1 Good morning. I extend a warm welcome to all of you to the 19th ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council Meeting. We are meeting following ASEAN's 50th anniversary milestone last year and this is an opportunity for us to chart the way forward to advance the ASEAN socio-cultural community.
2 Singapore is honoured to take over the chairmanship of ASEAN this year and we hope to continue the good work done by previous Chairs of the ASCC Pillar. As you may be aware, Singapore's ASEAN Chairmanship theme is "Resilient and Innovative". We will leverage on innovative technological solutions and build greater resilience in our social fabric. We also hope to forge closer bonds to keep ASEAN forward-looking and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing world.
Taking Preventive Measures to Address Challenges
3 This morning, the ASCC Council held our first ever Retreat and had a good in-depth discussion on the culture of prevention initiative. This initiative was endorsed by our Leaders last year at the 31st ASEAN Summit to promote a peaceful, inclusive, resilient, healthy and harmonious society in ASEAN. At the Retreat, we explored various ways to develop effective upstream preventive policies and strengthen social support to shape such a future for the region. We recognised that there is more we can and should do, with the support of stakeholders, to inculcate shared values of peace, harmony, respect, trust, and tolerance in ASEAN.
Building a Harmonious and People-Oriented ASEAN
4 As the peoples' pillar, the ASEAN socio-cultural community performs an important role in helping to improve the well-being, livelihood and welfare of the peoples of ASEAN. The sectors under this pillar are implementing initiatives to collectively deliver and realise human development, resiliency and sustainable development.
5 Indeed, there are exciting developments in the youth sector. Three initiatives will be launched during Singapore's chairmanship this year to spur ASEAN youths to build stronger ties with each other. First, the Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund will be renewed to support ground-up initiatives by ASEAN youths in areas such as leadership development, community service and entrepreneurship. Second, Singapore will host an ASEAN e-Sports tournament this year which offers an opportunity for our youths to engage one another through competition and fun. Third, the ASEAN Youth Fellowship Programme will be introduced to provide a platform for young leaders in ASEAN to interact with and better understand each other.
6 In the environmental sector, climate change affects all of us and poses an existential threat. Southeast Asia is a region vulnerable to climate change and we all have an interest to address this issue urgently. Regional efforts are an important part of the international climate agenda and we should strive to maintain the momentum on climate action. For Singapore, we have designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action and will elevate the level of national consciousness around the need to take individual and collective action to fight climate change. Singapore will also hold a Special ASEAN Meeting on Climate Action in July 2018 to provide a platform for ASEAN Member States to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement.
7 The Information sector is working towards developing a more socially responsible media in ASEAN. I think we can all agree that there are both pros and cons to better technology and growth of online and social media. On the one hand, individuals can exchange ideas, information and views faster and easier, and digital content can reach a much wider audience. On the other hand, this freedom has also led to challenges in the online sphere which include the proliferation of fake news and the presence of cyber-bullying. To better protect and educate our people, 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. Officials in the information sector will be discussing these opportunities and challenges when the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) meet in May, and we look forward to seeing the results of their collaboration at the next ASCC Council meeting.
8 On Education, the 78 projects in the Work Plan to be carried out by ASEAN member states in cooperation with one another, ASEAN Dialogue Partners and other stakeholders are a testament to the commitment of ASEAN to narrowing educational gaps in the region. Singapore is the lead country for the area of ICT capacity and capability development in the Work Plan and we are honoured to be hosting ASEAN participants at the International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology in Singapore in June 2018.
9 On the labour track, following the signing of the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers at the 31st ASEAN Summit, we are confident that there would be continued momentum for the ASEAN Consensus and efforts toward the implementation of the action plan.
10 Last but not least, in the health sector, there is further progress following the ASEAN Leaders Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the Philippines last year. The sector is working on a One Health Regional Action Plan to operationalise the Declaration and Singapore will be co-leading the development of the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of AMR in ASEAN with Thailand. AMR is an important issue and we should build on the good foundation to collectively develop the capacity of ASEAN Member States to address AMR.
Excellencies and distinguished delegates
11 To achieve our many common objectives, we need a pragmatic approach and effective mechanisms to coordinate our efforts. We must recognise that there is always room for institutional improvement to help ASEAN address various challenges, and seize opportunities. We must, for example, continue to seek resource-efficient ways to implement the strategic measures in the ASCC Blueprint 2025 or even in the ways in which we conduct our meetings.
12 I am confident that in the traditional spirit of ASEAN cordiality and solidarity, we will continue to make concerted efforts to promote the growth of the socio-cultural community in ASEAN. On this note, I wish you all a fruitful discussion today. Thank you.