Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the United Nations-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting, in New York today:
Welcome to the United Nations. I congratulate Singapore for its effective chairing of ASEAN this year, and I wish His Excellency Mr. Lim Jock Hoi, all the best as your new Secretary-General.
This year, two exceptional Secretaries-General of our organizations passed away: Mr. Kofi Annan and Mr. Surin Pitsuwan. Their commitment to peace and humanity is an inspiration to us all.
We meet at a time of substantial global challenges. Climate change, terrorism, trade conflicts and displacement are global problems that require global solutions. Multilateralism is critical to achieving our shared goals of peace and prosperity, sustainable development and human rights for all, in the context of international relations that are based on the rule of law.
United Nations peacekeeping is a concrete example of multilateralism in action, and ASEAN Governments have a strong record of support. You have contributed nearly 4,500 personnel to our operations and engineering training programmes will soon begin in four of ASEAN’s peacekeeping training centres. All 10 ASEAN countries have endorsed my new initiative “Action for Peacekeeping”. I am extremely grateful for your support.
Recent progress on peace and security issues in the ASEAN region is a hopeful sign as we face new and protracted crises in many other parts of the world.
The past year has seen important steps towards de-escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. I welcome the support ASEAN Foreign Ministers have provided to efforts towards sustainable peace, security and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the context of regional security.
I also welcome recent progress in negotiations between ASEAN and China on a code of conduct on the South China Sea. I repeat my call for the peaceful resolution of all disputes in conformity with international law.
Following the first meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights with the United Nations in May, a number of new activities have begun. I strongly encourage all progress towards freedom of expression and the enlargement of political and democratic space.
ASEAN’s leadership on human rights is critical, and I welcome recent joint human rights initiatives on business, environment and media freedom. I encourage you to make every effort towards transparent and fair elections to further consolidate peace and security in the region.
I remain extremely concerned about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Rakhine State in Myanmar and its serious implications for regional and global stability. I recently met with refugees in Bangladesh and I was deeply moved by their stories of persecution and suffering.
A massive investment in reconstruction and development for all communities, and in reconciliation and respect for human rights, is essential for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees to their areas of origin or choice. It is clear that conditions for such a return have not yet been met.
It will be important to guarantee the full implementation of the recommendations in the report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was led by the late Kofi Annan. Once again, I commend the statesmanship of my predecessor, in Myanmar and elsewhere. I thank ASEAN for your support to my Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, and look forward to further close collaboration.
I called last year for a quantum leap in our partnership. I am delighted that this has borne fruit and our joint areas of work are growing, under the ASEAN-UN Plan of Action.
ASEAN’s strong leadership on sustainable development is essential, and I welcome the implementation of the recommendations the report on complementarities between the 2030 Agenda and the ASEAN Vision 2025.
Strengthening national and regional efforts to address terrorism and violent extremism are another priority area for the United Nations. At the most recent ASEAN‑UN Summit, I was impressed by the determination of ASEAN’s leaders to act on this issue, through the Manila Declaration and the ASEAN Plan of Action. The United Nations stands ready to support your efforts.
The United Nations appreciates the increasing strength of the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre. We look forward to a focused policy dialogue with ASEAN on humanitarian practice and principles.
Close cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations is more critical than ever. The United Nations remains committed to close cooperation with ASEAN towards achieving our shared goals, and to leaving no one behind. Thank you very much.