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36th ASEAN Summit made history amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA) has published an article entitled “36th ASEAN Summit made history amid COVID-19 pandemic”, in which it wrote that the event, which was held virtually for the first time, witnessed leaders of the member states reaffirming their commitment for the need to further bolster cooperation in the face of COVID-19.

The plenary session of the online 36th ASEAN Summit. Photo: VNA

Although restricted by movement and space, where leaders of the grouping had not been able to meet physically in Vietnam this time – including to perform the ASEAN tradition of crossover handshake – the meetings and interactions had proceeded virtually and in high spirit, it wrote.

According to the article, the one-day 36th ASEAN Summit, which carried the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, saw leaders discussing a wide range of issues and cooperation concerning the region, with focus on the need for a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN.

As pointed out by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his opening remarks at the 36th ASEAN Summit, while facing the present challenges, ASEAN must also be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead.

He said for the latter half of 2020, the challenge would be for governments of the ASEAN member states to lead ASEAN out of this period of adversity, adding that if succeeded, it will stand as a testament to the lasting values and vitality of ASEAN Resilient and Dynamic Community.

“I expect that the 36th ASEAN Summit will be an occasion for ASEAN member states to reassert our spirit of solidarity, our strong political will and commitment to rise above the adversities of the pandemic and keep forging ahead.

“On the one hand, we need to maintain good control over the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other, we should promptly repair its damage, and revitalise our economy and resume our economic development. This should be coupled with efforts to realise the set targets for ASEAN cooperation and integration of this year,” PM Phuc was quoted as saying.

The summit witnessed the participation of leaders of regional countries, including Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin who put forward a proposal for ASEAN to formulate a Regional Economic Recovery Plan for that purpose – underscoring the need for ASEAN to act swiftly and decisively in coordinating a regional level response to revitalising the economies.

The summit this time also saw the  ASEAN Leaders' Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age – which was to affirm the leaders commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups ten members, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam./.