Last September, Asean endorsed Italy’s candidature as a development partner, thus establishing the first formal link between Italy and the Asean family. It is a significant achievement, part of Italy’s closer engagement with the region.
When Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio presented Italy’s candidature, he had in mind the long-standing relations between Italy and the region, characterised by friendship, trade and investment flows, and deep cultural ties. Against this backdrop, Italy and Asean uphold common values as well as the principles of independence, shared prosperity, and peaceful resolution of disputes. He also had in mind the ties existing between Asean and the European Union and the cooperation between these two regional blocs, and their common vocation to effective multilateralism as a way to tackle today’s global challenges. Asean’s role and centrality in promoting security, stability and prosperity within its membership and in the broader Indo-Pacific context through its partnerships is widely recognised. As a global actor, Asean’s support will be critical for Italy’s upcoming presidency of the G20 in 2021, whose agenda is centred on “People, Planet and Prosperity”.
This new cooperative framework established between Asean and Italy is set to deliver concrete and sustainable results both with Asean as a whole and with individual member states. Italy’s approach to this partnership is based on full government engagement on capacity-building initiatives in various sectors, from security (in the fight against transnational crime, for instance) to sustainability and connectivity, and also involves the private sector. With Thailand, Italy is set to enhance cooperation in fields such as climate change, sustainable development, renewable energy, connectivity and the management of natural disasters.
Italy’s role as co-chair — with the United Kingdom — of COP26 in 2021 will increase the opportunities to further work together on climate change, including on topics such as urban reforestation, new urban mobility, buildings sustainability and the cities’ future energy in view of the energy transition toward renewable sources and the creation of a circular economy. A special emphasis will be given to collaboration with the Asean Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue (ACSDSD) in Bangkok, established during Thailand’s chair of Asean last year.
While looking at building back a more sustainable economy, we keep in mind the importance of cooperating in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Italy has been at the forefront in promoting an international alliance for the vaccine against Covid-19 and is actively engaged in Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. It is paramount to speed up scientific research on safe vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, and to ensure their universal distribution. Once more, cooperation with Asean on this front will be critical to succeed in this major challenge.