UN Headquarters

28 September 2019

Remarks to ASEAN-UN Ministerial Meeting

António Guterres

Let me start by recognizing Thailand, this year’s ASEAN Chair, for its leadership and valuable contributions. 
Since its inception at the height of the Cold War, ASEAN has shown the value of regional integration and shared approaches to local and global challenges.
ASEAN countries have worked together to prevent war and address violent extremism.  Like regional groups across the world, ASEAN has a crucial role to play, now more than ever, in conflict resolution and conflict prevention.
ASEAN has contributed more than 5,000 personnel to United Nations peace operations, and has endorsed the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative.  I deeply thank ASEAN countries for these two valuable contributions.
I commend ASEAN’s efforts to advance the women, peace and security agenda, including through the provision of a growing number of women peacekeepers and the establishment of its first ASEAN Women’s Peace Registry.
Through public and quiet diplomacy, as well as by hosting the historic meetings in Singapore and Hanoi, the ASEAN region has contributed to efforts towards sustainable peace, security and complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We look forward to the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in November to further deepen trust among countries in the region.
I also welcome the efforts of ASEAN Member States to advance discussions with 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, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to refrain from unnecessary escalation.
Nonetheless, despite considerable advances, the principles of fundamental human rights are being tested in Southeast Asia. 
The United Nations continues to closely follow the work of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights as well as ASEAN’s Commission on the Rights of Women and Children, that we fully support. 
I welcome recent joint human rights initiatives on business, environment and media freedom, and encourage you to make every effort towards transparent and fair elections to consolidate peace and security in the region.
The United Nations continues to provide technical assistance and support to further develop and strengthen the capacity of ASEAN’s members to adequately address human rights challenges in the region.
On Myanmar, I count on ASEAN to play an active and productive role in order to address the roots of the crisis and the massive forced displacements of people.  Refugees and internally displaced persons need to be able to return safely and voluntarily, into an environment of freedom, justice and peace, with full respect for their human rights.  More work is needed to build confidence among the refugees in Bangladesh.
The past week’s high-level meetings here in New York have underscored the need for much greater urgency and ambition in pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals.  
ASEAN countries have made much progress in reducing poverty and advancing economic growth and social progress through vibrant trade and investment. 
At the same time we know that inequality persists, and that environmental degradation in the region is a growing peril.
Building on its economic dynamism, ASEAN holds immense potential for scaling up investments in sustainable development.
I fully support efforts to harness complementarities between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
While the ASEAN region has made much progress, we need to accelerate this work, especially in facing the existential threat from climate change.
I thank ASEAN leaders for their presence at the Climate Action Summit earlier this week. Decarbonizing the ASEAN economies is critical, and we look forward to supporting countries that are willing and ready to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and progressively phase out coal from their energy mix. We see with concern there are many new coal plants in the world, and this presents a serious risk to delivering on climate action.
Under the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership, our close engagement continues across a broad range of areas and joint initiatives.
In this turbulent global climate, close cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations remains more critical than ever.
In this regard, I look forward to attending the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Thailand in November. It will be an enormous pleasure to go back to Thailand to participate in another ASEAN Summit.
Thank you.