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Wisma Putra’s “Focus In Continuity”: Another Policy Framework Or Foreign Policy Activism?

By Dr. Abdul Razak (Founding Director) and Mr. Fikry A Rahman (Research & Advocacy Analyst) from Bait Al-Amanah

On the 7th of December 2021, Wisma Putra launched the new framework for Malaysia’s foreign policy in a post-pandemic world. With the focus on continuity, the new framework was underpinned by Keluarga Malaysia values in spearheading Malaysia’s strategic direction. The move made by Wisma Putra is welcoming in ensuring Malaysia’s stature at the regional and international front remains intact with the key priorities surrounding Covid-19 measures.

The framework touches upon various priorities and the implementation of health diplomacy, digital economy, and cultural diplomacy, among others. The document will continue to behest at the cardinal of Malaysia’s foreign policy by underscoring the non-alignment principle while proactively engaging multiple stakeholders. It is also an extension framework by Wisma Putra to set up an overarching strategy to encounter the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19.

However, as we sift through the pandemic for two years and counting, we are in a dire need to act and step up our game beyond the introduction of the new framework. Due to the overwhelming impact of the pandemic, Malaysia needs a robust mechanism to emphasize the importance of foreign policy that is able to manifest its resilience towards the devastating impact of the pandemic.

Thus, as we are moving towards the recovery phase of the pandemic, it is vital for Malaysia to have constructive involvement through active diplomacy and robust activism at regional and international forums.

Although Wisma Putra has been at the frontier of the diplomatic channel for Malaysia at the highest level, our non-alignment and equidistance policy should not hinder our activism abroad. We need to be audacious in contending with regional and global issues that may compromise our national interest.

Now is the time for Malaysia to intensify its activism through multiple mechanisms in engaging with emerging issues and challenges abroad. Our foreign policy has always been under the manifestation of an independent, principled, and pragmatic mechanism, in which it has secured Malaysia at the driver’s seat of regional-led organizations.

Malaysia was once known for her activism at the international fora in contending for regional autonomy, global south, and Muslim Ummah causes. But our sturdy stature has faded gradually, and we have to forward our efforts in restoring our strong activism that has vanished.

During the outbreak of Covid-19, developing countries were the ones who suffered from vaccine inequality. Vaccine diplomacy by the south and small countries seems partially effective in securing the shot and vaccine nationalism has embedded the practice of major countries to exacerbate the inequality.

Though more than 48% of the world’s population has gotten their first dose of the vaccine, that figure shrinks to barely 3% in low-income countries. Wealthy nations with significant amounts of vaccines have graciously agreed to distribute extra doses to low and middle-income countries through COVAX. However, far too few of these contributions have been made.

Malaysia has shown the world our finesse in conducting vaccine diplomacy, but it was hampered by the inequity of vaccine distribution. Against the outset, Malaysia must speak up to uphold the right of vaccine equity and fight against abysmal practices by wealthier nations regarding vaccine surplus.

We need a stronger, immediate, and more proactive push for vaccine equity, and we must not wait any longer. The implementation outline by Wisma Putra on vaccine inequity must be manifested soon to avoid larger disparities among poorer nations.

The new framework of Malaysia’s foreign policy must be articulated and manifested through current and future actions. Though the new framework seeks to address vaccine inequity, yet there has been a dearth of voices speaking up on this issue.

We must amplify our activism through active diplomacy and constructive involvement by leveraging regional and international platforms. Malaysia should take the initiative by engaging our friends near and far, on how to restore our economy,collectively. The framework has outlined the key priorities and the implementation, but nothing beats the action. Thus, it is crucial for Wisma Putra to dispatch strategic action at the ground level as it has been two years since the pandemic has crept over us.

By putting a framework that religiously act upon its strategic action in the post-pandemic era, Malaysia’s foreign policy will remain committed to preserving its national interest. Malaysia must move decisively rather than remain dormant and leave everything neatly on paper.

**This article co-written by Dr. Abdul Razak (Founding Director) and Mr. Fikry A Rahman (Research & Advocacy Analyst) from Bait Al-Amanah was also published in The Malaysian Insight

Please refer to the attachment below for the new framework for Malaysia’s foreign policy:

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