The importance of the rule of law was a key topic in the addresses of two Southeast Asian officials addressing the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate today, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.
Noting that a tenth of the Filipino population lives overseas, the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert F. Del Rosario, told delegates on the last day of the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, that his country’s concern for the well-being of migrant workers is an integral part of its “quest to strengthen” global laws.
In his address to the gathering, Viet Nam’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Quang Vinh, said his country also believed in the need to “uphold international law and strengthen its compliance.”
Mr. Del Rosario said that the Philippines had been among the principal advocates of developing norms of international law that will protect not only Filipino nationals overseas, but all migrants.
“Migration remains an unheralded and under-appreciated dimension of globalization today,” he told the Assembly. “Yet the reality is that hundreds of millions live and work outside their native lands, providing benefits to both their host nations and their countries of origin.”
The Filipino official cited human trafficking as being one of the perils migrants may face, calling it a “crime of such magnitude that it cannot be dealt with by a single nation or even group of nations,” and noting that the international community “as a whole must stand together against this scourge.”
Mr. Del Rosario also noted the Philippines is the main sponsor of the biennial General Assembly resolution on Trafficking in Women and Girls, which urges world governments to both adopt and enforce anti-trafficking laws and conventions.
But Filipino migrant workers are far from being just land-bound, Mr. Del Rosario said. Many work on merchant ships, where they form the bulk of seafarers. As a consequence Filipinos also risk being disproportionately victims of another international problem: piracy. “Many have fallen victim to pirates,” Mr. Del Rosario said.
He argued that the human costs of piracy “cannot be overstated,” and said the Philippines encourages states to launch “bilateral, multilateral, regional and inter-regional efforts” to address piracy’s impact – including measures to improve the welfare of the affected seafarers.
Beyond matters exclusively affecting the Filipino population, Mr. Del Rosario spoke of applying the rule of law in the context of nuclear weapons, saying the “full force” of international treaties and conventions must be brought to bear to “prevent (their) proliferation, to promote nuclear disarmament and to end the flow of illicit weapons.”
He said the Philippines supports the declared nuclear weapon-free zones, including that of Southeast Asia, which the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) created. “It is essential that such a zone be created in the volatile Middle East,” the Filipino official stated, noting such a call was a part of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Quang Vinh of Viet Nam .
On behalf of Viet Nam, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vinh echoed many of Mr. Del Rosario’s comments on the rule of law as it applies to nuclear non-proliferation.
“The United Nations must step up efforts in disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass-destruction, while strengthening international cooperation and ensuring the right of states to use related technologies for peaceful purposes,” he said. “Multilateral negotiating fora in this area, particularly the Conference on Disarmament, must be revitalized and intensified.”
Mr. Vinh also called on member states to help “promote dialogue and the use of peaceful means” in the settlement of disputes ¬– saying that international and regional organizations, and international legal mechanisms should be “particularly” utilized.
“International law is an intellectual creation of the civilized would, which all states must respect and abide by in good faith,” he said. “When international law is enforced, the risk of conflict will be minimized; a sustained peace will be secured.”
In his address, Mr. Vinh also touched upon issues that included the argument that ensuring sustainable development while eliminating inequality in international relations would “help resolve the root causes of conflicts and lay the foundation for a sustained peace.”
The Vietnamese and Filipino officials are among scores of heads of state and government, and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual, national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends later on Monday.