On Tuesday 20 November 2018, H.E. Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, presided over the event “Shaping Sustainable Development in Southeast Asia in a New Era of Change – the Future of ASEAN Cooperation” which was co-organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Asia Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation at Narathip Auditorium. Mr. David Arnold, President of the Asia Foundation, and Ms. Deepali Khanna, Managing Director for Asia of the Rockefeller Foundation, also delivered opening remarks. This event brought together representatives from the diplomatic corps, international organisations and development sectors to discuss ways forward for regional development cooperation in ASEAN based on the study entitled “ASEAN as the Architect for Regional Development Cooperation” produced by the Asia Foundation. It follows up on the successful launch of the publication in New York at the Rockefeller Foundation Headquarters last September at the margins of 73rd Session of the UNGA.
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Foreign Minister underscored the importance of sustainable development as a key ASEAN priority which Thailand, as the Chair of ASEAN in 2019, will take forward under the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. Furthermore, the Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that ASEAN is a model for successful development, with per capita income in the region expanding 33 times from the year of ASEAN’s founding in 1967 to 2016. He also identified sustainable development as one of the strategic approaches that ASEAN can use to engage with external partners.
During the panel discussion, participants exchanged views on how ASEAN can play a more catalytic role in shaping the future of regional development cooperation, in order to maintain its centrality. It was agreed that development assistance in the region has evolved as a result of a changing geo-political landscape. Therefore, ASEAN needs to further reinforce its mechanisms to facilitate regional development cooperation among ASEAN Member States and between ASEAN Member States and external partners, in alignment with ASEAN priorities and for the benefit of the people of ASEAN. The “ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue” (ACSDSD), to be established in Thailand in 2019, was also recognised as one of potential platforms to strengthen ASEAN’s leadership in development cooperation in the region.