ASEAN maintains unity, centrality amid global challenges

Amid increasingly complex global and geopolitical challenges, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has maintained its unity and centrality since its establishment in 1967.

The statement was voiced by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in his opening speech of the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on Tuesday (September 5), when he emphasized that “ASEAN unity until this day has been maintained despite differences in opinion between its member countries”.

Indonesia is holding the ASEAN chairmanship in 2023, with the theme of “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth.” The vision of Indonesia’s chairmanship is to build a resilient, adaptive, and inclusive ASEAN.

The 43rd ASEAN Summit is taking place in Jakarta on September 5-7, following the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, in May 2023.

The summit is drawing participation from delegates representing 22 countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Russia as partner countries of ASEAN. The Timor-Leste leader is also attending 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 between member countries.

He noted that Indonesia, as a country with diverse ethnicities, cultures, languages, and religions, views unity as harmony despite differences, including differences in opinion.

“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 further bolster its cohesiveness, boldness, and agility to optimally face current global challenges.

“ASEAN needs long-term tactical strategies that are relevant and in line with the expectations of communities,” he stated.

Related news: ASEAN-China relations should rely on mutual trust: Jokowi


By retaining ASEAN’s position as a center of growth, Indonesia expects that the bloc will continue to be a relevant actor not only to the communities in Southeast Asia but also in the surrounding regions.

In his opening speech, Jokowi described ASEAN as an “ark” that is responsible for the well-being of its population of hundreds of millions.

Hence, he urged all ASEAN leaders to ensure that the ark is capable of persistently navigating the oceans amid emerging “storms” or challenges.

Speaking on the same lines as Jokowi, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi 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,” she stated at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) on Monday (September 4).

Apart from the firm solidity of ASEAN, Jokowi also highlighted the principle of equality that is respected in the region.

He pointed out that equality has become a “rare thing” in the world, considering the several 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 said the ASEAN that is unified will be able to become a major actor in realizing global peace and growth.

At the same time, as the chair of ASEAN 2023, Indonesia seeks to strengthen the institutional capacity and effectiveness of ASEAN, so the region will be able to respond to the challenges in the next 20 years.

Related news: Indonesia continues to promote economic cooperation in Indo-Pacific


At the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, ASEAN heads of state and government echoed the importance of the bloc in maintaining unity and centrality while engaging with external partners.

ASEAN leaders expressed commitment to “enhance mutual trust and confidence, strengthen an open, transparent, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture that upholds international law” while engaging with its partners.

Moreover, in strengthening its unity, ASEAN member countries have agreed to advance the use of their local currencies for bilateral transactions and enhance digital payment interconnectivity within the bloc.

The increase in local currency transactions (LCT) aims to support economic stability by encouraging the use of local currencies in bilateral transactions among ASEAN countries.

The agreement on bolstering LCT aligns with ASEAN’s objective of achieving centrality, aiming to strengthen the region and enhance its independence in the future.

The implementation of LCT is expected to contribute positively to export-import activities, investment, cross-border payment transactions, such as the cross-border QR payments, as well as support securities trading.

According to a statement released by Bank Indonesia, LCT has been implemented by Indonesia and several countries in the region, namely Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, and China.

Singapore and South Korea have also agreed to implement LCT with Indonesia.

So far, Indonesia, through its ASEAN Chairmanship this year, has striven and upheld the significance of equality in ASEAN, as the bloc has the role of a “stabilizer” amid global geopolitical tensions.

Through its resilient cohesiveness, ASEAN can realize its vision of becoming the world’s epicenter of growth, benefiting its 680 million people.

Related news: President Jokowi emphasizes ASEAN unity still maintained

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