For Asia to play its role in promoting a “new multilateralism” to face 21st century challenges, it must adopt a three-pronged strategy to allow the region’s nations to come together as partners, and not competitors, to tackle global threats, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
In the face of the confluence of numerous crises – food, fuel, flu and finance – “there is no doubt that Asia is vital in shaping this new world,” Mr. Ban said in a keynote speech at the Jeju Peace Forum in his native Republic of Korea (ROK).
“The rise and dynamism of Asia is one of the defining stories of our time. It has re-shaped global politics and transformed our economic landscape,” he added.
The Secretary-General acknowledged obstacles to greater regional cohesion, including historical legacies and unresolved territorial and political disputes.
“And yet we also recognize that we are part of a very special Asian family, a community drawing strength from a common history, values and traditions,” he said. “This is a foundation to build on.”
Asia’s increasing ability to change the world will lead to benefits for all, he stressed, calling for the region to build upon three pillars – security, economic and environmental – to bolster cooperation and unleash its economic and political potential.
Firstly, Mr. Ban urged Asian countries to build on the momentum of disarmament moves around the world, including the agreement between the leaders of the United States and Russia to reduce their arsenals.
“Few regions have a greater stake in halting nuclear proliferation,” he said, noting the recent anniversaries of the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He also welcomed trends toward stronger regional cooperation on peace and security, commending the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“I urge you to continue along this path, with an emphasis on mutual trust, confidence building and preventative diplomacy,” the Secretary-General said. “This is bottom-up diplomacy, beginning with issues on which we have consensus.”
On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), he called for the continuation of the Six-Party Talks that brings together DPRK, ROK, Japan, China, Russia and the US.
“The stakes are high, not just for the Korean peninsula, but also for the entire region of Asia and even beyond,” Mr. Ban emphasized.
On economics, he pointed out that Asia is a “principal player” in the global economy, appealing to the region to “take on new responsibilities in line with its new-found place in the world.”
A potential Asian Monetary Fund, he said, could complement the efforts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in absorbing financial shocks.
Lastly, on the environment, the Secretary-General highlighted that climate change knows no borders, making the need to ‘seal the deal’ on an ambitious pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December all the more urgent.
“Without Asian leadership, without Asian political will, there will be no deal in Copenhagen,” he underlined. “This, if not successful, would be a tragedy for all humanity.”
Ahead of the December conference, some 100 heads of State and government are expected to attend a climate change summit at UN Headquarters in New York on 22 September in what is expected to be the largest gathering ever on the subject.
Global warming is also increasing both the frequency and severity of natural disasters, with the Asia-Pacific region being among the most vulnerable to hazards, Mr. Ban noted, adding that multilateralism is also a crucial component for disaster prevention and mitigation.
Earlier this week, he said at the opening of a new UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) office in Incheon, ROK, that while “we know that prevention is better than the cure… too often, there is a tendency to defer action until after disasters occur.”
Last year, nearly 140,000 people died in Myanmar’s devastating Cyclone Nargis, while over 5 million homes collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake in China.
The Secretary-General underscored the importance of building risk reduction capacities as well as raising public awareness.
“People, poverty and disaster risk are increasingly concentrated in cities,” he said, noting that urban centres that were well-planned 25 years ago are now the scenes of annual flooding.