A high level policy symposium on Asean kicked off on Sunday with well over 200 participants taking part in policy debates on the future of Asean in the next 50 years.
It is a rare opportunity at the Iloilo Convention Convention to have diplomats, policy makers, thinker, game changers, local businesses, students and dialogue partner countries exchange views and map out strategies on political and security cooperation, including economic, social and cultural elements.
In his opening speech, Prof Hidetoshi Nishimura, president of the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia, reiterated that the strength of Asean’s political-security cooperation would depend on Asean centrality, which the grouping has been maintaining with vigor.
He said that the expansion of Asean membership from six to 10 members, and the expansion of the East Asia Summit to include US and Russia, indicates the farsightedness of Asean in engaging the international environment players
Nishimura pointed out that Asean wants to build up cooperative peace that is pivotal for development in the region.
He said that the symposium is part of the year-long collaboration with the Philippine government, which is serving as the current Asean hair, to assimilate information about Asean and its achievements in the past five decades.
In his keynote speech, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, former secretary general of Asean, reiterated that the only way for Asean to survive in the next half century is to be “more Asean”. He urged all members to cooperate more and expand intra-Asean trade market.
“We have to do more of our own integration and globalisation. It is the only way to go forward in the next half century,” he said, adding that the future scenario is still uncertain.
But one trend is clear, he stressed, Asean has to contribute to the common goods within the global community. “Asean has to transform this planet for all people,” he said.
He added that the Asean way remains a great practice that allow the members to pursue their own interests that would bring peace and prosperity to the region.
The symposium held one plenary session discussing the past and the outlook of Asean political and security coloration.
Speakers on this session included Prof Juergen Haacks of the London School of Economics, Prof Aileen Baviera, of the University of Philippines, and Ambassador Rosario Manalo, of the Philippine Women’s University.