calls to narrow region’s growth gap
HA NOI — The foreign
ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) passed a
communique reaffirming the importance of narrowing the development gap in the
region, at the group’s ministerial meeting in Singapore yesterday.
At the "One ASEAN at
the Heart of Dynamic Asia" meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to further
intensify integration efforts in all three pillars of the ASEAN community to
establish a people-oriented, caring and sharing region by 2015.
"We affirmed our
resolve to pursue more region-wide co-operation programmes and activities geared
towards accelerating the ASEAN community-building process," the communique
The ministers agreed to
intensify co-operation to Narrow the Development Gap (NDG) to support ASEAN’s
integration efforts, which is considered of paramount importance to
community-building in the group.
This is expected to help
ensure equitable economic development of the region and facilitate attainment of
the Millennium Development Goals, to contribute to the well-being of the people
They emphasised the key
role of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in NDG efforts and committed
to delivering by December this year a final draft of the IAI World Plan
Addressing the meeting,
Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem said the
group needed to continue upholding its lead and central role in regional
co-operation processes that it initiates, including the ASEAN+3, the East Asia
Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum, as well as accelerating the global
integration process of the Asia-Pacific region.
The Vietnamese leader said
ASEAN was entering a new, important stage of development, giving top priority to
putting the ASEAN Charter into action and to ensure the successful construction
of a three pillar-based ASEAN Community by 2015.
For accomplishing those
tasks in line with the road map, the group would need to enhance its unity and
raise the effectiveness of its co-operation to foster regional integration,
He said that narrowing
development disparity was a condition for the group to achieve regional
integration and build the ASEAN community and it would continue to be given a
high priority in the group’s inner co-operation and its co-operation with
Deputy PM Khiem said ASEAN
should concentrate on building the second phase of an IAI working plan on
narrowing the development gap to fit the group’s new priorities and
requirements in addition to increasing implementation effectiveness and
integrating the issue into resource mobilisation strategy.
The meeting highlighted
ASEAN’s role in the ASEAN-led co-ordination mechanism in response to Cyclone
Nargis in Myanmar.
The leaders also affirmed
ASEAN would actively enhance regional and international co-operation to find out
long-lasting and sustainable solutions on food security, energy and finance.
Reviewing the Plan of
Action on the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone adopted at
the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the ministers affirmed the need to persevere
in strengthening co-operation to implement the Treaty.
The meeting reiterated the
importance of maintaining ASEAN’s central role in regional processes.
The ministers said they
were pleased with co-operation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners and
praised support of regional and non-regional dialogue countries in the effort to
build an ASEAN community.
During a working dinner on
Sunday, ASEAN ministers discussed regional development.
They were briefed by
Cambodian and Thai representatives on the situation relating to Preah Vihear
temple. They agreed to issue a chair statement calling for both sides to
exercise "maximum restraint", solve the issue through peaceful
measures in line with the international law and in the spirit of ASEAN
solidarity and neighbourliness.
The ministers also
affirmed that ASEAN would be willing to help to solve the issue if required by
Cambodia and Thailand.
On the ASEAN Charter, the
group’s first legally binding document designed to help it become a single
trading bloc, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the grouping
decided to press on with its implementation without waiting for all ten members
Seven ASEAN countries have
thus far ratified the Charter except Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The charter is expected to be ratified by ASEAN’s end-of-year summit in
At the opening ceremony,
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the establishment of an
ASEAN Studies Centre within a think tank – the Institute of Southeast Asian
Studies – in Singapore.
"The Centre will work
closely with the ASEAN Secretariat to undertake policy research on ASEAN. It
will look at measures to help the organisation grow new capabilities, strengthen
its institutions, and enhance co-operation among its members," Lee said.