Webinar on ASEAN Prize Talk 2021: “ASEAN Prize and Its Role in Forging an ASEAN Identity”

In this webinar, the three ASEAN Prize recipients from 2018 to 2020 discussed the progress of forging an ASEAN identity through their views and experiences, and their exemplary efforts in promoting a people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community.

Joint Webinar by the ASEAN Secretariat & ASEAN Studies Centre

Friday, 17 September 2021 – The ASEAN Studies Centre (ASC) at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, in partnership with the Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat, hosted the ASEAN Prize Talk 2021 on “ASEAN Prize and Its Role in Forging an ASEAN Identity”.

Dato Lim Jock Hoi
Dato Lim Jock Hoi delivered the welcome remarks before the panel discussion. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

In his Opening Remarks, H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN, and Chair of the ASEAN Prize Judging Committee, highlighted that the webinar was aimed at facilitating the recognition of the ASEAN Prize as a prominent regional accolade, while encouraging more individuals and organisations from all ASEAN Member States to showcase their exemplary work to enhance, promote and contribute to the ASEAN Community building efforts. H.E. Dato Lim reiterated that all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, academia, women, media, opinion and thought-leaders as well as young people play a vital role in supporting ASEAN to achieve a practical, cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and rules-based community.

Ms Erlinda Uy Koe, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood and Mr Choi Shing Kwok
The panel include Ms Erlinda Uy Koe, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood and Mr Choi Shing Kwok, with Mr Lee Yoong Yoong as moderator. Mr Benedict Cheong and Dato Shahira Admed Bazari also delivered their sponsor statements. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The panel discussion featured the three ASEAN Prize recipients’ views and perspectives on ASEAN’s challenges and opportunities in achieving a stronger regional integration and inclusive ASEAN Community 2025. Ms Erlinda Uy Koe (recipient of ASEAN Prize 2018), Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood (recipient of ASEAN Prize 2019), and Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Director and CEO of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS (recipient of ASEAN Prize 2020), participated in the discussion.  Moderator was Mr Lee Yoong Yoong, Director, Community Affairs of ASEAN Secretariat.

Ms Koe highlighted that the ASEAN Prize has enlarged her perspectives and enabled her to see a bigger picture through various programmes and activities that are implemented by ASEAN. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah added that the ASEAN Prize acknowledged the work done by individuals in the region and hoped that it will inspire and catalyse young people to take action and strengthen ASEAN Community building efforts. Mr Choi found the ASEAN Prize rewarding and significant to the ASEAN Studies Centre as the first institutional recipient of the award. He firmly believed that the value and prestige of the ASEAN Prize will increase over time as it gains more recognition. The prize has reinforced the conviction and belief of the important political sphere that ASEAN is about.

On the role of the ASEAN Prize in enhancing the ASEAN identity, Mr Choi shared that ASC is committed to carrying out selected and important policy-oriented research with the aim of supporting the ASEAN community building efforts and regional integration through the sharing of inputs and ideas with policy makers, business leaders and thought leaders in the region. ASC also hopes to promote a greater understanding of ASEAN among various sectors of the society in Southeast Asian countries. This webinar was an example to showcase the diversity of ASEAN as well as the intellectual and policy challenges involved. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah spoke of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic that required ASEAN as a group to further promote collaboration and sharing knowledge, and to design measures to deal with it. Beyond COVID19, ASEAN would have to start planning and be aware of the challenges and risks that confronted the region. An example would be natural hazards or climatic shocks. Ms Koe added that the ASEAN identity and regional integration was about engaging different people and fostering inclusion among them.

On the role of technology in promoting a resilient and inclusive ASEAN Community, Ms Koe spoke of her experience whereby the ASEAN Autistic Network had been able to reach out to more people more frequently, including the marginalised and the vulnerable. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah added that technology had made virtual discussions and policy dialogues possible. She however pointed out areas of concern, including the growing digital divide, room for misinformation and online hate speech. She highlighted the inclusion for migrants, refugees and the at-risk persons as possible areas where ASEAN can play a greater role in. Mr Choi commented that technology could help bridge the language differences in Southeast Asian countries. While a lot of work remained to be done with respect to the building of an inclusive ASEAN Community, it would be good to start with youth engagement in these exercises.

In forging a regional ASEAN identity, Ms Koe felt that ASEAN needed to do more sharing on their programmes and activities. Mr Choi was of the view that the ASEAN regional building efforts was a long-term project and ASEAN had come a long way in fostering familiarity among the member states over the decades. Despite the differences within ASEAN, the region saw fruitful results such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) where ASEAN banded together to engage its dialogue partners to generate benefits for all. He suggested for ASEAN institutions to be further empowered to enhance their decision-making, and for the region to work closely together to further promote intra-ASEAN tourism as well as exchange of students and schools. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah added that decision-making within ASEAN was made by consensus where there might be outlier member states. She concurred with Mr Choi that investments were required for the strengthening of ASEAN institutions, such as the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, and highlighted the role of education in forging an ASEAN identity. ASEAN should take the lead and provide accessibility, especially for the differently abled which can begin through education and enhance inclusiveness.

Mr Benedict Cheong, Chief Executive of Temasek Foundation International and Dato’ Shahira Ahmed Bazari, Founding Trustee and Managing Director of Yayasan Hasanah, as ASEAN Prize’s sponsors, also shared their thoughts on the role of the prestigious award in promoting greater understanding and awareness of ASEAN.

As a wrap-up, the Moderator recalled the significance of the ASEAN Prize as an effective tool towards fostering regional inclusion as well as strengthening regional collaboration and cooperation among the ASEAN peoples. The ASEAN Prize has provided the recipients with credibility and legitimacy to engage with regional governments and given more recognition to their advocacy. In addition, the ASEAN Prize was a good mechanism to connect and synergise among various expertise, fields and ideas. The ASEAN Secretariat hoped to advance the award beyond fostering regional identity to enhancing local and national capacity to optimise resources and manpower. While an inclusive ASEAN identity would take time in the making given that the region was still fairly young and diverse, the ASEAN Prize could be a good tool to bring together collective awareness and a sense of belonging in ASEAN.

During the Q&A session, the panel addressed questions relating to the promotion of ASEAN identity, the relevance of ASEAN unity and centrality in the current regional economic and political landscape, as well as inclusive education in the ASEAN region.

A total of 185 attendees from the policy, business, CSOs, higher educational institutions, and research communities in the region participated in the webinar.