SINGAPORE, Sep 7 – “There are so many things to learn, to hear from the other organisations and CSOs,” Nguyen Thi Kim Que, vice director of the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies in Vietnam, said after taking part in the 2nd S Rajaratnam Endowment (SRE) ASEAN Community Forum here.
“The strongest feeling for me is that I have a strong feel with ASEAN. I feel like I’m a part of it, and I am in it,” she added. I think that’s important because once you feel you belong to it, you will want to do more things for it, and more things with it.”
facilitator of the Dynamic ASEAN (Sustainable Development)
“The most useful thing for me is networking with ASEAN member state representatives and with the secretariat team. It is useful that I learned about the (ASEAN Community) blueprints,” said Saw John Bright, coordinator of the Water Governance Programme at the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) in Myanmar. Looking back, he added that some of his group’s work at the local level is linked to ASEAN’s strategy towards the management of natural resources and water.
Click here for a video about the two-day event.
Saw and Kim Que were among the some 80 participants from 42 civil society organisations from all 10 ASEAN member states who attended the 2nd SRE ASEAN Community Forum, held here on 23-24 August 2017.
Started in March 2017, the 2nd SRE – ASEAN Community Forum gives civil society groups the opportunity to interact with the ASEAN secretariat and other stakeholders in the ASEAN Community, with a view to making the Community blueprints more relevant and responsive in sustainable development, environmental protection, and disaster management. Forum activities are designed to engage community voices, opinions and interpretations of the ASEAN Community pillars.
“Civil society organisations do great work in their communities, so by engaging with them, they can understand how being a part of the ASEAN Community can help them and the people they work for,” an update on the forum by the ASEAN Foundation said.
At the two-day event, the CSOs got acquainted with ASEAN processes and mechanisms to understand how they can better engage with ASEAN, and how the work of ASEAN can benefit the communities they work for. During the plenary sessions, the civil society groups shared ideas on how they can work together with ASEAN, and representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat went into the elements of the ASEAN blueprints.
The CSO representatives discussed the impact of these blueprints on societies in ASEAN, challenges to ASEAN integration, and possible ways forward during the World Café sessions.
At the opening ceremony, ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General Dr AKP Mochtan stressed the importance of events such as the SRE – ASEAN Community Forum: “ASEAN is only truly successful if cooperation and regional integration go beyond the government, policy circles and organisations, and that it also involves civil societies and individuals – students, young people, artists, professionals, vendors, migrant workers, men and women on the street.”
“It is for each and every single one of these individuals that ASEAN must commit to work, and to ensure that the legacy of peace and diversity, a resilient, sustainable and dynamic ASEAN Community (as with today’s theme), lives on while we work towards celebrating another 50 good years and beyond for ASEAN,” he said.
“ASEAN has always been about people. This year we celebrate ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary and there is a greater call for ASEAN to engage people, to feel that they belong to the ASEAN Community,” said Elaine Tan, executive director of the ASEAN Foundation.
With support from the Singapore-based S Rajaratnam Endowment , the Jakarta-based foundation is organising three S Rajaratnam Endowment – ASEAN Community Forums from March 2017 to April 2018 in order to help narrow the gaps between ASEAN’s institutional identity and ASEAN’s communal identity.
“The ASEAN Foundation sees this initiative as a strategic approach to embrace CSOs to deepen their understanding and knowledge about the ASEAN Blueprints 2025 and explore how their roles can contribute to supporting the ASEAN Community-building efforts,” Tan added.
This August forum follows the first one held also in Singapore on 9-10 March 2017, which focused on rural development, women’s economic development, and micro-small-medium enterprises. The third forum, which is to be held by April 2018, will cover the topics of youth, peace building/ interfaith dialogue, and culture and education.