Secretary-General, Welcoming Joint Declaration between United Nations, Association of South-East Asian Nations, Says ASEAN’s Leadership Needed ‘as Seldom Before’

21 November 2011

Secretary-General, Welcoming Joint Declaration between United Nations, Association of South-East Asian Nations, Says ASEAN’s Leadership Needed ‘as Seldom Before’

21 November 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Welcoming Joint Declaration between United Nations, Association

Of South-East Asian Nations, Says ASEAN’s Leadership Needed ‘as Seldom Before’

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening remarks to the fourth Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)—United Nations Summit, in Bali, Indonesia, 19 November:

It is a pleasure to join you for this Fourth ASEAN-UN Summit.  The United Nations and ASEAN have long been close partners.  And today, we mark a milestone on that path.  We are adopting the “Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations”.  This Declaration sets the stage for even more concrete and active cooperation.  It builds on previous instruments, in particular the co-chairs’ statement of last year’s ASEAN-UN Summit in Hanoi.  This is very welcome.  [Indonesian] President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono, thank you for your leadership.

Let me preface these remarks with a personal observation.  I have been closely associated with ASEAN for many years.  We have seen Asia come of age together.  Over the years, I think of the great contribution your countries have made to the work of the United Nations — to peace, to development, to human rights.  Most of the countries in this room contribute to our peacekeeping missions, in Africa, in the Middle East, everywhere that the United Nations is trying to help people create a better, more prosperous and secure future.  Your Permanent Representatives in New York are very active, in every sphere of our work.  For all this, I humbly and gratefully thank you.  Yet, I must also speak frankly about the future.

As a planet, as a world community, we are living through very difficult times — the economic crisis; great wealth coupled with great poverty; the rising cost of food and energy coupled with the impacts of climate change.  There is so much to be done and so little time to do it.

In September at the general debate, I outlined an agenda for the next five years, five great imperatives, five generational opportunities to shape the world of tomorrow through the decisions we make today:  sustainable development; prevention; peace and security; countries in transition; and working with and for women and youth.

We need your help.   Asia has arisen.  Despite deep uncertainty elsewhere, Asia continues to grow.  Millions of people have been lifted from poverty.  Millions more will soon be.  We need your leadership as seldom before.  That begins with leadership on sustainable development, the number one imperative of the twenty-first century.  We have a great opportunity at the upcoming Rio+20 conference.  We need new thinking and new energy, a new level of engagement.   Asia can show the way.   Asia understands the interconnections among climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health and food and nutrition security.

During my latest travels, I have seen how women are taking on new responsibilities and coming to the fore across the region.  This is very encouraging and we must work together to make it happen both at home and globally.  We know from our experience that empowering women is key to accelerating development and social security.

On human rights, I urge you to move with resolve to produce an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.  I welcome your decision to ask the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) to assist these efforts.  The Joint Declaration opens other avenues for collaboration.  For example, we should consider using this new framework to work together on Timor-Leste, where the United Nations will soon begin withdrawing peacekeepers.  The country aspires to membership in ASEAN.  Let us help make that happen.

Today’s Declaration must be a “living document”.  That means we should be able to discuss the widest range of issues, including those that are difficult and most sensitive.

Let me touch on two such issues.  First, the conflict between Cambodia and Thailand. I welcome the recent meeting between Prime Ministers Hun Sen and Yingluck Shinawatra and their agreement to permit Indonesian observers into the disputed zone.  I applaud ASEAN, in particular [Foreign] Minister [Marty] Natalegawa, for the positive role you have played in preventing any further escalation.

Second, Myanmar.  I welcome your decision that Myanmar will chair ASEAN in 2014.  With this role comes new responsibility, both globally and at home.  My Special Adviser visited the country earlier this month and conveyed to all concerned my strong support for the bold steps being taken under President Thein Sein’s leadership.  I am also very encouraged by the ongoing dialogue between the Myanmar Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The United Nations and ASEAN have a shared stake in helping Myanmar advance toward democracy.  This morning I met President Thein Sein to discuss how the United Nations and the new Government of Myanmar can work together to make the most of this opportunity.  I will count on all of your continued support.

We can and must also work together on issues that confront us all.  Disaster risk reduction is one such priority area.  Two days ago I was in Thailand and witnessed the devastating effects of the flooding.  My sincere condolences go out to all those affected.  With climate change, extreme weather is increasing.  We must work together both to address climate change, and to ensure that we are prepared for its effects.  My visit to Bangladesh earlier this week shows that hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved if we organize and fully mobilize ourselves.

At a time of economic challenges, we can and must make the investments in our people, especially the most vulnerable.  That is why I have focused on women’s and children’s health in my visit to this region.  I have seen evidence that investments are indeed paying off, but more is required.

The United Nations attaches great importance to this Joint Declaration.  You have set an ambitious target for your future:  to establish an ASEAN Community by 2015.  This, in itself, is a measure of how far Asia has come, and how far we may expect it to go.  Along the way, you must play a role commensurate with this bright and encompassing future. I am confident that the ASEAN-UN partnership will grow vastly deeper and stronger in the years to come.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.