SINGAPORE: As ASEAN Chair for 2018, Singapore will be launching several initiatives and focus on various projects to improve the livelihood, well-being and welfare of the ASEAN people, according to Minister of Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.
Speaking on Wednesday (Mar 21) at the 19th meeting of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council, Mr Lee noted that ASEAN is currently facing various challenges, ranging from climate change to the proliferation of fake news and cyberbullying.
In order to deal with these issues, Mr Lee said ASEAN needs to have a pragmatic approach and have effective mechanisms in place.
"We must recognise that there is always room for institutional improvement to help ASEAN address various challenges, and seize opportunities," said Mr Lee.
In a wide-ranging speech that covered issues such as youth, environment and health, Mr Lee said the ASEAN socio-cultural community plays an important role in helping to improve the well-being and livelihood of the ASEAN people.
In the area of youth, initiatives will be launched this year to build more ties. This includes an e-sports tournament where youths can compete and engage with each other through online gaming, as well as a new programme that will provide young leaders in ASEAN to interact with and better understand each other, he said.
The Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund will also be renewed to support ground up inititaves by youths in areas such as leadership development and community service.
At the same time, efforts to develop a more socially responsible media in ASEAN are also underway. In May, ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) will meet to discuss opportunities and challenges.
"We should enhance efforts to inculcate in users the ability to be more discerning in dealing with information available online, and be more responsible in their online exchanges," said Mr Lee.
On the issue of climate change, Mr Lee stressed that regional efforts are an important part of the international climate agenda.
"Southeast Asia is a region vulnerable to climate change and we all have an interest to address this issue urgently," said Mr Lee.
A Special ASEAN Meeting on Climate Action will be held in July this year, to provide a platform for ASEAN member states to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement.
To narrow educational gaps in the region, a total of 78 projects under the Work Plan, will be carried out by ASEAN member states in cooperation with one another as well as with other stakeholders.
In the area of health, Mr Lee highlighted Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as an important issue for ASEAN.
To develop ASEAN's capacity to address AMR, Singapore will be co-leading the development of the monitoring and evaluation framework of AMR in ASEAN with Thailand. In addition, an action plan to operationalise the ASEAN Leaders Declaration on AMR is currently being developed.
Hosted and chaired by Singapore for the first time since the ASEAN Charter came into force in December 2008, the ASCC Council meeting was attended by 10 ASCC Council ministers as well as delegates and senior officials.