KUALA LUMPUR – ASEAN Foreign Ministers on August 4 underscored the importance of strengthening the 10-member grouping’s cooperation with external partners and international organisations to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Foreign Ministers said this in a joint communique of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting released on August 4.
“We welcomed the continued contributions from ASEAN member states and external partners to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund which now has pledged contributions amounting to USD 20.8 million.
“We also welcomed the utilisation of the fund to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the peoples of ASEAN and ASEAN Secretariat staff through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in order to help ensure that the people of ASEAN are vaccinated, as “no one is safe until everyone is safe”,” the communique stated.
The ministers also looked forward to the operationalisation of the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies (RRMS) to enhance regional resilience in response to medical emergencies.
They also welcomed the contribution of medical supplies by ASEAN Member States, ASEAN external partners, international organisations, and other sources.
Noting the need to enhance vaccine production and distribution in the region, they called for enhanced collaboration and sharing of experience with ASEAN’s partners in research, development, production, and distribution of vaccines.
Providing equitable access to medicines for COVID-19, making COVID-19 vaccines available and affordable to all as global public goods, as well as preparing for other future public health emergencies was also their concern.
The meeting also took note of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) and its Implementation Plan, which serves as a consolidated strategy for ASEAN to emerge more resilient and stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, on South China Sea, the ministers had emphasised the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the Code of Conduct (COC) negotiations.
They, therefore welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation.
“We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties, and we reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” they said in the communique.
During the meeting, some of the ministers had also expressed concern on the situation in the South China Sea.
The said land reclaimations, activities, serious incidents in the area, including damage to the marine environment in the sea of contention, have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and might undermine peace, security, and stability in the region.