Examining the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for Southeast Asia’s future.

About the project

Some Southeast Asian nations have – so far – escaped the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the virus has a firm grip in Indonesia and the Philippines, and even those nations with relatively low infection rates are grappling with second wave hot spots as internal restrictions are eased.

Meanwhile, the economic and human toll has been immense. Strongly growing economies have slumped. Poverty and unemployment have risen sharply.

These challenges come at a time when Southeast Asia’s external environment is complex and contested – a time of change in global order, of protectionism and nationalism and of intense competition between the United States and China.

This joint Asia Society Policy Institute-Asia Society Australia project presents a series of reflections on Southeast Asia and the pandemic through essays and video commentaries from experts.

In coming months, we will examine the pandemic’s effects on Southeast Asia’s politics, society, economics and external relations. Along the way, we’ll suggest some ways in which Southeast Asia’s partners can respond to developments in the region and, especially, best support Southeast Asia’s economic recovery and long-term resilience and sovereignty.

About the authors

Richard Maude is Executive Director of Policy at Asia Society Australia and a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Mr Maude joined Asia Society after a 30-year career as an Australian diplomat and intelligence official. He is a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Director-General of the Office of National Assessments and senior foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In 2017, Mr Maude was head of the whole-of-government taskforce that supported the preparation of the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.

Professor Tikki PANG is presently Visiting Professor, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He was previously Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and Director, Research Policy & Cooperation, World Health Organization. He also held roles at the Institute of Postgraduate Studies & Research and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. He was Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Dengue & Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1982-1995).

He holds a PhD in Immunology-Microbiology from the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (UK), Institute of Biology (UK), American Academy of Microbiology (USA), Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, and Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).

Professor Pang has a recognisable profile as a public health expert both nationally and internationally. His research interests are in the epidemiology, pathogenesis, laboratory diagnosis and prevention of infectious diseases, biosecurity and dual-use research, genomics & health, and in health research policy, health research systems, global health governance, development of research capabilities in developing countries, linkages between research and policy, vaccine confidence and harm reduction approaches to mitigate health problems.

About Asia Society Policy Institute

The Asia Society Policy Institute tackles major policy challenges confronting the AsiaPacific in security, prosperity, and sustainability and helps develop common norms and values for the region. The Policy Institute is a think-and-do tank designed to bring about changes that incorporate the best ideas from top experts in Asia and to work with policy makers to integrate these ideas and put them into practice.

About Asia Society Australia

Understanding Asia has never been more important to Australia. For over 60 years globally and 20 years in Australia, Asia Society has been building bridges of understanding between Asia, Australia and the United States across business, policy, education and the arts.

Asia Society Australia is Australia’s leading national centre for engagement with Asia, with a centre in Melbourne and an office in Sydney. We are a not-for-profit, non-governmental and non-political organisation empowered by leading Australian and regional business, government, education and cultural institutions.


Southeast Asia and COVID 19 is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia ASEAN Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Asia Society Australia acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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