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Closer unity needed to pry region from Covid grip: ASEAN chief

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ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi is speaking at the 5th ASEAN Media Forum held online by the ASEAN Secretariat on August 13. SAM RITH

Closer unity needed to pry region from Covid grip: ASEAN chief

ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi made an urgent call to the 10 member states to work more closely and constructively together to shield the livelihoods of the diverse patchwork of peoples of the bloc, amid the devastating, debilitating Covid stranglehold on the regional economy.

Lim was speaking at the 5th ASEAN Media Forum held online by the ASEAN Secretariat on August 13.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our society, as well as our economy, and [the] fight against this remains a priority for ASEAN.

“The emerging of new [Covid-19] variant[s] has further exacerbated the region[’s] vulnerabilities. As such, there’s a new urgency to reinforce our collective efforts to safeguarding the [lives] and livelihoods of our people,” the ASEAN chief said.

He said contributions from member states and external partners to Covid-19 response funds would pay for vaccines and treatments to be used in ASEAN.

The ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies have reinforced regional preparedness and response capacity for public health emergencies as well as emerging diseases, he noted.

Recognising the need to work together towards long-term resilience in the post-pandemic-era, the bloc adopted the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its implementation plan at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November, he said.

“Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, I believe we will emerge stronger, more resilient than ever,” Lim said.

At the recent 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Post Ministerial Conferences, top regional diplomats reaffirmed their commitment to ensure the welfare of their peoples, unlock their potential for future opportunities, and provide them the tools to overcome headwinds, in a push to advance sustainable development for shared prosperity, he noted.

He said the latest edition of the AMM illustrated ASEAN’s constructive approach in addressing the key issues affecting the region and the wider international community.

The bloc also stands to benefit from the insight and voices of integrity provided by the foreign ministers, and the bridges built within the vastly rich and diverse ASEAN community to secure a sustainable and resilient future, Lim underscored.

He also called on the ASEAN Secretariat to work closely with the media to enhance awareness, promote understanding, and straighten out misconceptions concerning the ASEAN integration agenda.

At this year’s AMM, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn called on ASEAN leaders to help alleviate the plight of the poor, who he stressed have been severely strained economically by the Covid-19 crisis.

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