Secretary-General of ASEAN Le Luong Minh and EU Ambassador to ASEAN Francisco Fontan Pardo welcomed the celebrations today in the ASEAN Secretariat.

The two new programmes on sustainable use of peatlands and biodiversity conservation further signify and strengthen the long-standing relationship between ASEAN and EU. They reflect the shared goals and commitment of ASEAN and EU in environmental protection and sustainable development, said Secretary-General Minh.

Ambassador Fontan said: It is a pleasure for me to launch the 40th?anniversary of the EU-ASEAN partnership, which has promoted strong political, economic and social cooperation. Throughout this year, numerous events and activities will mark our anniversary. Today, I am glad to highlight some important aspects of our joint successful work: we are starting two new ambitious programmes aimed at protecting the environment and supporting the fight against climate change in ASEAN.

With a budget of EUR 20 million, the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA | 2016-2019) programme aims to promote the sustainable management of peatlands in the ASEAN region and fight against transboundary haze pollution through collective actions, and sustain local livelihoods, and reduce the risk of fire and associated haze, which all contribute to global environmental management. It also contributes to the mitigation of carbon emissions from carbon-rich peatland areas, in addition to conservation of the unique peatland ecosystems biodiversity, which hosts highly endangered flora and fauna.

The second programme, Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP | 2016-2021), with EUR 10 million EU budget contribution, aims to enhance the conservation of biodiversity and effective management of protected areas in the ASEAN region. It will target the network of existing and potential ASEAN Heritage Parks to reduce biodiversity loss. The programme will be implemented in close coordination with the EU Delegation in Manila and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in Los Banos, the Philippines.

Highlighting the strong people-to-people aspect of EU-ASEAN relations, the EU Mission to ASEAN held an ASEAN-wide youth photo competition #PeopleofASEAN during early 2017 with one winner from each ASEAN Member State. Irianto Frederico Da Lopez from Indonesia received his award during the event.

The photo competition focused on citizens, with the broad theme Connecting People. This concept aligns with the fact that closer people-to-people contacts are a core component of the deepening EU-ASEAN partnership, and in line with the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint. Upholding Unity in Diversity as the common spirit for the people of both the EU and ASEAN, participants were asked to capture that spirit through their lens and to narrate it with a short caption. More than 700 photos were submitted and ten winners were selected according to their originality, creativity and their strong message. The judging process was conducted by EU Delegations in the region, including the EU Ambassador to ASEAN.

The photo of Irianto Frederico Da Lopez, the winner of the competition in Indonesia, carries a strong message. Farmers face unique challenges, they have a key role in terms of food security ? family farms are in fact feeding ASEAN. The European Union, through its specific programmes, supports farmers organisations and their work, added the EU Ambassador to ASEAN.

A collection of winning and other short-listed photos from the competition will be exhibited at the ASEAN Secretariat lobby until 15 March.