As many ASEAN citizens celebrate the lunar new year this week, I would like to take this opportunity to express my best wishes to all of them.
I would also like to reflect on new beginnings and look to the future.
As I enter my second month as ASEAN Secretary-General, many people are asking me how I view myself in that role, and what foresee for ASEAN in the next five years.
In answer to the first question, as Secretary-General I am guided by the mandate of the ASEAN Charter and the leaders of member nations.
As the person entrusted by the charter with the demanding task of seeing through the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions, as well as reporting on ASEAN’s work in the next five years, I have to provide frank, learned analysis to ASEAN leaders to help them sustain their vision and their aspirations for the organisation.
I must also have the ability to promote ASEAN and convey its common positions to our dialogue partners and other external parties.
I believe that a large part of my role is to lead, and guide, the dedicated staff of the ASEAN Secretariat.
As front-liners and the backbone of ASEAN’s operations, we serve member states, the various ASEAN organs and ministerial-sector bodies in building the ASEAN community.
The strengthening of the ASEAN Secretariat has already received the imprimatur of our leaders, and it will be upon us to carry out measures to make the secretariat more efficient and effective in the delivery of its services.
On the latter question, I believe that for the next five years, ASEAN will continue to build on the gains of the past 45 years in the three community pillars.
In the area of peace and security, I foresee that ASEAN will continue to provide a platform for peaceful dialogue and co-operation among Member States and with the rest of the international community.
In doing so, I believe ASEAN has acquired the necessary experience and confidence to consistently hurdle any challenge to the organisation’s centrality and the stability of our region.
ASEAN will also continue to deliver on the wide-ranging measures needed to transform it into a strong economic bloc and integrate it into the global economy.
Likewise, ASEAN will continue to invest in our people and in areas such as culture, education, health, environment and food security, among others, to ensure the
ASEAN community’s well-being and resilience.
But more than building on our achievements, I also see the next five years as a time of reckoning for us – a time for reflection and greater action.
During that time, ASEAN will reach two critical milestones. By the end of 2015, we should have achieved our target of creating the ASEAN community. In 2017, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN’s founding.
To build the ASEAN community, we need to implement various ASEAN agreements and decisions by translating regional commitments into national actions.
We must strengthen ASEAN’s mechanisms and processes, and co-ordinate various plans and actions — especially on issues that cut across the three pillars.
Greater support from the general public, civil society and business groups will be indispensable, so we need to redouble our efforts in communicating, and fostering, a greater understanding of ASEAN.
Increasingly, the world is watching ASEAN. Consequently, it needs to learn more about our vision and commitments within, and outside, the region.
Since my first day on the job, I have given my full support to efforts to conduct more rigorous public outreach, and I have welcomed media through the gates of the Secretariat. We are reviewing our road map for the ASEAN Community until 2015, with its three community blueprints.
There is also the possibility of the ASEAN summit deciding to review the ASEAN charter. This review process would enable us to stocktake our progress as a community.
More important, this time in ASEAN’s history will not only engage us to do more soul-searching on the direction and future of our organisation, but also present an opportunity for us to affirm our commitment to ASEAN’s future.
With all this in store for the next five years, I and the ASEAN Secretariat have pledged to work closely with ASEAN’s member states as we move towards 2015 and beyond.
Le Luong Minh, formerly Vietnam’s deputy foreign affairs minister, was recently appointed secretary-general of ASEAN.