Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Friday (05/01) called for more global contribution from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, and highlighted the need for improvement in its secretariat to realize the 2025 Asean Vision.
"Aside from continuing to strengthen its sense of community, bring benefits to its people and maintain its role in peace and stability in the region, Asean must also be able to contribute more to the world," Retno said during the handover ceremony for the new Asean secretary general at the Asean Secretariat in South Jakarta.
New Asean Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi of Brunei Darussalam assumed his role this week, replacing Le Luong Minh of Vietnam, who wrapped up his five-year term in December.
Retno also said that strengthening the regional bloc’s "global role" can be achieved through unity within itself.
Furthermore, she touched on various challenges facing the region, including unresolved territorial disputes, terrorism, illicit drugs, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, human trafficking, and that prolonged conflict and tension in other parts of the world will also affect Southeast Asia.
"The next phase of Asean calls for a modern, responsive, efficient, effective and better-equipped Asean Secretariat," Retno said.
2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the regional bloc’s establishment. As one of its founding members, Indonesia has consistently brought up the importance of unity among member states in the face of emerging challenges.
Last year also saw Asean member states facing a number of crises, including violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that has led to the exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees and the siege of Marawi City in the southern Philippines by Islamist militants.
Asean is also in the process of realizing its 2025 Vision, which seeks to realize a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered region that includes providing opportunities for all its citizens and establishing a well integrated and connected economy.
"Against this backdrop, the role of the Asean secretary general and the Asean Secretariat are vital and crucial in supporting Asean to achieve its institutionalization and community building goals so that Asean can be more responsive and relevant," Retno said.
New Asean Secretariat Building
On Friday, Retno also attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Asean Secretariat building, which is located right next door to the current headquarters in South Jakarta.
According to Retno, the building will wrap up construction by next year.
"Each year, our work in Asean gets bigger and bigger, therefore it must be supported with an adequate Asean Secretariat," Retno said.
The new secretariat will have two 16-floors tower, with a green-building concept and will feature designs from Betawi culture. It will be equipped with a main hall with a capacity for 650 people, as well as 16 conference and multi-purpose rooms with capacities of 50 people each.
In addition, each member country will also have a respective delegation room.
The foreign minister told reporters that the new building may also include a space that will be provided for members of the public to visit and learn about the history and work of the organization.
The cost of the building construction will be around Rp 500 billion ($37.2 million), incurred from Indonesia’s state budget, and is part of Indonesia’s contribution to continue strengthening the Asean Secretariat.
Retno said that funding the building is part of Indonesia’s duty as the diplomatic capital of Asean and host of the bloc’s headquarters.
"In the future, we hope that Asean meetings will be held in Jakarta, because we will have sufficient space," Retno said.