Asean award for contributions to regional community building

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at the Asean Day reception at Shangri-La on Aug 24, 2015.
Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at the Asean Day reception at Shangri-La on Aug 24, 2015.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Asean Secretariat is offering a Singapore citizen or organisation a US$10,000 (S$14,000) cash grant towards that person's or group's efforts in regional community building.

The inaugural Asean People's Award, announced yesterday by Minister for Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam, aims to recognise those who are contributing in areas ranging from economic integration to volunteering.

"Our efforts to bring our peoples closer together will work out in the medium to longer term," he said in his speech at the annual Asean Day Reception at the Shangri-La Hotel last night. "So long as we persevere, we will get closer to our goal - a vibrant, fully integrated Asean Community. To this end, each Asean member state will be conferring an Asean People's Award. "

Nominations open from 8am today on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, and will close at 6pm on Sept 6.

Mr Shanmugam said "everyone has a role" in establishing a regional community. For its part, he said the Government conducts events like yesterday's Asean Day Reception, and promotes the region within schools.

The award could also raise Asean's profile in Singapore.

A new Asean study found that young people here are generally ambivalent about the body.

Results released yesterday showed that while more than 80 per cent of the 4,600 undergraduates polled across the region had a strong Asean identity, Singaporean respondents exhibited an "Asean- ambivalence".

Mr Shanmugam said: "Building a national identity is still a work in progress, let alone... a supra-national identity but still we have to try. Because as one community, we can achieve so much more."

Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, a senior research fellow from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs think-tank, told The Straits Times that a strong regional identity could spur member nations to find solutions to common problems, such as transboundary haze, climate change and migration issues.

She added: "When we all feel like we are part of this region, we can work together to find solutions for the common problems we face."

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam echoed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call at Sunday's National Day Rally for Singapore to "be alive" to its external environment even as it attends to domestic concerns.

Citing the recent Bangkok blast that claimed the life of 34-year-old Singaporean Melisa Liu, he said: "Non-traditional threats and challenges are also at our doorstep. Asean will need to confront these challenges head-on."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Asean award for contributions to regional community building'. Print Edition | Subscribe