Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has recently written an article on ASEAN cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he described solidarity as the grouping's strength in the combat.
Fighting the epidemic is the shared responsibility of each country and government, and regional and global mechanisms, he said, adding that strong actions have been taken by governments and people worldwide to combat the common enemy. Notably, ASEAN member countries have supported each other and created the best possible conditions for ASEAN citizens in their countries. This showed that the spirit of solidarity and at a higher level, international cooperation and coordination are essential factors. As an organisation playing the central role in the region, ASEAN is the common house for its members to overcome the pandemic together, Minh said, stressing that the more than five-decade history has proven that ASEAN has become stronger after each difficulty, challenge and crisis. "It is time for ASEAN to carry forward the valuable tradition and demonstrate its mission as the pillar for member countries during the hardest time," he noted. Since the beginning of the year, Vietnam, in its capacity as ASEAN Chair, has worked together with other member countries to put forth the theme of "Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN", aiming to push ahead with the building of the ASEAN Community and bring into full play the bloc's role in an evolving world. The unexpected outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented adverse impacts on all spheres have proven that the theme and motto are more timely and relevant than ever. Since the epidemic outbreak, Vietnam and ASEAN have demonstrated their prompt response as well as their capacity to engage in policies and actions between members. After the issuance of the ASEAN Chair's Statement on the bloc's collective response to COVID-19 on February 14, ASEAN has convened many important ministerial-level meetings in the fields of health, economy and defence, in an effort to ensure comprehensive coordination in the fight against the disease. At the same time, ASEAN has organised meetings with dialogue partners such as China, the EU and the US and major international organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), where they exchanged experience in the combat. Minh said during the Special ASEAN Summit and the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19, slated for April 14, participating leaders will seek concrete measures and initiatives to promote cooperation in the fight against the epidemic, while ensuring the dynamic and sustainable development of the region in the long term. He suggested ASEAN and its partners promptly mobilise common resources, especially warehouses of medical supplies to meet urgent demands, and set up a fund for COVID-19 prevention and control based on the existing resources and support of partners, including the United Nations and WHO. Minh also proposed standardising and improving the efficiency of coordination in policies and actions, with attention paid to building the ASEAN pandemic response process, firstly organising joint online exercises in this regard. Fighting the pandemic should come along with preventing economic downturn and social unrest, no country should be left alone in the battle and nobody should be left behind, he said. Minh emphasised the significance of a strategy for ending the pandemic in each country and regional coordination to quickly stamp out the disease and normalise and stabilise socio-economic lives of the countries. He called on the countries to share and persistently implement common values of free trade, facilitate investment, ensure that supply chains are not disrupted, and soon resume cross-border trade activities after the pandemic is contained, in order to optimise all momentum for inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development in the region. Minh highlighted ASEAN's responsibility and centrality in helping to ensure the world and the region integrate and develop more prosperously and sustainably after the pandemic is stamped out.
Over the past three months, Vietnam's efforts in its capacity the ASEAN Chair has reflected the "cohesive and responsive" spirit adopted for this year, he said. Vietnam believes that with the solidarity and cohesion among ASEAN member countries, as well as the close cooperation of partners, ASEAN will, together with the region and the world, overcome the COVID-19 challenge, Minh concluded.
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