Interview: Le Luong Minh
What is the ASEAN Secretariat’s role following ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration?
LE LUONG MINH: It is the role of the ASEAN Secretariat, led by the secretary-general of ASEAN, to facilitate and monitor the progress in the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions.
In the AEC, the ASEAN Secretariat, through the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Office, provides core support to monitor and track the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions, and the compliance to the commitments under the AEC Blueprint. Monitoring efforts are also complemented at the sectoral and national levels.
Post-2015, ASEAN will aim to put in place an enhanced monitoring framework that goes beyond the current compliance monitoring. This will strengthen the outcomes and the impact evaluation of the AEC Blueprint 2025.
Underscoring the importance of stakeholder awareness and active engagement to the success of the AEC, the ASEAN Secretariat will assist member states in systematically disseminating information on the implementation of the various measures under the AEC to the general public. Active consultation and engagement with the private sector and other stakeholders will also be enhanced to encourage greater and broader participation in the overall regional economic integration process.
How is the ASEAN Secretariat looking to increase private sector and community engagement in the integration process?
MINH: ASEAN Member States recognize the key role of the private sector in supporting ASEAN’s post-2015 agenda and the need for a more inclusive and consultative process post-2015. To this end, several approaches are being considered including a more structured consultation process with the private sector. A greater role in this process is expected to be taken on by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council.
How can ASEAN best address weaknesses highlighted by the Rohingya crisis and the ongoing South-China-Sea dispute?
MINH: ASEAN has always emphasised dialogue and cooperation in addressing issues affecting the region, including Rohingya and the South-China-Sea dispute. In July 2015, an emergency meeting was convened to discuss ASEAN’s levels of support for emergency humanitarian and relief efforts regarding the irregular movement of persons in South-east Asia. The meeting took the decision to establish a trust fund to support humanitarian and relief efforts. The terms of reference for the trust fund are in the process of being developed.
It is ASEAN’s long-standing position that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea must be settled by peaceful means and in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is a widening gap between the diplomatic track and the reality at sea where massive and rapid reclamation and construction activities are taking place, changing the status quo and going counter to the spirit of the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea (DOC).
In view of this significant gap, there is an even greater need for full and effective implementation of the DOC, which should be pursued in more concrete and operational terms, such as developing dos and don’ts lists to promote actions that conform to the DOC and prevent destabilising acts that violate the DOC. At the same time, incidents taking place have made it even more urgent for early conclusion of a legally binding code of conduct (COC), which should be capable of not only preventing but also managing such incidents without accepting or in any way being interpreted as legitimising the fait accompli.
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