The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should build on its readiness to deal with future uncertainties and disruptions, said the Indonesian ambassador to Thailand, Rachmat Budiman at a forum organised by C Asean in Bangkok on Tuesday to mark the 56th anniversary of Asean's founding.
As Asean chairman for 2023 and the host of the 2023 Asean summit, Indonesia has chosen "Asean Matters: Epicentrum of Growth" as this year's working theme.
Mr Budiman said the theme was chosen to reflect Indonesia's visions and priority for this year -- namely "Asean Matters", "Epicentrum of Growth", and the Asean Outlook for the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).
"Asean does matter, so we would like to see Asean strengthen its position, which would highlight the bloc's importance to people both within and beyond the region," he said.
"We have to be more adaptable and responsive in the face of uncertainties," he said, citing recent disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, as well as the digitisation of businesses.
He said Indonesia would push to institutionalise informal dialogues on human rights to enhance cooperation between Asean members in combatting rights abuses such as torture and human trafficking.
In order to be an epicentre for growth, Asean members must work together to improve food and energy security, as well as enhance and harmonise financial and regulatory standards across the region, the ambassador went on to say.
When asked about the AOIP, Mr Budiman said Asean is working on mainstreaming the protocol to ensure Asean's partners in the region and beyond have an understanding of Asean's vision for maritime and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, as well the bloc's economic aspirations and targets.
Polapatr Suvarnazorn, as the vice chairman of C Asean, which organised the forum, said in his opening remarks that the fact Asean is celebrating its 56th anniversary at the very place where it was founded speaks volumes about the success of the regional gathering.
"For the past 56 years, Asean has been working to make a peaceful, stable and resilient community. We are still faced with more uncertainties and challenges like wars, social unrest and natural disasters. But, Asean's vision has continued unchanged, and it remains resolute on keeping the bloc's cohesiveness as one community," he said.