In Bali, Secretary-General Urges Asian States to Assume Greater Responsibility on ‘the Crises of Our Day’— Climate Change, Global Finance, Other Challenges

25 November 2011

In Bali, Secretary-General Urges Asian States to Assume Greater Responsibility on ‘the Crises of Our Day’— Climate Change, Global Finance, Other Challenges

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

In Bali, Secretary-General Urges Asian States to Assume Greater Responsibility


on ‘the Crises of Our Day’— Climate Change, Global Finance, Other Challenges


(Delayed in transmission.)

Following are the remarks, as prepared for delivery, of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the East Asia Summit, delivered in Bali, Indonesia, 19 November:

It seems only yesterday that many of us were together in Cannes.

The very serious economic issues dominating the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit still command our daily attention, and they are likely to do so for a considerable time to come.

As we all know, Asia has been the chief driver of global growth in recent years.

It will have to bear some of the burdens of the current crisis in order to stabilize the international financial situation.

As United Nations Secretary-General, my job is to step back a bit from the immediate crisis — to take a somewhat longer view of the challenges to our common future.

I am just concluding a visit to three countries of Asia.  My purpose was to shine a spotlight on some of the things that they are doing right — particularly in health care, and most especially in women and children's health.

Thailand and Indonesia are advancing on universal health care, with remarkable benefits to their societies.

In Bangladesh, I saw how investment in rural health clinics is saving lives.  Far fewer women are dying in childbirth.  Infant mortality is falling sharply.

Part of the reason is that these countries have invested heavily in people.

As I see it, this is smart economic policy as well as social policy.  Healthy people make healthy societies, and healthy societies tend to be more prosperous societies.

The nations of East and Southeast Asia have been investing in their long-term future, in other words — investing in the basic foundations of competitiveness, productivity and long-term growth.

Many in the region fear the economic crisis elsewhere will spill over to them.  And certainly, it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the contagiousness of fear and uncertainty.

I think about it a bit differently, however.

My chief worry is that the wealthier, industrial nations will curtail their own investments in people — not only their own people at home, but also their investments in people beyond their borders.

I also worry that Asian nations, out of fear, will trim their investment in human capital, as well.

If that were to happen — if we give in to fear — the global economy could indeed slow even more, and here in Asia as well.

My point is this:  social investment is not a luxury to be done once the world economy recovers.  To the contrary, social investment is itself an engine of growth right now, and we must all uphold our commitments to it.

I would make one further point, which I also raised this morning. While Asia has gained in power and influence, it has yet to fully take up its responsibilities for the larger world we share.

We need Asia's full engagement in the crises of our day — on global governance and financial stability, on the great transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East, on the whole range of challenges that affect us all.

This is both a political and a moral responsibility.

That is why, at the General Assembly in September, I set forth five imperatives for global action over the next five years.  The way to a more prosperous future can only be found by taking on the big challenges and building our stock of human and planetary capital.

Among other things, that means sustainable development — accepting that we cannot burn or consume our way to a better future.  It means working toward an agreement on climate change.  It means sustainable energy policies for all countries.  It also means creating new opportunities for women and children — the next big emerging market.

These challenges will have to be addressed squarely at the Rio+20 Conference in June next year.  Climate change, energy, food, water, the empowerment of women.  As we tackle these issues, we must also be aware of the historic responsibility we must discharge.  I sincerely invite you all to be personally present at Rio in June next year.

Unity — our unity — is essential.  We live in a new world.  The old rules cannot apply for much longer.  No nation, or group of nations, can go it alone.

We all agree on this.  Let us act now in that spirit.  Let us act in international solidarity as our own best national interest.

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