Published on 5th November 2021.

The 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits were held via teleconference on 26 October 2021 under Brunei Darussalam’s 2021 Chairmanship theme “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper.”

A. ASEAN Community Building

  1. ASEAN Community Vision 2025
    • ASEAN reaffirmed its commitment towards the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 as well as commencing the exercise to develop the Post-2025 Community Vision
  • The Terms of Reference for the High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision and the Roadmap was adopted. The proposal for the HLTF is to discuss ways to strengthen ASEAN’s capacity and institutional effectiveness to support ASEAN’s post-2025 vision and to submit recommendations at the 41st ASEAN Summit. 
    • ASEAN Member States are to nominate eminent persons and high-level representatives to the HLTF by 15 December 2021. Malaysia has been selected as the permanent shepherd of the HLTF.

B. Key Deliverables

  1. Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD)
  • ASEAN adopted the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD), a strategic, holistic, cross-sectoral and coordinated approach across the three ASEAN Community Pillars, to ensure ASEAN’s response in mitigating the impacts of different types of emergencies and disasters.
  • The Recommendations on Strengthening ASEAN Cross-Pillar and Cross-Sectoral Coordination to Enhance Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Response through the ASEAN SHIELD was endorsed by the 29th ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) Meeting on 2 August 2021.
  1. ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Upholding Multilateralism
  • The adoption of ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Upholding Multilateralism, which reaffirms ASEAN’s commitment to upholding and promoting multilateral cooperation and partnership, founded on the principles stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations and on the basis of international law.
  1. ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Blue Economy
  • The adoption of ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Blue Economy, which determines the principles ASEAN conducts its work on the Blue Economy, and outlines the potential areas under the Blue Economy that ASEAN will explore for action and cooperation in accordance with international law, both internally and with external partners.
    • The declaration agrees that the Blue Economy for ASEAN refers to the sustainable, resilient and inclusive use, governance, management and conservation of oceans, seas as well as marine and coastal resources and ecosystems for economic growth across various sectors while improving human well-being and social equity.
  1. First Innovation Platform Dialogue
  • Brunei Darussalam convened the First Innovation Platform Dialogue under the theme of “Youth Employment and Digitalisation in ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC) Perspectives.” The Dialogue is complementary to the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap: An ASEAN Digital Transformation Agenda to Accelerate ASEAN’s Economic Recovery and Digital Economy Integration, which aims to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for Southeast Asia through digital transformation and greater integration of its digital economy.
  1. Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for ASEAN
  • The adoption of the Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for ASEAN, which aims to develop ASEAN’s regional capacity in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and the advancement of regional supply chains.
  1. ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC
  • ASEAN reaffirmed its commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, and adopted the ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.
  • The establishment of an ASEAN Centre for Climate Change (ACCC) in Brunei Darussalam will function as an inter-governmental centre for climate change coordination and cooperation among ASEAN Member States to realise a climate-resilient and low carbon ASEAN region.
  • The ASEAN State of Climate Change Report was published.The report provides an overall outlook on the state of play of climate change in the context of ASEAN region and insights on prioritised regional climate actions.
  1. Response to COVID-19 pandemic
  • ASEAN continues to address the pandemic through:
    • The work of ASEAN Member States in spearheading various initiatives with a view to contributing to the regional efforts in addressing COVID-19 and future public health emergencies, as well as promoting regional comprehensive and sustainable recovery
    • The important coordinating role of the ACC and the active work of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies (ACCWG-PHE), which addresses the challenges of the pandemic in a coordinated multi-sectoral, cross-pillar and multi-stakeholder manner.
  1. ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF)
  • The ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) and its Implementation Plan, which serves as the region’s consolidated exit strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic, is in progress.
  • ASEAN reiterated its commitment to working together to mitigate the impact of the pandemic through the five (5) ACRF broad strategies:
    • (i) enhancing health systems;
    • (ii) strengthening human security;
    • (iii) maximising the potential of intra-ASEAN market and broader economic integration;
    • (iv) accelerating inclusive digital transformation; and
    • (v) advancing towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
  1. COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund
  • Pledged contributions from ASEAN Member States and external partners to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, has reached  approximately US$ 25.8 million.
  • US$ 10.5 million of the Fund has been utilised to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the peoples of ASEAN and ASEAN Secretariat staff through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  1. ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy
  • The adoption of the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy, which serves to guide ASEAN’s development of the care economy in response to complex crises and growing challenges in order to protect different segments of populations and sectors and to also become an indispensable part of our inclusive socio-economic growth towards sustainable development in the region.
  • The framework will be implemented through initiatives along six broad strategies that are expected to support and develop the ASEAN care economy platform, as well as to complement the ACRF and the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision.
  1. ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED)
  • The timely establishment and early operationalisation of the ACPHEED, which would serve as a centre of excellence and regional resource hub to strengthen ASEAN’s regional capabilities to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies and emerging diseases.
  • The APCHEED received support from Japan and Australia and progress was made on the development of the ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination Systems (APHECS), and the launch of the ASEAN Portal for Public Health Emergencies.
  1. ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF)
  • ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF) by the ACC and looks forward to its early operationalisation.
  1. Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism
  • The Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan for ASEAN Tourism provides coordinated measures to be undertaken by ASEAN Member States in a phased approach to safely reopen the industry while working towards a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive ASEAN tourism.
  1. Expansion of the list of essential goods
  • The list of essential goods under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Implementation of Non-Tariff Measures on Essential Goods under the Ha Noi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic has been extended to incorporate 107 tariff lines of agricultural and food products into the list.
  • ASEAN is also exploring the possibility of extending the lifespan of the MOU as well as expanding the list of essential goods given the continued uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. Initiative for ASEAN Integration
  • Progress has been made from the first year of the implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025), which guides the collective efforts to narrow the development gap within ASEAN and between ASEAN and the rest of the world, and to enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a region.
  1. ASEAN Connectivity
  • Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025
  • Progress has been made in the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 which helps in achieving sustainable development and supporting post-pandemic recovery efforts.
  • ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC), Lead Implementing Bodies (LIBs), relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, MPAC 2025 National Coordinators, and National Focal Points have contributed efforts in moving forward the MPAC 2025 initiatives.
  1. ASEAN Smart Cities Network 
  • ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) to foster partnerships to deliver Smart City Action Plans (SCAPs) is ongoing, while the Concept Notes on ASCN Online Portal and ASEAN Smart City Investment Toolkit were endorsed at the Fourth ASCN Annual Meeting on 30 August 2021.


  1. Progress was made in the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2021 Annual Priorities, which will contribute towards the achievement of the AEC Blueprint 2025’s strategic measures and will further deepen the region’s economic integration.
  1. The Final Report of the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the AEC Blueprint 2025 was submitted, from which ASEAN can draw important lessons in moving towards 2025 and beyond.
  1. ASEAN endorsed the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap: an ASEAN Digital Transformation Agenda to Accelerate ASEAN’s Economic Recovery and Digital Economic Integration (BSBR).The Roadmap highlights existing and new ASEAN initiatives that are crucial in supporting ASEAN’s ongoing digital integration through the commencement of negotiations for an ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement by 2025.The ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Advancing Digital Transformation in ASEAN was adopted. This statement calls for strengthened regional digital integration and transformation to enhance the region’s competitiveness, and turn the current pandemic crisis into an opportunity through digital transformation.
  1. ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 (ADM2025), which will guide the region’s digital cooperation from 2021 to 2025 to transform the region into a leading digital community and economic bloc.Good progress was made in the development of the ASEAN Regional Action Plan (RAP) on the Implementation of the Norms of Responsible State’s Behavior in Cyberspace, which identifies areas of capacity required to implement each of the Cyber Norms and the ongoing, as well as planned, regional cooperation activities in these areas, to underpin ASEAN’s active contribution to maintaining peace and security in the cyberspace.
  1. The 6th ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity (AMCC) was held on 6 October 2021, where ASEAN Member States discussed the update to the ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy for 2021-2025 and recognised the importance of strengthening cybersecurity in supporting economic growth for ASEAN Member States.The Chairman’s Statement of the 6th AMCC highlighted the importance of continuing to develop and implement coordinated regional cybersecurity capacity building programmes aimed at equipping ASEAN Member States with the policy, operational and technical capacities to implement the 11 voluntary, non-binding norms of responsible state behaviour in the use of ICTs.
  1. ASEAN ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce and the 2021-2025 Work Plan on the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce was launched. The work plan promotes a harmonised approach for all ASEAN Member States to implement the commitments made in the Agreement while aligning their laws and regulations with international best practices, as appropriate, to advance ASEAN’s efforts towards an integrated digital economy.
  1. The achievements of the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) were highlighted in the MTR of the AEC Blueprint 2025 and the effective implementation of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II: 2021-2025 will  proceed.The Bandar Seri Begawan Joint Declaration of the 39th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting on Energy Security and Energy Transition reaffirms ASEAN’s shared commitment and collective responsibility in ensuring energy security and accelerating an inclusive and just energy transition in the region.ASEAN adopted the Second Joint Statement of the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP) in which the four countries reaffirmed their commitment to advancing multilateral cross-border power trade in ASEAN commencing 2022.
  1. Recognising the traditional and new applications of minerals and the strong outlook of global mineral markets for both the short and medium term, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Minerals (AMMin) and its senior officials are tasked with undertaking preparatory studies and supportive activities under the newly adopted ASEAN Minerals Cooperation Action Plan III, Phase 2: 2021-2025.
  1. The new ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy (ATMS) 2021-2025 sets out the marketing roadmap of ASEAN tourism for the next five years.ASEAN adopted the Phnom Penh Declaration on a More Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient ASEAN Tourism and  the work programme for its implementation will be developed to foster the ASEAN tourism recovery and a more resilient future.
  1. ASEAN adopted the Framework for Circular Economy for the AEC, which sets out a structured pathway towards the ambitious long-term goals of resource efficiency, economic resilience, and sustainable growth for ASEAN, while building upon past and on-going ASEAN initiatives.
  1. ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (AFMGM) has started to develop an ASEAN Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance (ASEAN Taxonomy) which will be the overarching guide for all ASEAN Member States, complementing their respective national sustainability initiatives and serving as ASEAN’s common language for sustainable finance.The ASEAN Taxonomy Board (ATB) was established to develop, maintain and promote a multi-tiered taxonomy that will take into account ASEAN’s needs as well as international aspirations and goals. The development of the ASEAN Taxonomy will be announced at the 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 26) in November 2021.
  1. ASEAN encourages its Member States to continue implementing the 2020 Statement of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Response to the Outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to Ensure Food Security, Food Safety and Nutrition in ASEAN. The development of the ASEAN Guidelines on Sustainable Agriculture, which is one of the key initiatives under the ACRF, will be done to ensure sustainable and circular agriculture in the ASEAN region.
  1. ASEAN will issue the Phnom Penh Declaration on Sustainable Urban Mobility by the ASEAN Transport Ministers, which will encourage the promotion, development and operationalisation of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) and the Metropolitan Transport Executive (MTE) model in ASEAN Member States.
  1. Negotiations on the ASEAN-European Union Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA) were successfully concluded. The AE CATA is expected to significantly strengthen air connectivity between and beyond both regions, and enable greater business, trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people links.
  1. ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Investment Facilitation Framework (AIFF), which sets out the principles and actions to facilitate the inflow of investment into the region as ASEAN steps up its efforts towards a comprehensive recovery.The ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) has entered into force.
  1. ASEAN endorsed the Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) Cost-Effectiveness Toolkit (NTM Toolkit), which aims to promote the adoption of good regulatory practices of simplifying import requirements and procedures to ultimately boost exports in the region.ASEAN will launch an end-to-end test of the electronic Phytosanitary (e-Phyto) Certificate between Indonesia and Thailand in 2021. All ASEAN Member States are urged to intensify efforts in further enhancing trade facilitation in the region through initiatives such as the ASEAN Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (AAMRA) on a pathfinder basis.
  1. The MTR of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 (SAP SMED 2025), the second phase of the SAP SMED 2025 implementation was finalised. The strategic action plan focuses on key elements to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as the progress made on this front especially in facilitating MSMEs to build back better post-pandemic.ASEAN Access, which serves as a one-stop business information gateway for international-oriented businesses, was launched. The business communities in ASEAN and beyond are encouraged to make use of these resources and collaborate to strengthen ASEAN’s resources for its MSMEs.The high-level guidelines on MSMEs crisis disaster and resilience, as well as the implementation of the ASEAN Collaboration Framework towards Strengthening Evidence-based MSMEs Policies are currently being finalised.


    1. Progress has been made in the implementation of the ASEAN Plus One Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Australia and New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, China, India, Japan, and South Korea, as well as negotiations and discussions on the upgrade of some of the FTAs, i.e., with Australia and New Zealand, China, India, and South Korea.

      The ASEAN-Hong Kong, China, Free Trade Agreement, and the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China, Investment Agreement have entered into force.

      ASEAN reiterated its resolve to ensure that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) remains to be ASEAN-led and driven. ASEAN remains committed to expedite the ratification process for the RCEP Agreement and looks forward to its entry into force in early January 2022.

    1. The inaugural meeting between the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) and their counterparts from the UK, which was held on the 15 September 2021, after the UK was conferred the status of Dialogue Partner, as well as the designation of the Philippines as the Country Coordinator for ASEAN-UK economic relations. ASEAN reaffirms its commitment to an open, free, fair, inclusive, transparent, rules-based, and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system centred on the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  1. Progress was made on the development of the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which will provide a framework for strengthening and further expanding cooperation on matters of mutual interest, and set out a strategic framework to enable efficient, coordinated and consistent collaboration around key priority areas within the economic and socio-cultural community pillars.


  1. ASEAN agreed to further enhance ASEAN Plus Three (APT) cooperation in wide-ranging areas through the implementation of the APT Cooperation Work Plan 2018-2022 and the East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) II Recommendations and look forward to the development of a successor Work Plan (2023-2027).
  2. ASEAN agreed to further enhance the East Asia Summit (EAS) practical cooperation in the areas under the Manila Plan of Action to Advance the Phnom Penh Declaration on the EAS Development Initiatives (2018-2022) and looks forward to the development of a successor Plan of Action (2023-2027). ASEAN looks forward to the adoption of the EAS Leaders Statements, namely the EAS Leaders’ Statement on Mental Health Cooperation, EAS Leaders’ Statement on Economic Growth Through Tourism Recovery, and the EAS Leaders’ Statement on Sustainable Recovery at the 16th EAS on 27 October 2021.
  1. ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
  • ASEAN reaffirmed the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which guides ASEAN’s engagement in the wider Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.It was agreed that ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ASEAN Plus One mechanisms, the EAS, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) could serve as useful platforms for dialogue and cooperation to implement the AOIP.
  1. Timor-Leste’s Application for ASEAN Membership
  • The Virtual Meeting between the Senior Economic Officials’ Meeting (SEOM) and Timor-Leste was held on 7-9 December 2020 and the In-depth Assessment on the Implications of Timor-Leste’s Accession to ASEAN’s Economic Agreements was finalised in July 2021.
    • Progress was made in preparing for the AEC and ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC) Fact-Finding Missions (FFMs) to Timor-Leste.
    • A comprehensive assessment of Timor-Leste’s application for ASEAN membership will be developed once the FFMs have convened.
    • In line with the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) FFM, ASEAN reaffirms its commitment to continue exploring ways to provide capacity building assistance to Timor-Leste, especially through participation in non-policy making activities in ASEAN. Timor-Leste’s Participation in ASEAN activities for capacity-building purposes was approved by the 29th ACC Meeting of the Guidelines.
  1. Regional and international issues
    • Progress was made on the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), within a mutually-agreed timeline.
      • The second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text has continued despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • ASEAN called on Myanmar to fulfil its commitment to the Five-Point Consensus of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 and acceptance for the timely and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus namely:
      • the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties to exercise utmost restraint;
      • constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people;
      • the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary-General of ASEAN;
      • ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre; and
      • the Special Envoy and delegation to visit Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned.
  • Humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar was provided, through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) Centre.ASEAN reaffirmed the decision reached by the Emergency ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (EAMM) on 15 October 2021 and reiterated that Myanmar remains a member of the ASEAN family and recognised that Myanmar needs both time and political space to deal with its many and complex challenges.

Summarised by: Eta Ahmad, Visiting Research Fellow

Edited by: Jukhee Hong, Executive Director