UN Headquarters

26 September 2009

Remarks to ASEAN Foreign Ministers [as prepared for delivery]

Ban Ki-moon

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you. Our organizations are good, close partners. I look forward to our discussion. Let me offer a few opening thoughts to get us started.

First, on climate change. Thank you for your engagement in this past week's Summit. Your nations are among those on the frontlines – more vulnerable than many others to the weather-related disasters we can expect as climate change advances.

You have heard me and others talk about the potentially catastrophic nature of this threat – but also about the tremendous opportunity we have to chart a safer, more sustainable and prosperous course for this and future generations.

This week's Summit brought everyone to the table in a way that only the United Nations can. We saw serious dialogue between the major world economies and the most vulnerable ones. The issue of financing, which is crucial for achieving a final deal, took centre stage.

Now it is up to national leaders to demonstrate global leadership. I will count on you to continue playing this constructive role so that we can seal a deal in Copenhagen.

Second, on the global economic crisis and our work for the Millennium Development Goals. I know that most ASEAN economies have been adversely affected by the crisis, with a number falling into deep recession. We must work together to prevent the unfavourable economic conditions from reversing the remarkable progress that has been achieved.

While there is now talk of green shoots of recovery, but our data show another picture. Not only do the chronic poor continue to suffer, but unemployment is actually worsening, threatening the lives of the near and working poor. This is eroding the improvements made in living standards over the past decade.

To make the right policy responses, we must have access to real time information on what is happening to the poor and most vulnerable. But we don't yet have the information we need.

To address this gap, the UN system is working with Member States to create a Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System. My report on GIVAS is now in your hands, and I urge you to give it your close attention.

Third, on Myanmar.

Our collective interest is to find ways to encourage Myanmar to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, start a genuine political dialogue and create conditions conducive to credible elections.

It is important that Myanmar responds to the concerns of the international community in a timely and concrete manner. The recent release of a number of political prisoners as part of the larger amnesty announced last week, while a step in the right direction, falls short of expectations.

Next year will be critical. The first planned election in two decades must be held in an inclusive and credible manner if they are to advance stability, democracy, reconciliation, national development and respect for human rights.

I was encouraged by the constructive discussions held at the high-level meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar that I convened this past Wednesday. The international community must send a strong, unified message.

It is also important for the international community to signal its willingness to help Myanmar address their political, humanitarian and development challenges in parallel, and with equal attention.

Indeed, the humanitarian situation in Myanmar remains a concern. I hope we can build on our collaboration through the Tripartite Core Group – to strengthen both our humanitarian work in Myanmar and UN-ASEAN cooperation in general. I welcome the leadership of ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan as your group's Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator.

I remain fully committed to working in partnership with Myanmar and ASEAN in the context of my good offices. Myanmar has an opportunity to demonstrate to its people and to the international community its clear commitment to an inclusive political transition. It is an opportunity Myanmar should not miss. ASEAN countries have an important role to play in this effort – first and foremost to ensure the well-being of the people of Myanmar, but also in the wider interest of peace and security in the region.


I welcome ASEAN's progress in implementing your new Charter.

The UN system will continue to cooperate with you in the socio-economic and cultural areas, as you strive to implement these two pillars of the Charter.

We can also help as you develop your new human rights body. I encourage you to appoint independent and impartial human rights experts to the Commission. The Office of the UN High Commissioner has valuable experience on which you can draw.

We are also ready to deepen our cooperation with ASEAN in conflict resolution, preventive diplomacy and crisis management. We will continue to work together on disaster management, and on cross-border challenges such as forced population movements, trafficking and terrorism. The two Secretariats should develop a joint strategy.

Ours is an increasingly dynamic partnership. I look forward to exploring what more we can do together. Thank you for your support. I look forward to your views.