The 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits kicked off on Tuesday, with the focus on establishing the region as an epicenter of economic growth.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, whose country is holding the rotating ASEAN chair this year, urged ASEAN to stay united and not be a proxy to any power.
"Don't make our ship, ASEAN, become an arena of rivalry that causes damages to each other. Make our ship the foundation to build cooperation and create prosperity, stability and peace, not only for the region but also for the world," he said.
During the next three days, leaders of ASEAN member states are expected to discuss issues that would chart the future of ASEAN as a community and an institution.
This includes steps to speed up the decision-making in crises and emergencies, as well as steps to bolster ASEAN's capacity to respond to emerging challenges in the region.
"ASEAN, as a big ship, has a big responsibility to hundreds of millions of people who sail with us. Although we have to sail in high waves, we, as state leaders of ASEAN, must ensure that our ship can keep sailing well and we drive it towards peace, stability and prosperity," Widodo said.
This year's summit chaired by Indonesia is themed on "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth."
In the past decade, ASEAN's average annual economic growth reached 3.98 percent, above the global growth of 2.6 percent, showed ASEAN data.
"We have a big capital to reach it (epicentrum of growth). But ASEAN must work harder, more collaboratively, braver and move faster. ASEAN also needs long-term tactical and practical strategies that align with the needs of the people, not just for the next five years, but also for the next 20 years until 2045," the Indonesian president said.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
(Xinhua News Agency)