PHNOM PENH – Asean has to aspire to become a peaceful region and avoid becoming a proxy for any global power, said Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as he formally took over the Asean chair.
Speaking at a handover ceremony at the close of the 40th and 41st Asean summits and related summits on Sunday, he added that his country will take the lead as Asean chair next year with the theme “Asean Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.
“Asean must become a peaceful region and anchor for global stability, consistently uphold international law and not be a proxy (for) any powers,” Mr Widodo said.
At the ceremony, the last major event on Asean’s calendar this year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the host, gave him a symbolic gavel to mark the handover of the rotating chairmanship.
Asean has to be a “dignified region” and uphold the values of humanity and democracy, said Mr Widodo, adding that it should also not let the current geopolitical dynamic turn into a new Cold War in South-east Asia.
Turning to the economy, he said that Asean must be a region with robust, inclusive and sustainable growth.
“Economic growth has and will always be the story of Asean. Asean’s capacity must also be strengthened to respond to the challenges of the next 20 years, to become more adaptive, responsive and competitive.”
A statement from Indonesia’s Presidential Secretariat on Sunday said a concern for Mr Widodo is increasing the capacity of Asean institutions, in order to be able to answer the challenges of the next 20 years. “The President hopes that by 2045, Asean will be more adaptive, responsive and competitive,” added the statement.
Mr Widodo called on the bloc’s members to try to achieve this the Asean way – by being consistent with the spirit of cooperation and implementing the Asean Charter completely.
He added that he looks forward to working with the other members of the grouping for a successful and resilient Asean in facing future challenges.
“I look forward to your excellencies’ participation in Indonesia next year for Asean Matters: Epicentrum of Growth,” he said.