1. Good afternoon. Welcome to the 20th ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council Meeting.
2. Our cooperation in the ASCC Pillar is broad-ranging and multi-faceted. This is exemplified by the substantive agenda that we have for our meeting today. In fact, we have just had a robust discussion on the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025. Such discussions add depth to our cooperation and offers a useful platform for ASCC Council Ministers to offer their frank views as well as provide strategic directions.
3. For our meeting today, we will review the documents to be submitted to the 33rd ASEAN Summit. These include important initiatives from our sectoral bodies covering various subject areas such as climate change, biodiversity, communication and youth.
4. We will also discuss the possibility of making institutional improvements to our meetings as well as seek resource-efficient methods to use our limited time more productively. I am glad to note that we will be updated on the progress of the Culture of Prevention agenda and discuss our cooperation with the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC). Thanks to our SOCA Leaders, there is continuity in our efforts. With continuity, these significant initiatives will bring progress to the future landscape of ASEAN.
5. The ASEAN Secretariat will be presenting a report on 10 Years of ASCC later and I welcome all ASCC Council Ministers to share your views on the current state of the ASCC Pillar and its future direction.
Building a Harmonious and People-Oriented ASEAN
6. The ASEAN socio-cultural community plays a critical role in realising human development, resilience and sustainable development in all of our countries. As Singapore chairs ASEAN 2018, I would like to highlight some of the progress of Singapore’s initiatives under the ASCC Pillar.
7. The youth of ASEAN will be a dynamic driving force in bringing the region forward and Singapore is committed to nurturing our ASEAN youth to fully realise their potential. In March, I spoke about three initiatives that will be launched during Singapore’s chairmanship year to spur ASEAN youths to build stronger ties with one another.
8. I am pleased to inform that we have renewed the Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund to promote exchanges among ASEAN youth and foster a greater sense of unity.
9. Singapore also hosted the inaugural ASEAN e-Sports and Music Festival, titled “Hyperplay” in August this year. This new and exciting platform attracted over 4,200 gamers from ASEAN and many other supporters from the wider ASEAN youth community.
10. Later in November, Singapore will launch the ASEAN Youth Fellowship programme to develop a network of young leaders to catalyse change in the region, and positively influence the wider ASEAN youth community.
11. In the environment sector, climate change remains one of the most significant challenges of our time. Southeast Asia is highly vulnerable to climate change and there is an urgent need for ASEAN to take steps to be low-carbon and more climate resilient. ASEAN has consistently supported global efforts to address climate change, and we must continue the momentum for regional and national climate action.
12. On Singapore’s part, we are committed to supporting regional efforts to address climate change. This is why we convened a Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (SAMCA) and Expanded SAMCA on 10 July this year. The meetings were part of our efforts to rally the region to contribute to the international climate change process and discuss ways to enhance regional climate action.
13. Singapore also launched the Climate Action Package under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which will comprise programmes to develop capacity in key areas such as climate science, flood management and long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies.
14. At the last ASCC Council Meeting, I mentioned that officials in the information sector are working towards addressing the challenges arising from the growth of online and social media.
15. I am happy to share that the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) have adopted a set of Core Values on Digital Literacy for ASEAN, which will promote digital literacy and cyber wellness in the region. The Core Values will serve as a guide for online etiquette while promoting socially responsible online behaviour.
16. AMRI also adopted a Framework and Joint Declaration on the Harmful Effects of Fake News, which outlines broad strategies for member states to tackle the growing problem of fake news. Guided by the framework, Singapore held an ASEAN workshop on strategies to combat fake news in June 2018.
17. The internet should be an open community space, but we must remember that everyone has a role to play in ensuring that the online space is a safe place for all users. I am very encouraged by ASEAN’s efforts in this area.
18. On Education, Singapore hosted ASEAN participants to the Workshop on Leadership for Innovation held during the International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology in the middle of this year.
19. We were also pleased to welcome 40 undergraduates from ASEAN and China for the Youth Track@FutureChina Global Forum in August 2018. These students had the opportunity to visit the Nanyang Technological University’s Innovation Centre, and met our Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung. We hope to continue working with ASEAN to bring about more opportunities for interaction and learning between our countries.
Culture and Arts
20. ASEAN is a region characterised by rich cultural diversity and resources. Singapore is continuing with the meaningful annual showcase of the “Best of ASEAN Performing Arts” to promote shared values and understanding for each other’s diversity, and contribute towards building an ASEAN Community and Identity. We will profile the best ASEAN performing arts in contemporary music and song-writing to regional and international audiences in November 2018.
21. In conjunction with our ASEAN Chairmanship, the National Gallery Singapore, which some of you visited in March, has specially curated a new audio tour titled Art in ASEAN: 10 Highlights that looks at the confluence of ideas and culture across ASEAN. The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) has also dedicated 2018 as the Year of Southeast Asia. ACM will open three permanent galleries in November this year showcasing collections on Islamic Art, Christian Art, and Ancestors and Rituals, with artefacts from across the region.
22. There is much we can discover about ASEAN’s unity in diversity. This diversity is a strength which should be celebrated and promoted. It has given rise to many opportunities for regional cooperation and creates various platform for us to bond and strengthen our people-to-people ties.
23. With your support, I am confident that we will be able to continue to advance and strengthen the socio-cultural community in ASEAN.
24. Thank you.