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

About the project

This joint Asia Society Policy InstituteAsia Society Australia project presents a series of reflections on Southeast Asia and the COVID-19 pandemic through essays and video commentaries from experts.

Over the course of the project, we will examine the pandemic’s effect on Southeast Asia’s politics and society, its economy, regional cohesion 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.

Southeast Asia worked hard to keep the COVID-19 pandemic mostly at bay during 2020.  But in 2021, as it did globally, the Delta variant hit the region hard.  The human toll has been immense – many thousands have died and poverty and unemployment have risen.  The region’s fragile and uneven economic recovery has slowed. 

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.

Project leads

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.

Lena Duchene is a Program Officer at Asia Society Australia, having previously worked in a similar role for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Having lived and worked in Europe, North America and Asia, she has a strong interest in cross-cultural relations.

About Asia Society Policy Institute

With a problem-solving mandate, the Asia Society Policy Institute tackles major policy challenges confronting the Asia-Pacific in security, prosperity, sustainability, and the development of 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 policymakers 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.