In keeping with ASEAN's recent history of divided responses to regionally important issues, the bloc's collective efforts to combat Covid-19 have proved far from unified. But an institution in which individual members are placed above the collective, should observers have anticipated any different?
last month, the Sydney Morning Herald’s international editor Peter Hartcher was asked on-air by Australia’s national broadcaster for his take on ASEAN’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He didn’t mince his words.
«ASEAN has often talked a great game, but it has never successfully brought together a coordinated response to any major crisis,» Hartcher said. «Whether it was the Asian financial crisis, or territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it’s proved seemingly unable to coordinate and marshal its forces».
This included exchange of information, sharing of experiences and the facilitation of «joint research and development of vaccines and antiviral medicines and a commitment to take collective action and coordinate policies».
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen also called for increased cooperation at the summit, fearing the region could struggle to control the virus if not. «The containment of this disease cannot be done within one country,» he said. «The success in fighting Covid-19 requires in-depth and comprehensive cooperation across sectors – ASEAN has to unite together in fighting Covid-19 as a common cause».
«When the outbreak loomed larger in early March, emergency measures like lockdowns were imposed with little time and effort for consultation and coordination with ASEAN neighbours».
Hoang stated there should have been a common ASEAN benchmark of pandemic risks, or an ASEAN-wide early warning system that could trigger region-wide preventive measures.
Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and chairperson of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights , told the Globe that many member states have put national interests ahead of regional wellbeing.
Almost all of the countries in ASEAN have taken a nationalistic approach, over a prosper-by-neighbour approach … The approach has been; ‘my country first, ASEAN second’
Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and APHR chairperson
This article was written by ALEXI DEMETRIADI
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