Building on decades of collaboration, the ASEAN - UN Partnership is well positioned to deal with the current economic crises

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - in partnership with the United Nations – is ready to play a critical role in bolstering regional strengths to ensure that economic recovery extends to all parts of the region, according to a new UN report launched in Hanoi by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and presented to the ASEAN leaders and to Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, and Chair of ASEAN.

The report – entitled Striving Together: ASEAN and the UN – reflects on four decades of ASEAN–UN cooperation and how that history can be a foundation for even stronger collaboration between ASEAN and the UN in the future. The report is a product of the Asia Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism, consisting of the regional offices of 30 UN and affiliated entities, and was launched at the conclusion of the Third ASEAN-UN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

In brief remarks, Mr. Ban, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan and UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer, noted that ASEAN countries had encountered financial and economic crises, and that significant structural reforms and progress have been undertaken in the past decade, with the active leadership of both ASEAN and the UN.

The UN Secretary-General commended ASEAN Member States on their progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. He noted, however, that significant gaps remain among and within countries. Expressing his satisfaction at the outcome of last month’s MDG Summit 2010, at which world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the MDGs by 2015, he urged closer cooperation between ASEAN and the UN to help close ASEAN’s remaining MDG gaps so that “no pillar of the ASEAN Community is left unbuilt.”

Presenting the main findings of Striving Together, Ms Heyzer highlighted ASEAN’s achievements towards regional integration, especially in the areas of infrastructure connectivity in transport, energy and ICT, intraregional trade and financial cooperation for stable and sustainable economic growth. At the same time, she expressed her concern at the significant social development gaps between the poorer and richer ASEAN Member States in income, employment, education, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, social protection and inclusion, gender equality and health, and human rights and governance. “While ASEAN has come a long way, the journey is not yet over,” Ms. Heyzer stated.

Dr. Surin noted that ASEAN has worked closely with UN agencies in the past, but most visibly after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, when the collaboration between the UN, ASEAN and the Government of Myanmar resulted in aid being delivered to the people of Myanmar when their need was greatest. He observed that ASEAN and the UN shared the same goals, dreams and aspirations which offered a firm foundation to strengthen their future partnership.

While ASEAN and the UN work together across a broad agenda - trade, transportation, health, HIV/AIDS, education, and migrant worker rights - Striving Together examines the success of the Cyclone Nargis partnership and explores how similar partnerships can be brought to a variety of issues using the UN’s Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM), which works to deliver UN services as one.

Striving Together lists three broad areas of future cooperation. The first is joint advocacy to strengthen regional integration and reach the Millennium Development Goals.

Second, the international nature and convening power of the UN can be used to help deal with transboundary issues, such as climate change, energy security, food security, disaster management, and financial and economic crises.

Third, to facilitate decision-making by ASEAN, ESCAP, together with members of the RCM, can fill the need to analyze and report on regional trends.