Asean urged to unite despite challenges as 43rd conference kicks off
UPDATED JAKARTA, Indonesia — The 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) formally began on Tuesday, with Indonesia President Joko Widodo stressing the importance of unity amid challenges.
Widodo addressed regional leaders, including President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., at the Jakarta Convention Center for the Summit.
“Distinguished Asean members, we are all aware of the magnitude of current global challenges, and the main key to addressing them is Asean’s unity and centrality. ASEAN’s objective is clear to become an epicentrum of growth,” said Widodo in his opening speech.
Widodo did not specify these local challenges, but the Asean Summit is being held against tensions in the South China Sea – especially as China recently expanded its claim in the disputed waters with a new 10-dash line map.
“Asean must be able to work harder, become more solid, bolder, and more agile,” Widodo added.
Widodo likened Asean nations to a ship responsible for steering its population through a storm.
“Asean, as a large ship, also has a major responsibility towards the hundreds of millions of people who are sailing together on it and despite having to sail through a storm, we as Asean leaders must ensure that this ship can continue to sail and that we have to be captains of our own ship to achieve peace, to achieve stability, to achieve prosperity,” said Widodo.
“We have to be captains of our own ship to achieve peace, to achieve prosperity together,” said Widodo.
Marcos said he will advance the Philippines’ interests during the three-day Summit.
“I will also take the opportunity to meet with bilateral partners at the sidelines of the Asean Summit to advance cooperation that will benefit our national priorities. As a founding member, Asean has always been closely intertwined with Philippine foreign policy,” Marcos said previously.
Marcos will meet with leaders from both Asean and dialogue partners.
Member states in the Asean Summit include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Timor-Leste is currently under observer status before it can join the Asean Summit.
The Asean has several dialogue partners, including Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
As the highest policy-making body in the Asean, the Summit is supposed to enhance peace, security stability and regional resilience.
The Asean Summit is held twice every year, with the dates being determined by the country that has the current chairmanship. Indonesia served as Chair for 2023, with Laos set to take over next year.