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COVID crisis has strengthened ASEAN cooperation — CSC

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) is banking on stronger regional cooperation as a way for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states to cope with the continuing challenges brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

CSC Chairperson Alicia dela Rosa-Bala (National Defense College of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“While we wish to celebrate the 53rd year of ASEAN with a festive spirit, the need for solidarity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is much stronger,” CSC Chairperson Alicia dela Rosa-Bala said in a statement commemorating the ASEAN Month this August.

“This challenge has brought our hearts and minds closer together as we hope for each ASEAN member-state and all other nations to fully recover from this crisis,” she said.

Bala noted that the current times “call for a deeper commitment in pursuing our vision as one ASEAN to strengthen our ties as a caring and sharing community.”

She said the pandemic has also put the spotlight on the critical role of the civil service as bureaucracies try to navigate the “new normal” in the workplace, marked by more flexible working arrangements, digitization of public services, and greater emphasis on occupational safety and health.

“The CSC hopes to work with its counterparts in the ASEAN in looking at ways how we can use the lessons we are learning from this pandemic toward better management of our respective civil services and the improvement of public service delivery in the region,” said Bala.

The CSC continues to strengthen its ties with its counterpart civil service agencies in the region through the ASEAN Cooperation on Civil Service Matters (ACCSM). Its roots can be traced back to 1981 when the ASEAN Conference on Reforms in Civil Service was established.

Once every two years, civil service agencies would gather for information exchange, mentoring, and partnering activities that aim to promote effective cooperation and mutual assistance in public sector capacity building among ASEAN member-states.

These efforts led to the signing of a landmark declaration elevating the civil service as a “catalyst” in achieving the ASEAN’s development goals. On the occasion of the 30th ASEAN Summit in April, 2017, in Manila, Philippines, leaders of ASEAN’s 10 member-states signed the ASEAN Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as a Catalyst for Achieving the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

The declaration recognizes “the significance of the civil service as the backbone of good governance in the region, and its critical mission not only in providing vital public services to the people of ASEAN, but also in driving national and social development.”

It also tasked the ACCSM to take the lead in realizing the goals to “raise the professional standards and capability of civil servants,” “ensure that the civil services of ASEAN embrace good governance principles such as citizen-centricity and innovation,” and “uphold and protect the welfare of civil servants in the region.”

The ASEAN comprises the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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