JAKARTA, Sep 6, 2023 - (JCN Newswire) -  Amid increasingly complex global and geopolitical challenges, the unity and centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since its establishment in 1967 is still maintained and remained strong. Indonesia is holding the ASEAN chairmanship 2023, with the theme "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth." The vision of Indonesia's chairmanship is to build a resilient, adaptive, and inclusive ASEAN.

The statement was voiced by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at the opening of the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on Tuesday, September 5, where he emphasized that "ASEAN unity until this day is still well maintained, amid differences in opinion between its member countries."

The summit draws participation from delegates representing 22 countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Russia as *ASEAN's country partners*. The Timor-Leste leader  also attend the summit as an observer.

In his opening speech of the 43rd ASEAN Summit's plenary session, Jokowi underscored that ASEAN unity does not mean that there are no differences in opinion *amongst* member countries. The head of state noted that Indonesia, as a country with diverse ethnicities, cultures, languages, and religions, sees unity as harmony despite differences, including opinions.

"Because differences in opinion, in fact, nurture democracy. It shows that we, as a family, are on an equal footing," he stated. Jokowi then pushed ASEAN to bolster further its cohesiveness, boldness, and agility to face current global challenges.

"ASEAN needs long-term tactical strategies that are relevant and in line with the expectations of communities," he said. By retaining ASEAN's position as a center of growth, Indonesia expects that the bloc will continue to be a relevant actor to the communities in Southeast Asia and the surrounding regions.

President Jokowi also described ASEAN as an "ark" responsible for the well-being of its population of hundreds of millions. Hence, he urged all ASEAN leaders to ensure that the ark can persistently navigate the oceans amid emerging "storms" or challenges.

Like President Jokowi, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi has called on the unity and cooperation of the bloc in navigating any challenges, including in resolving the Myanmar issue. "ASEAN can only steam forward in full power if we can ensure a peaceful and lasting solution in Myanmar," Marsudi stated at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) on Monday, September 4.

Aside from the firm solidity of ASEAN, President Jokowi also highlighted the principle of equality that is respected in the region. According to Jokowi, equality has become a "rare thing" in the world, considering the injustices and conflicts that continue to occur due to the absence of equality.

"However, in ASEAN, things are different. Equality is, in fact, the primary value that we respect and uphold together in the framework of unity and togetherness so that the big ship of ASEAN can continue to sail," he affirmed. He also believed that a united ASEAN would be able to become a significant actor in realizing global peace and growth.

As the chair of ASEAN 2023, Indonesia seeks to strengthen the institutional capacity and effectiveness of ASEAN so the region can respond to the challenges in the next 20 years.  Indonesia is also committed to preparing the ASEAN Post-2025 Vision towards ASEAN 2045 which must be adaptive, responsive, and competitive and align with the ASEAN Way and the ASEAN Charter.

Reporter: Andi Firdaus, Katrian;  Editor: Tia Mutiasari;  COPYRIGHT (c) ANTARA 2023

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