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Exploring Collaboration Opportunities with Singapore

Meeting with the Science Counselor of the Swiss Embassy in Singapore to explore Collaboration

On December 17, 2021, exploreASEAN together with the head of International Relations, Prof. Robert Buttery welcomed Mr. Joël Henri Brunner, Science Counselor at the Embassy of Switzerland in Singapore. The purpose of the meeting held at the campus Olten was to explore possibilities of support for the project and to discuss means of expanding FHNW’s collaboration with Singaporean universities.

From left to right: Marco Müller, Selina Stücker, Dr. Teresa Freiburghaus, Mr. Joël Henri Brunner, Marsha Schurtenberger, Anil Singh, and Prof. Robert Buttery.

Singapore: A Knowledge-Based Economy

Since their independence in 1965, Singapore has remarkably developed from a low-income country to a high-income country with an average GDP growth of 7.3% (until 2019). Everything started with the government recognizing that they must make up technologically for the country’s constraints in resources. Their most valuable resources: the people. At the beginning they struggled to get the scientists and engineers willing to pursue in R&D. However, thanks to Singapore’s substantial investment efforts in R&D within the science and technology area, the island city-state has managed to become a true knowledge-based economy that thrives on innovation and enterprise. According to the World Bank Human Capital Index, Singapore leads the ranking as the best nation worldwide in human capital development.

Singapore, Marina Bay.

The Potential of Swiss Universities of Applied Science

Today, Singapore’s universities are among the top ranked universities in the world. This is especially the case in engineering and technology (e.g. NUS and NTU) but also in the field of business and management (e.g. Singapore Management University). Whereas high ranked Swiss universities like the ETH or EPFL are well connected with Singaporean universities, Swiss universities of applied science are still in process of establishing a foothold and build these partnerships. Recently, Singapore and its universities have recognized the need for a more practical education going beyond academic merit, greatly increasing the interest in the offerings of Swiss applied universities.

That shift has been recognized by Mr. Brunner, who is responsible to promote and strengthen bilateral cooperation between Singapore and Switzerland in the domains of education, research and innovation. He stated that Singapore has been closely watching the Swiss education system. In his view, Swiss universities of applied science are doing very good work and he believes that there is great potential for exchange with Singaporean institutions. In the case of the FHNW School of Business, this work has recently paid off with the prestigious AACSB accreditation, underlining the potential of Swiss universities of applied science and their students.

Marsha Schurtenberger and Anil Singh presenting the project to Mr. Joël Henri Brunner.

After a brief introduction from Prof. Buttery to the vision and mission with the long-term goals of the School of Business in terms of international collaboration, our project members Anil Singh and Marsha Schurtenberger presented the 7th edition of the project to Mr. Brunner, providing him with a good general overview and with the mission of our project, which is to build bridges for young talents through teaching cultural values and business aspects of the ASEAN region and providing a network where students of the FHNW can connect with their potential future employer.

Supervisor Dr. Freiburghaus further explained that the project team needs to work out everything by themselves. For instance, the project’s theme and the decision on the visiting destinations, the planning and execution of the seminars in Switzerland and abroad, or the financing of the project by acquiring new sponsors. Not to forget the selection of an interdisciplinary delegation across all the schools of the university of applied science.

Active exchange between the participants.

Prof. Buttery proudly added that the four international student projects (ISP) are enabling students to apply what they have learned during their studies. He stressed that ultimately it is not about the ranking of a university, but about what the students are capable of. Moreover, Prof. Buttery explained that the prestigious ISPs, which are not quite easy for students to join due to the strong competition, are a good springboard for the students into the global business world and will enhance their employability.

Obligatory photo shoot in front of the FHNW campus in Olten.

The Role of exploreASEAN

When Mr. Brunner was asked why he had decided to visit the FHNW, he explained that while he was researching links between Singapore and Swiss institutions, he had stumbled upon the exploreASEAN website and was impressed by the project.

Mr. Brunner further emphasized the importance of teaching students to tackle complex problems in cross functional teams to best prepare them for the “real world”. The FHNW degree programmes build on cross-functionality and exploreASEAN is thus a good example of showcasing this. He is convinced that the exploreASEAN project can support him in demonstrating through his platforms, what Swiss universities of applied sciences and their students can do. For example, Mr. Brunner discussed the potential of showcasing the insights gained by exploreASEAN on the online platform nextrends-Asia, helping to increase visibility for the projects and the students individually. The platform regularly showcases upcoming education, research, innovation and policy trends from China, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, and how Switzerland’s innovation players engage with them.

Finally, Mr. Brunner assured that the Ambassador Filliez and the Swiss Embassy in Singapore will be happy to support exploreASEAN with linking them up with potential partners and sponsors and welcoming them at their premises.

The team thanked Mr. Brunner for his support and is looking forward to welcome him in February 2022 at the Seminar in Switzerland.

Sources:

https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/SGP/singapore/gdp-growth-rate

https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/asia/singapore/singapore/guide

https://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/gia/article/singapore-50-years-of-science-and-technology#4

https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/singapore/overview#1

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The ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN)

The ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN)

One year ago, on November 14, 2020, during the 37th ASEAN Summit the President of Vietnam and former Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the ASEAN Smart Logistics Network (ASLN) together with its first project, the Vinh Phuc Inland Container Depot (ICD) Logistics Centre. Also known as the SuperPort. This article provides an overview about its goals, projects initiated, and potential opportunities for foreign investors.

ASLN – Enhanced Logistics in the ASEAN Region
Source: YCH Group

The ASLN serves as a platform which aims to promote logistics interconnectivity and integration within the member states of ASEAN. Moreover, it seeks to encourage the use of smart and sustainable logistics infrastructure. Also, the ASLN is a supportive means to ASEAN’s economic integration efforts and initiatives, such as the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan 2025. A policy, which’s vision it is to connect and integrate ASEAN members seamlessly and comprehensively to promote competitiveness, inclusiveness, and finally a greater sense of community. Seamless logistics is one out of five strategic areas elaborated in the Master Plan. The area is focusing on two strategic objectives: lower supply chain costs and make the supply chains faster and more reliable in each ASEAN member state.

According to the Master Plan the previous initiatives have not reached the goals set in terms of logistics improvements. The reasons evaluated were named as a lack of coordination between government departments and sharing of best practices.

With the launch of the ASLN, the ASEAN is aiming to provide greater collaboration between logistics organizations, academic institutions, and the ASEAN member states with the shared goal of smart and sustainable growth.

Besides the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan 2025, the ASLN is also assisting the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, and the ASEAN Integration Initiatives.

Vinh Phuc ICD Logistics Centre (SuperPort) in Vietnam
Source: Delco Construction

The inauguration of the ASLN was also the kickoff for its first logistics project in Vietnam. The SuperPort is going to be one of Vietnams largest logistics centers, which is situated in the northern province of Vinh Phuc near Hanoi. Not only will it serve as an inland transit point for domestic goods, imports, and exports. But also, as an inland container depot and a facilitator for customs clearance services for imports and exports.

The logistics center connects 20 industrial areas by road, rail, air, and sea. Furthermore, it is providing connectivity to the city of Hanoi, Hai Phong International Airport and China’s Yunnan Province, where the goods are transported via the Lao Cai border gate along the Hanoi-Lao Cai economic corridor.

The project is operated by the T&T Group of Vietnam and Singapore’s YCH Group. The investment made amounts to USD 166.68 million.

Phnom Penh Logistics Complex in Cambodia
Photo credit: Ministry of Public Works and Transport

The second project under the ASLN has been released by Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and again by the YCH Group from Singapore.

The Phnom Penh Logistics Complex project will start in 2022 and follows the concept of the SuperPort in Vietnam. The costs for the logistics project are estimated at USD 200 million.

The aim is to build a state-of-the-art logistics complex, using latest technology to enhance resilience, visibility, and the process flow of the logistics. Moreover, it will feature a training academy and startup hub to train employees in the logistics sector of Cambodia.

Opportunities for Foreign Investors and Businesses

The Singaporean YCH Group is managing both ASLN projects by providing their expertise for the development of the logistics infrastructure. This example implicates the support needed from more developed countries to excel in the complex projects initiated.

Even though the main partners involved will be from the ASEAN region, foreign companies may contribute with consulting services, goods and services for the development of the logistics infrastructure, and with other kinds of collaboration. Furthermore, the funding of the projects might also be attractive for foreign investors who are or want to be involved in the ASEAN region.

Even if not directly engaged, these businesses will also profit from the implemented projects: greater integration within the ASEAN will lead to more efficient and faster logistics. This will benefit the trade in goods and services across the region and lower costs.

Outlook

So far, two major projects have been launched under the ASLN, which is said to improve logistics in the ASEAN region significantly. With the expertise of the Singaporean YCH Group and the willingness to collaborate, these projects are most certainly going to succeed and implemented as planned. More sustainable projects will follow, and further improve logistics infrastructure, which will not only benefit the ASEAN member states and their businesses. New and attractive opportunities will emerge even for foreign companies and investors.

Sources

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/asean-business/new-asean-network-to-build-logistics-infrastructure-0

http://kinhtetapdoan.vn/trung-tam-logistics-icd-vinh-phuc-chinh-thuc-duoc-khoi-dong-d9510.html

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Theme and On-Site Trip Destinations

Theme and On-Site Trip Destinations

The world is a complex value chain, a network of organizations that works collaboratively to transfer products and services from producers to consumers. The conditions we have become accustomed to is inconceivable without an international supply chain. During the 7th edition of exploreASEAN we will dive into this complex world of global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Learn more about our theme and the destinations chosen for the on-site trip.

Over the last several years, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) maintained strong and steady economic progress showing the enormous potential that lies in this region. As a result of closer economic and political collaboration – the establishment of trade agreements combined with the promotion of peace and stability – poverty declined significantly, and GDP rates grew rapidly.

During the 7th edition of exploreASEAN we will dive into the complex world of global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Herewith, we proudly present this year’s project theme:

ASEAN+ in the Global Value Chain: Gain and Sustain

The world is a complex value chain, a network of organizations that works collaboratively to transfer products and services from producers to consumers. The conditions we have become accustomed to is inconceivable without an international supply chain. Due to this reason, we want to dive into the intricate field of the global value chains and the positioning of ASEAN+ in those growing dynamics. Due to the rapid development, sustainable potential, and fast pace of innovation, the value chain of ASEAN+ is an exciting destination for tomorrow’s investors.

For this year’s edition we have incorporated South Korea in our project. The unprecedent inclusion of an ASEAN+ country was based on the growth and influence South Korea has gained in the global market in recent decades. South Korea’s economic success cannot be overlooked and therefore will be an exciting and remarkable addition to this years exploreASEAN.

Gain

Value chains exist to connect producers and consumers in an ongoing exchange of value. As a result, innovations in value chain drive innovations in the rest of the economy. According to a research conducted by the APEC Policy Support Unit, a 1% gain in logistics performance and competitiveness may result in a 3% boost in export growth. This fraction already shows the immense potential in the ASEAN market. Hence this project will investigate the position of ASEAN+ in the global value chain and how their role might be strengthened or challenged.

Sustain

Value chains are to human civilization what oxygen is to life; when they work well, no one notices them. It is only when they start to fail that we realize there is a problem. Therefore, one can say that the value chain is an integral part of a company which is commonly faced with many challenges. Whether it is in the day-to-day operations or more significant adaptations like the transformational change, which are gaining on importance in the forthcoming years. The growing volatility in the business environment motivated us to explore the difficulties, innovations, and opportunities that might face ASEAN+ and how their competitiveness can be sustained in the constant evolving environment.

On-Site Trip Destinations

The journey of this year’s exploreASEAN edition will lead us to two founder nations of ASEAN – Singapore and Thailand – and to one of ASEAN’s main partners and ASEAN+ member state, South Korea.

Singapore – World-Class Global Connectivity

Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and a strong Free Trade Agreement network (25!) and a reliable, highly advanced, and efficient logistics and supply chain management hub, Singapore has one of the best logistics performances in the world and plays a crucial role in the global value chains.

Even in times of the pandemic, which severely disrupted supply chains, Singapore’s strong maritime performance could be relied upon. This is a clear indication of how it has strengthened its status as a global logistics center.

Thailand – ASEAN’s Manufacturing Hub

Manufacturing is one of the most important sectors of ASEAN second-largest economy Thailand. Therefore, it is not surprising that Thailand is one of the largest manufacturing hubs in Southeast Asia. The country produces a variety of goods such as textiles and apparel, footwear, electronics, machinery, including computers, automobiles and parts, gems, and rubber.

Thailand’s government currently is investing in four major infrastructure projects with the aim of transforming Thailand into a leading ASEAN investment and business center.

South Korea – ASEAN’s important trade partner

A country with big multinational corporations such as Samsung, LG or Hyundai has raised global importance in the value chain within the last few years. With its 17 Free Trade Agreements, including ASEAN, EFTA and EU, South Korea is a major international trading partner.

The country is looking to expand its presence in Southeast Asia and has recently launched talks with ASEAN to update its FTA. The recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement between the ASEAN and ASEAN+ member states is expected to reduce import and export costs significantly and will help facilitate international supply chains.

Today, ASEAN is the second-largest trading partner of South Korea.

The Current Pandemic Situation

Due to the current pandemic situation, our team is faced with planning uncertainties. As a result, we allow ourselves to keep the option open to visit other significant and relevant countries, which play a vital role in the global value chain if the prevailing restrictions make it impossible for us to complete our mission in the countries listed above. Possible alternative destinations are Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In the worst-case scenario, we might visit key European hubs in terms of the global value chain.

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ASEAN + 3 + 6 = ?

ASEAN + 3 + 6 = ?

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations and consists of ten member states including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The aim of its creation was to improve economic, sociocultural and political cooperation and to balance political conflicts between these countries. But what exactly is ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6? And what purpose do they have?

In 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established by five countries; namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The main purpose of ASEAN was to stimulate economic growth, social progress and cultural, technical as well as educational development through mutually beneficial collaboration and cooperation among the member states. With its slogan “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” a harmonic coexistence including supporting regional peace and stability was promoted. Over the course of time Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar became members of the Association and with Cambodia joining in the year 1999 ASEAN consists now of ten member states.

ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6

China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea are the countries which represent the “3” in ASEAN+3, which was established in 1999. Its goal was to strengthen and deepen the cooperation in East Asia even further. The main objectives and principles are written down in the Joint Statement. In the year 2007 a second Joint Statement “Building on the Foundations of ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation” was accepted, which states that ASEAN+3 continues to support ASEAN in building an East Asian community. Furthermore, the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017) was developed in order to enhance the East Asia cooperation. Ten years later, at the end of the Cooperation Work Plan (2017), ASEAN+3 was proclaimed to have a crucial role for peace, stability, and prosperity in the East Asian region. Moreover, ASEAN+3 agreed to be a continued essential partner of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Overview of countries that belong to ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6.

Besides what we already know now, ASEAN+6 includes the ASEAN+3 member states as well as Australia, India, and New Zealand. This formation was inspired by the European Union and shaped the basis for the envisioned East Asian community.

ASEAN-Switzerland

Switzerland became a Sectorial Dialogue Partner in the year 2016 and celebrated its 5th Anniversary of this valued Partnership in August 2021. Southeast Asia’s importance in global affairs is continuously growing and with Switzerland joining the Sectorial Dialogue, the country is able to intensify the cooperation with Southeast Asia and expand its ties with the Asia-Pacific region. There are four defined priority fields for a cooperation between ASEAN and Switzerland: human security, vocational education and training, climate change and social forestry, as well as disaster management and risk reduction. The countries support each other during challenging periods which was emphasised in a speech of the Vietnamese Ambassador on the 1st of September 2021:

“Vietnam has been profoundly thankful for the Swiss timely donations of Covid-19 medical equipment such as oxygen machines, Covid-19 test kits, masks and with total value of 5 million USD. Delivered on the occasion of the visit, the Emergency Aid package sent a clear message of solidarity and empathy to the Vietnamese people, in line with the spirit of “A friend in need is a friend indeed.””

  • Mrs. Le Linh Lan, Vietnamese Ambassador on the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Switzerland on 1st September 2021

Sources:

ARIC (n.d.). Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three (ASEAN+3) cooperation on energy, transport, and information & communications technology. ASIA REGIONAL INTEGRATION CENTER. https://aric.adb.org/initiative/association-of-southeast-asian-nations-plus-three-cooperation-on-energy-transport-and-information-communications-technology

ASEAN (n.d.). The Founding of ASEAN. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. https://asean.org/about-asean/the-founding-of-asean/

ASEAN plus three (n.d.). History. ASEAN plus three. https://aseanplusthree.asean.org/about-apt/history/

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA (2021, August 19). Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). EDA. https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/foreign-policy/international-organizations/asean.html

Toh, M. H. (2009, May 15). ASEAN+6 as a step towards an Asian Economic Community. Eastasiaforum. https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/05/15/asean6-as-a-step-towards-an-asian-economic-community/

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Seizing opportunities in international collaboration

Seizing opportunities in international collaboration

How to increase competences in international collaboration during times of a pandemic?

For our article we had the chance to talk to Christian Czupalla, the founder of weEmpower. The expert in the field of intercultural collaboration and digital communication shared his insights on how to increase intercultural competences in order to seize the opportunities of the situation.

Christian Czupalla founded the leadership academy called weEmpower. He completely adapted the strategy and switched to online services during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. With this new format of their training and consulting activities, the company found a way to adapt the own services to the new demands of their audience. Their offering helps participants and clients to gain practical knowledge in order increase their leadership competences. 

With the new dynamic of their offering, the clients of WeEmpower can incorporate the sessions into their regular workday even easier and faster. Which gives them a handy tool during times of rapid change which can be observed globally.

Christian Czupalla emphasizes:

“International collaboration means learning, it is equally important to reflect and understand the own culture as well as gaining an understanding for the other culture”

To him international collaboration is exciting and dynamic since requirements like laws for example can change suddenly. Therefore, openness and adaptability are crucial in any situation. From Christian Czupalla’s point of view, the dynamics in international collaboration are being shaped and defined by the various effects of COVID on the business world. Patterns of the past are being re-evaluated constantly and methods for improvement can be identified and implemented to adjust to the situation.

There is a big chance when It comes to interaction, since there is a significant advance in communication technology, many actions can be coordinated more easily.
For example, the simple collaborative editing of spread sheets which used to be a big challenge without being able to share the screen. Examples like this offer many opportunities to prevent misunderstandings and speed up a wide range of processes.

When speaking of the ASEAN region there are many challenges and chances which can be observed. The biggest challenge South East Asian countries must face at the moment is the controlling of the supply chains, since COVID caused rapid demand changes. With a variety of products or product components produced in this region, the effects are particularly noticeable. Nevertheless, the offering of solutions and the willingness to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, is a big advantage of the region. In Christian Czupalla’s experience, the agility is particularly high in this regions and solutions are always offered quickly.

“The golden rule in collaboration is, that the relationship decides on what is possible.”

According to Christian Czupalla the new digital opportunities will make it easier to maintain professional relationships. This factor is going to improve intercultural communication and understanding fundamentally.

There is room for improvement in online communication, when it comes to the implementation of guidelines, which can simplify the “forming phase” at the beginning of every collaboration.
We can benefit from the advantages of nonverbal communication, even in a digital setting, if the cameras are switched on for example. Therefore, defining those aspects in advance will help us to increase the effectiveness for each participant.

Another key factor is the choice of the tool, which can determine the success of an operation. Therefore, the available options must be evaluated carefully when planning a project. 

With those insights in mind, the change which is pushed by the pandemic can be applied optimally and the advantages of the innovations and strengths of each region can be utilized to the benefit of all parties involved.

But despite all the digitalization and closer direct collaboration, the success factor is and remains the understanding and relationship between people.  The degree of the relationship determines what can be achieved together.

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How the Circular Economy can change Southeast Asia

Regula Schegg: How the Circular Economy can change Southeast Asia

During her speech in exploreASEAN Preparatory Seminar, Regula had brought up an everlasting issue in Southeast Asia which is the plastic leakage into the ocean. The area is a major contributor to land-based plastic waste leaking into the world’s oceans, with more than half of it coming from four nations, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, along with China, the top single polluter, which has been worsening due to the global pandemic. 

Regula is Circulate Capital’s Managing Director of Asia. She leads the investment strategy, manages the investment team, and oversees Circulate Capital Ocean Fund’s investment portfolio in South and Southeast Asia. She further established a social enterprise in the Philippines, developing sustainable housing technologies, establishing production and construction of affordable housing solutions in collaboration with urban poor communities and civil society organizations in Southeast Asia. 

During the time at our seminar, Regular had delivered to the participants an insightful speech about the mentioned issue in the region along with the effect of COVID-19. Many countries in Southeast Asia have been struggling with poor waste sorting and disposal systems, and their growth in population and explosive demand for consumer products mean more single-use plastic ends up in landfills or leaks into the environment.

Indonesia generates 6.8 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. Photo: EPA

Globally, COVID-19 has touched every business and community in a variety of ways. In Southeast Asia specifically, more plastics are being used as people started ordering food when they could not go out to eat. Moreover, the pandemic has impacted the poor of the poor, said Regula in her presentation. A study by circular economy consultancy GA Circular has found that lockdowns and COVID-19 prevention measures may have done permanent damage to the recycling sector in South and Southeast Asia. The recycling trade in these regions has been already struggling with poor infrastructure, labor shortages, and non-competitively priced recycled plastic before the pandemic hit, and the virus has exacerbated these issues, in some countries almost wiping out the sector.

According to Regula, we all have a role to play to help critical industries ensure the long-term resilience of the community in these countries. And to tackle plastic consumption and bring it back to the Circular Economy we all need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, interventions are needed across the recycling value chain to support it to overcome the current challenges it is facing, prevent increased plastic population, and protect livelihoods: 

  •  Double down on financing 

Regula stated that it is of utmost importance in the industries globally and also in Southeast Asia is to invest in double down on financing the plastic recycling value chain.  

  • Commit to buy recycle materials

Brand owners need to commit to buy recycled materials and provide guarantees for offtake. Most of the international corporations in the food industries or consumption industry commit to recycle content by 2025 – 2030. 

  • Refine existing grant programs

Philanthropic actors in emerging markets such as the Southeast Asia region are extremely important. It’s not just about investing but about building an ecosystem for the entire community. There’s a need for tremendous education in the early stage towards children: How consumption of plastic can change their lives to refine existing grant programs to support waste pickers. 

  • Recognize the recycling value chain 

Governments should recognize the recycling value chain as an essential service and play a key role in driving the necessary policies either to prevent plastics usage or even to enable and allow companies to be able to use recycled contents. 

4 interventions for the recycling value chain. Photo: Regula Schegg

The impacts of COVID-19 on the plastic recycling value chain in South and Southeast Asia would last long after the pandemic is over. Investment in the waste and recycling industry is needed more than ever. The problem not only demands action from organizations, companies globally and locally, but also the implementation of government policies as well as the awareness of the population to work together to build up a sustainable living environment in the region.

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15 Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Major Trade Pact

15 Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Major Trade Pact

After years of tricky negotiations 15 countries including China signed a major trade deal, creating a regional bloc that covers around a third of global economic output and extends Beijing’s influence. This is posing an early challenge to President-elect Joe Biden as he is formulating his administration’s trade policies.

The trade deal is called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and covers a third of the global economic output.  The bloc includes many of the largest economies in the Asia-Pacific region. Apart from China, it includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 Southeast Asian nations.

The pact will result in a more unified trading system which will minimize trading costs in the area. Therefore, it is expected to boost the global economy and help the countries better fight the economic hit from the pandemic.

The United States are not part of the deal even though they have the world’s largest economy. They were part of another deal called the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) which didn’t include Beijing and was aimed in part at countering China’s growing clout. The United States pulled out of this multilateral trade pact under the Trump administration, increasing the pressure on Biden to deepen U.S. trade engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. He commented that he wants to rally allies in order to create a more forceful policy to confront China before signing the deal.

After several years of growing trade tensions, particularly between the U.S. and China which raised questions about the future of globalisation, a ceremony was held online where the 15 Nations representatives signed the pact.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that the signing showed that multilateralism and free trade “still represent the right direction of the world economy and mankind.”

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh on Sunday at a virtual signing ceremony in Hanoi.

PHOTO: LUONG THAI LINH/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

The negotiation of the deal took 8 years and the challenge was mainly to balance the interests of countries at varying stages of development. India for example withdrew from the deal last year because they were concerned that the deal would lead to a flood of imports but even without India the population of the countries which are part of the deal equals roughly a third of humanity.

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ASEAN launches Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indicators

ASEAN launches Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indicators

HA NOI, 23 October 2020 – The General Statistics Office (GSO) Viet Nam, in collaboration with ASEANstats and supported by the ARISE Plus Project, convened in a virtual conference to launch the ASEAN SDG Indicators Baseline Report 2020 and the ASEAN Online Database for SDG Indicators. 

 
As the role of ASEAN Statistical Chairman in 2020, Vietnam has proposed the initiative “Establishing the statistical information system on sustainable development of ASEAN”. This initiative has received the consensus and actively participated in the implementation of all ASEAN member countries. 

The inaugural ASEAN report on SDG indicators aims to establish the baseline information of the SDGs being tracked and measured in the region to aid the monitoring of progress in achieving the global agenda as well as supporting relevant policy making at the national and regional levels. This report presents the data for ASEAN and the AMS as gathered and compiled by the NSSs and the NSOs in the region from 2016 – 2018. 

Director General of GSO Vietnam Dr. Nguyen Thi Huong opened the event, along with Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN Igor Driesmans and Director of the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat Julia Tijaja who all gave their opening remarks. 

Dr. Julia Tijaja speaking out of the ASEAN Community’s vision to 2025 has complemented the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development with efforts to improve the living standards of people in the ASEAN community. This is reflected in the Blueprint 2025 of the ASEAN Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community, which is committed to achieving sustainable socio-economic development of ASEAN. Mr. Igor Driesmans has shown a great appreciation for the Early Report, emphasizing that the SDG indicators play an important role in making policies for sustainable development of member countries. This is also an important tool to ensure the transparency of statistical indicators. 

The SDGs are based on 6 themes including: dignity, people, planet, partnership, justice and prosperity. The SDGs are more comprehensive than the MDGs and include 17 goals, defined by 169 specific goals and 232 indicators. These goals go beyond social development, including the goals for climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, equity… These goals are reciprocally connecting and being successful in one goal will often solve problems in another area. 

ACSS conveyed its appreciation to the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the European Union (ARISE) Plus Project for their support in improving statistical capacity in AMS and the ASEAN Secretariat. 

 
The ASEAN SDG Indicators Baseline Report 2020 is available at https://www.aseanstats.org/publication/asean-sdg-report-2020/ 
The Online Database for ASEAN SDG Indicators is accessible at https://data.aseanstats.org/sdg 

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Asean One Entity – Smart, Digital and Sustainable

Asean One Entity – Smart, Digital and Sustainable Smart Nation Singapore

Improving the life of citizens through connectivity

The countries within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are some of the most dynamic regions in the world. Due to the rapid economic growth in this area, acting in a smart way is a key factor for long-term success. Being the fastest growing internet market in the world, ASEAN’s digital economy is particularly influential. As by-product of their strong economic growth, the region today faces many challenges related to sustainability, such as reduced air and water quality as well as waste management issues. Therefore, sustainable business practices are now progressively being prioritized.

Singapore is a prime example of the economic relevance and strength of this region. In 1965 it gained its independence and started to open their policies as well as their borders and adopted an outward looking economic strategy. This eventually resulted in an increase of imports and exports and therefore, the city-state became an internationally competitive player despite its size.

Smart Singapore

Singapore is a pioneering city which is continuously deploying new technologies in order to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The state’s approach is focusing on a broad scale when it comes to technological innovations, while focusing on its force as a nation.

The Smart Nation initiative was launched by the Government in 2014. The initiative included the purchase of services from technology start-ups, to make that data available on government portals. The goal includes the extension of public transport networks and ensures a secure but open data marketplace. This data can be used for urban and operational planning and maintenance with the introduction of cashless payment options on a large scale.

Singapore’s response to the pandemic

The response to the global pandemic of Singapore is based on the Smart Nation Initiative, which provides an ideal foundation for the measures. On this basis the government was able to develop further targeted concepts to control the spread of the Virus. Furthermore, the State was able to adapt, implement and monitor the changes quick and with almost no complications. This is also felt by it’s citizens like Chrys Francisco Laguitao, Senior UX Designer at Google Singapore, who observed an easy transition at her company to working remotely. “The fast and accessible internet as well as the available digital tools have made this conversion possible with almost no technical difficulties.”

An example of an innovation that is used in Singapore’s biggest public parks are robot dogs. These robot dogs have several distinctive abilities like a sound system to broadcast safety messages to visitors as well as tracking the number of visitors to avoid crowding.

Robot dogs are obviously just one creative solution amongst many in order to keep the virus in check. The most widespread technology amongst the citizens are apps like SafeEntry or TraceTogether, which store data about their users in order to facilitate the tracking process in case of an outbreak. The apps can record or exchange different information’s, from the location, to the duration of the interaction between the users.

The statistics show that the measures are successful. The numbers remained low throughout the pandemic and Singapore is therefore one of the safest cities to live in during the age of this dangerous virus.

The discussion about data privacy

Even though the high level of connectivity and the open approach to managing their data has a lot of advantages, especially during the current situation, there are critics coming forward. Some security experts are concerned that the individual privacy is being sacrificed in the process. The question of how open the information should be handled is answered differently by most countries and individuals, which can complicate international collaboration. Therefore, Singapore is concerned about the upcoming EU data protection regime that will require a change in data processing for a successful data transfer. Nevertheless, the different approach has many advantages and as long as the thin line from connectivity to observation is not crossed, it seems to be a reasonable course to follow for this economic giant.

After all, there are a lot of goals that all ASEAN countries are working towards and the improvements can be felt in every area. Singapore as a nation is a prime example for a rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless, the nation has smoothly mastered numerous challenges, such as the pandemic, with their smart use of technology. With their stream of innovations, this nation evidently can’t be diminished by its size.

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Flexibility during times of COVID-19

How the FHNW and exploreASEAN manage the effects of the pandemic

Read more about that balance of protecting and running our project today while retooling it for tomorrow to thrive after the pandemic.
We had the great honour to speak with local newspaper “General Anzeiger” about our project and the challenge of managing the effects of the pandemic (COVID-19).
A great article on the lessons that we have learned and that will hopefully benefit future project teams!
We hope you enjoy reading it.

Your exploreASEAN Team