Spotlight on Malaysia's role in ASEAN and UN

Spotlight on Malaysia's role in ASEAN and UN
Flags of the states which are also Asean members

The ASEAN Summit will end tomorrow with Myanmar handing over the coming year's chairmanship of ASEAN to Malaysia. This is our country's fourth time in that seat, but what will be different in 2015 is that the role will partly overlap Malaysia's membership in the United Nations Security Council, which is for the next two years.

Malaysia will thus be uniquely positioned to be an influential voice in regional and global affairs.

As the chair, Malaysia's job is to lead and represent ASEAN. Next year is vital for South-East Asia because it is meant to culminate in the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a long-standing goal of regional economic integration.

To ensure that the AEC can be in place by Dec 31, 2015, there is much to do to resolve outstanding issues and hammer out a framework acceptable to every member country. The grouping also needs to formulate the post-2015 plans for the AEC.

In addition, steering ASEAN is all the more challenging now because of issues such as its members' maritime disputes with China, the pressure on Myanmar to speed up reforms, and the region's relatively low productivity levels.

At the UN, Malaysia will be among the 10 non-permanent members who join the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia on the Security Council.

The council's primary duty is to maintain international peace and security. This puts Malaysia at the forefront of efforts to address threats to peace and to end hostilities. And there are indeed many forces at play that may shatter global stability if the governments of the world fail to work well together.

The ASEAN Chair and the Security Council membership are high-profile roles that come with heavy responsibilities. There is no doubt that Malaysia has the experience and ability to helm and contribute effectively.

At the same time, Malaysia's prominence in these organisations means that all eyes will be on us. As it guides ASEAN through this pivotal period and as it takes part in Security Council decisions, the rest of the world will be paying attention to what Malaysia promotes and endorses.

In particular, people will want to see if Malaysia practises what it preaches. In international governance, consistency in policies and administration does wonders to a country's credibility. When a country's actions match its words, those words will carry a lot of weight.

Yes, with such scrutiny, it is like living in a glass house, but it does not have to be a problem. We should view it as an opportunity to showcase what the nation has achieved - and Malaysia has come a long way.

It is also a time to make sure that enough is done to fully align the implementation of policies and plans with the intent behind them.

Malaysia has a big year ahead on the international front. As with most things, it all begins at home.

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