Vietnam handing over ASEAN chairmanship hammer

ASEAN Chairmanship 2021: Brunei Darussalam

At the closing ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on 15 November 2020, Vietnam handed over the chairmanship of ASEAN for 2021 to Brunei Darussalam.

According to Article 31 of the ASEAN Charter, the chairmanship of ASEAN is rotated annually among its ten members, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of the member states. A recent departure from the norm was Indonesia swapping the ASEAN chairmanship for 2011 with Brunei Darussalam, a request that was unanimously accepted by the other ASEAN member states. Such exceptions to changing the order of the ASEAN chairmanship are, however, few and far between.

The roles of the ASEAN chair are to chair essentially all ASEAN meetings – most notably the ASEAN Summit and related summits, to promote the collective interests of ASEAN, to ensure ASEAN centrality, and to represent ASEAN in all its interactions with external parties. Ensuring ASEAN centrality is more vital than ever, given today’s precarious geopolitical context, in the face of the great power rivalry between China and the United States and the South China Sea dispute. The chair also plays a leading role in agenda-setting and consensus-building within the regional association.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (right) handing over the symbolic gavel of the ASEAN chairmanship to Brunei’s ambassador to Vietnam Pengiran Haji Sahari bin Pengiran Haji Salleh (left) at the closing of the 37th ASEAN Summit. Source: VnExpress

Brunei’s Chairmanship

Brunei joined ASEAN as its sixth member state on 7 January 1984, soon after gaining its full independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. This year is Brunei’s fifth time chairing the ASEAN chairmanship. Previously, it helmed the ASEAN chairmanship in 1989, 1995, 2001 and 2013.

What can we expect from Brunei’s chairmanship this time?

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the immediate priority under Brunei’s chairmanship is driving a cohesive regional response to mitigate the debilitating economic, social and health impacts of the crisis.

The theme of Brunei’s ASEAN chairmanship is “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper”, which encapsulates the vision and focus of its stint as ASEAN chair. Caring is about placing people at the centre of its agenda. Against the backdrop of Covid-19, it means ensuring ASEAN work together to secure access to Covid-19 vaccines promptly, fostering community resilience, looking after the well-being of people, and expediting post-pandemic recovery. Given the disruptive shifts brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and global issues such as climate change, ASEAN needs to prepare its people to be future-ready – adapting to a rapidly changing world, seizing opportunities and overcoming the challenges ahead – to ensure the relevance and prosperity of the bloc.

Overall, its other priorities include upholding ASEAN principles, strengthening ASEAN institutions, and continuing efforts towards realising the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

The logo of ASEAN chairmanship 2021. Source: ASEAN

In addition to the theme, Brunei has unveiled the 2021 ASEAN chairmanship logo which comprises four elements. The ten petals represent the ten ASEAN member states joined together in unity. The colours symbolise values such as solidarity, respect and tolerance. The blooming flower expresses the diversity of ASEAN and its thriving as a region. Lastly, the gold ornament at the bottom of the logo draws inspiration from one of Brunei’s most recognisable patterns – the traditional motif “Bunga Ayer Muleh”. It illustrates ASEAN’s cooperation with other countries contributing to the development of the region.

For more information on Brunei, visit http://asean2021.bn/Theme/about-brunei.aspx

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Ushering in the New Year with Festivals

A new year is a fresh start, brimming with hope, opportunities and possibilities. What better way to celebrate the new year than literally soaking in the festive atmosphere with others at a new year festival? Festivals are not only celebrations of humanity and life but also expressions of cultures and traditions. Want to know a country better? Then be sure to join the locals in one of their festivals for unforgettable fun and meaningful experiences.

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ASEAN Youth Conference 2019

ASEAN Youth Organization conducted a conference for youth leaders and change-makers in Bangkok, Thailand on 5-8 November 2019. The event was calling all young generations aged 17-27 years across Southeast Asia who wants to contribute to making changes on issues related to the three pillars of ASEAN: ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

ASEAN Youth Organization is an international non-partisan, non-profit, and non-governmental organization established to promote international understanding and goodwill parallel to the ASEAN Motto and constitutes one vision, one identity, and one community. AYO’s vision is to create a world where youth exhibit a heightened interest in ASEAN through our activities that Empower Youth, Engage communities to instill and implement ideas that enable Positive Sustainable Change.

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High-level speakers and practitioners from the three pillars of ASEAN will attend the conference not just to give presentations, but also act as moderators to educate the youths. Moreover, the discussion will also be held to stimulate the critical thinking ability of the youths. Ergo, making a bigger #IMPACT for the lives of the youths and ASEAN Community.

After the event ends on October 26th, 2019, the participants will be given tasks and assignments for further implementation of the actions planned at the conference. The delegates will be given to implementing the project proposal with the help of the A.Y.O country representative and shall later be evaluated by A.Y.O officers.

Philippine Economic Problems : various contributing factors and it’s correlation between Poverty and Health

Philippine Economic Problems : various contributing factors and it’s correlation between Poverty and Health. Good economical conditions are probably one of the most important factors needed to ensure stability, peace amongst nations and thriving human culture. But we can’t deny the fact that most countries in Southeast Asia are suffering from different economical issues and disparity. Inspite of the technological advancements of this modern day ,why is it there are still countries suffering from economic crisis?  Why is it people in some countries having faster economic growth still suffers from poverty? Economic disparity amongst ASEAN country is probably one of the main agendas that should be tackle this year .Even without any information to back it up we can’t deny the fact that poverty is one of the main problem we are facing today. These economic issues can furthermore  lead to other problems in socio-cultural pillar of ASEAN.

These economic issues that most countries has face can be link to the economic problems of the Philippines.Philippines  is an archipelagic country which are made up mostly of more than 7,000 islands located in relation to many of Southeast Asia’s main water bodies: the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Luzon Strait ,it is also rich and abundant in natural resources and has a high level of biodiversity .It is also a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation since the ASEAN was founded on August 1967.The Philippine economy is an example of mixed economy which includes a variety of private freedom, combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation. According to the 2017 estimate of the International Monetary Fund’s statistics ,Philippines ranks as the world’s 34th largest economy by nominal GDP ,it is also the 13th largest economy in Asia and the 3rd largest economy in ASEAN after Indonesia and Thailand.Its culture like other Southeast Asian countries was influenced by the European and American power, making it a new home of diverse culture and ethnicity. But despite of all of these claims why is it most of its people are still suffering from poverty?

Despite of the economic growth, we can’t deny the fact that poverty rates are still on its highest, even though Philippines has a fast growing economy the declination of poverty rates is very sluggish. Thus ,poverty is also linked to certain economic problems that we cannot ignore, these problems also are the main reason why Filipinos suffered from poverty. These economic problems are the higher rate of unemployment, lack of education, insufficient facilities and poor infrastructure, dependence of overseas remittances and corruption.

 The unemployment rate, according to the report published by the Trading Economics “the unemployment rate of the Philippines dropped to 5.4 percent in the September quarter of 2018 from 5.6 percent a year ago. The number of unemployed persons went down by 50 thousand to 2.32 million while the number of employed increased by 488 thousand to 40.66 million. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate declined to 60.1 percent from 60.6 percent.  Unemployment Rate in Philippines averaged 8.41 percent from 1994 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 13.90 percent in the first quarter of 2000 and a record low of 4.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016”.Even if the unemployment rate of the Philippines this year dropped it is still higher in comparison with our Asia-Pacific neighbours, Malaysia has 3.4 percent, 2.3 percent in Thailand, and 3.4 percent in Singapore. In South Korea, it was 3.5 percent, Taiwan, 4.3 percent, China, 3.9 percent and Vietnam, 5.6 percent and it cannot still erase the fact that it still don’t have enough job opportunities that can support all the Filipinos, that’s why only few Filipinos seeks job within the country and enter the labor force while the rest find jobs overseas while others ending up leaving the labor force and become unemployed or underemployed. One of the best example for this are the college graduates especially those who were a nursing graduate. Thousands of nursing graduates still don’t have a job because of oversupply of labor force in the field ,and also the country’s education system continues to produce college graduates whose skills don’t necessarily fit with what is in demand in the job market. Along with this is the growing population of the Philippines in which  the pace at which jobs are created simply cannot cope up with steady supply of graduates whom many will find themselves unemployed, as a result many nursing graduates fail to land their dream jobs. Many Filipinos also whom are unemployed wait for job opportunities abroad, and many families depend on remittances from family members who are staying abroad.

Because of the growing number of Filipinos who worked overseas ,the Philippines now ranked as the third largest generator of international worker’s remittances, behind only India and China. Recently, it surpassed Mexico by a margin to become the third largest remittance receiver country.According to the information from the World Bank’s data on immigrant remittances that it analyzes. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data on Filipino international remittances received for the whole year of 2017 amounted to $28.06 billion. According to a report, “this inflow is a substantial contribution to the country’s dollar earnings, providing a substantial prop to the national economy”. The economic growth of the Philippines can primarily be associated to the remittances from the overseas Filipino workers, as well as the growth in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. One of the problems that the Philippine Government should be taken care of is the corruption because even if a country has faster economic growth but it’s money is not distributed properly to its sector it will still not become progressive and also I think the country should not be overly dependent of overseas remittances from Filipinos living abroad because  it just making the nation vulnerable to external shocks .Thats why the current administration should encourage value addition production and manufacturing and build industries for the Filipinos in order to increase employment opportunities .

One of the factors also why Filipinos suffered from poverty is the lack of education .If you can’t read or do basic math, if you can’t show up for work and apply yourself, you will not have a job. You will be poor.Based on the 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), about nine percent of the estimated 39.2 million Filipinos aged 6 to 24 years old were out-of-school children and youth (OSCY). OSCY refers to family members 6 to 14 years old who are not attending formal school; and family members 15 to 24 years old who are currently out of school, not gainfully employed, and have not finished college or post-secondary course.One of the main cause that affects children’s education is that the insufficient and poor facilities this signifies that students are not receiving their rights of having a sufficiently available and well-maintained school facilities. Indications of having these poor facilities are non-working or poorly maintained public comfort rooms, lack of classrooms, overcrowding in classrooms, poor ventilation, unsanitary and crowded canteens and more. Also some children from mountainous area especially the ethnic groups don’t have access to education.

These economic problems may also be seen in some ASEAN countries.In fact ,according to a report, almost 90 percent of people living in extreme poverty in Southeast Asia are in Indonesia and the Philippines. This issue may also lead to other problems such malnutrition. Merriam Webster defines malnutrition as the unhealthy condition that results from not eating enough food or not eating enough healthy food .Malnutrition is the very clear result of a countries overwhelming poverty. It is also the hottest issue for many years now. Because of poverty people are being deprived from accessing good and healthy foods which will eventually results to the increasing rate of mortality amongst children. Poverty limits the people from buying a decent meal for their family or even themselves or even if they do have money they will budget it and eat only once a day to save it for the another day .

               These issues are just some of the  issues the country’s are facing today and it is not only be seen in the Philippines but also in the other countries in ASEAN especially those who are still developing countries. These issues also motivates me to participates in the ASEAN Youth Conference in order to use my voice to came up for a possible solution on how to eradicate these issues although it is not that easy to eradicate these issues because it needs a lot of time but the important thing is to lessen the percentage of people suffering from this. I am very passionate on helping and finding a possible solution to this problem because I myself also belongs to the percent of people suffering from poverty and I want to show them and prove to other people like me that poverty is not a hindrance at all ,all we need is a helping hand so that we can finally achieved and make this world a better place to live in. Eventhough we came from different nations ,even if we came from diverse origin but then we are unified amidst diversity because we have the same objective and that is to build a future, a future that is full of hope  and fulfilment. Rise ASEAN , One Vision, One Identity, One Community.

By Gelbert Crescencio, Membership Loyalty Program Officer