Big plans for Asean

Asean's leaders vowed to keep their markets open and competitive and to remain united in the face of external divisive forces, in order to keep the regional grouping resilient and innovative.
Asean's leaders vowed to keep their markets open and competitive and to remain united in the face of external divisive forces, in order to keep the regional grouping resilient and innovative.PHOTO: ST FILE

At the end of a long day of meetings yesterday, Asean's leaders issued three statements which laid out their plans to keep the regional grouping resilient and innovative, to connect smart cities across the region to each other, and to boost cyber security. Regional Correspondent Charissa Yong reports.

STAYING UNITED

Asean's leaders yesterday vowed to keep their markets open and competitive and to remain united in the face of external divisive forces, in order to keep the regional grouping resilient and innovative.

They issued a political statement laying out their response to geostrategic, technological challenges and opportunities faced by the region.

The wide-ranging statement also reaffirmed Asean's key principles, such as making decisions by consensus and upholding a rules-based regional order.

In addition, the leaders promised to "promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Asean Human Rights Declaration".

The statement was issued after a working dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the end of a day of meetings among Asean's 10 heads of state or government, or their representatives.

A comprehensive list of programmes Asean is working on was also endorsed.

This ran the gamut from countering terrorism and addressing drug and human trafficking, to improving economic integration and regional connectivity.

Singapore will renew the Singapore-Asean Youth Fund to promote youth volunteerism, and set up an Asean Law Academy programme to boost Asean legal integration and education.


SMART CITIES

Twenty-six cities will be included in Asean's network of smart cities, Singapore's flagship initiative as chair.

Announced in a formal proposal last night, the 26 are: Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangkok, Banyuwangi, Battambang, Cebu City, Chonburi, Da Nang, Davao City, Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Luang Prabang, Makassar, Mandalay, Manila, Naypyitaw, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Siem Reap, Singapore, Vientiane and Yangon.

The network aims to use technology to tackle challenges caused by rapid urban development, such as city congestion, water and air quality, and public safety.

It will be officially launched in November this year.

Individual cities will come up with their own development plans, which will outline specific projects to be carried out from this year until 2025.

They will meet annually to discuss their progress, launch new projects with companies, and secure funding and support from multilateral financial institutions including the World Bank, Japan-led Asian Development Bank, China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the G-20's Global Infrastructure Hub.

The network aims to bring together the various smart cities popping up across Asean. As these cities often have different priorities, the network will allow them to focus on areas that matter to them, said the statement.


CYBER SECURITY

Asean's leaders have agreed to better coordinate their countries' cyber-security policies and cooperate more closely.

In a statement released late last night, they pledged to come up with a concrete list of practical norms of state behaviour in cyberspace, which Asean can work towards putting in practice.

These norms would be voluntary and non-binding.

The statement also said leaders would cooperate to tackle vulnerabilities in the region's critical infrastructure, and encourage measures to address the criminal or terrorist use of cyberspace.

Doing so is important given the pervasiveness of cyber threats around the world, and the spread across Asean of mobile devices connected to the Internet.

It said the relevant ministers have been tasked to submit recommendations on feasible ways to coordinate cyber-security policy, among other things.

The statement also acknowledged the benefits of the region having a peaceful and secure cyberspace.

For instance, many jobs can be created, and economic and technological progress can also be boosted, it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Big plans for Asean'. Print Edition | Subscribe