It has not been an easy year for Asean. Natural disasters, from the eruption of Mount Mayon to the collapse of a dam in southern Laos and earthquakes in Lombok and Central Sulawesi, were a reminder of the region's gaps in disaster preparedness. Worsening trade tensions between China and the United States cast a damper on the region's economy, as did a sharp slide in the value of several regional currencies. Disruptive technology has displaced workers, and there are concerns over how prepared the region's people are to take on jobs in the new economy. The Rohingya crisis has tested Asean's unity and raised questions globally over its seeming inability to resolve a major humanitarian crisis in its patch.
Against this backdrop, Singapore's chairmanship of Asean has helped keep the group cohesive and on a steady footing as it presses on with the task of regional integration. The Republic's themes of resilience and innovation have largely guided its initiatives this year. It has invested in the region's future, including through enhancing existing training centres in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar to be Singapore Cooperation Centres, and convening a special meeting of ministers to focus attention on climate change.