ASEAN summits conclude with focus on post-COVID-19 recovery, community building

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded its 38th and 39th summits and related summits on Thursday, with commitments to support post-COVID-19 recovery and ASEAN community building.

When addressing the closing ceremony, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, who is also the current ASEAN chairman for 2021, said that leaders of the 10-country bloc had productive discussions on the current state and future direction of the region as well as considered ways to further enhance relationships with external partners.

The Sultan said that ASEAN has stepped up efforts to respond to and recover from COVID-19, including work to help its people by securing vaccines and protecting their well-being through the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy, as the region continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the emergence of new variants.

During the summit meetings, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to keep markets open and ensure the continued flow of trade and investment, supply chain connectivity, particularly for essential products, and for a strong and resilient post-COVID-19 economy, a chairman's statement on the 38th and 39th ASEAN summits stated.

Noting that tourism is one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN leaders highlighted the importance of strengthening regional and international cooperation to safely restart and rebuild ASEAN tourism industry as a significant contributor to economic and social advancements and a major source of employment, income and livelihoods of people and local communities in the region.

As for ASEAN Community building, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen the ASEAN Community as well as ASEAN's Centrality and unity to address common challenges as well as to advance ASEAN's comprehensive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"ASEAN Community-building will always be a work in progress, and that it is thus vital to remain committed to upholding multilateralism and a strong regional architecture to enable meaningful progress for generations to come," Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said at the closing ceremony, before handing over the ASEAN chairmanship to Samdech Techo Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia.

The 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and related summits were held from Tuesday to Thursday via video conferences, which were also joined by leaders from ASEAN's dialogue partners, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, the United States, Australia and Russia, among others.

Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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