Philippines as the ASEAN Chair in 2017, including building a people-centred ASEAN; promoting regional peace and stability; reinforcing maritime security and cooperation; advancing inclusive, innovation-led growth; strengthening ASEAN’s resiliency and promoting ASEAN as a model for regional cooperation.

They also agreed on the need to strengthen efforts for a people-orientated community through closer connectivity and effective implementation of cooperation plans to bring practical benefits to locals.

The foreign ministers also underscored measures to enhance the efficiency of the ASEAN organization, including an updated ASEAN Charter.

They agreed to continue boosting dialogue and cooperation with partners through the improvement of mechanisms run by the bloc, gaining more support from stakeholders in building the community and contributing to peace, stability in the region.

Over the East Sea issues, they shared the concern that recent developments and escalating activities in the sea could raise tensions and erode trust. They acknowledged the need to maintain dialogue to soothe tensions.

They stressed the importance of promoting trust, exercising self-restraint, not taking any activities that might complicate the situation and tackling disputespeacefully, including respecting diplomatic and legal processes and not using or threatening to use force in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

They also underscored the importance of fully executing DOC and pushing ASEAN and China to finalise the framework for the COC this year.

At the end of the retreat, the Chair, the Philippines released a press statement on the main outcomes of the meeting.