While hailing Asia’s dynamism, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today cautioned leaders gathered in Shanghai that despite best efforts, the wider Asian theatre is the scene of some of the "most worrying tensions in the world today," and urged healing the region’s rifts, including the Syrian crisis, the spread of deadly weapons, and local territorial disputes, through cooperation and common interests.
"In many ways the global future is being built here in Asia," Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the Fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). "This continent is a home of economic dynamism, innovation and potential. Asia is on the rise. This is a source of optimism.
"But the 21st century transformation is also being accompanied by challenges that place at risk our goals of prosperity, stability and dignity for all. These include growing inequalities, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and transnational threats such as terrorism, human trafficking and the illicit trade in drugs."
To cope with these and other dangers, the Secretary-General suggested drawing on the UN Charter – "a time-tested foundation for solutions" that emphasizes the pacific settlement of disputes and underlines the importance of engagement with regional organizations.
"Despite our best efforts, the greater Asian theatre is the scene of some of the most worrying tensions in the world today," he stated, highlighting five immediate areas of concern.
Noting the "deeply troubling" situation in Syria, he stressed that those countries with influence on the parties must demonstrate an honest commitment for de-escalation and a political solution.
He also voiced concern at the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the region, pointing in particular to the "volatile" situation on the Korean peninsula.
The third area of concern is the growth of territorial disputes and "unhelpful rhetoric" across the area represented by CICA member States.
"The culture of dialogue is deeply embedded in Asia. All of you are here to build confidence and enhance interaction between your countries. The people of the region are counting on your foresight and wisdom to sit together and resolve all differences through dialogue and in conformity with international law," Mr. Ban stated.
The other concerns are terrorism and criminal activities, along with the danger of extreme weather and climate change, what the Secretary-General referred to as an "immediate threat to regional and international peace and security."
"The impact is devastating the environment and human lives. Science is warning us that the risks will only intensify and grow more costly," he said, adding that Asia’s choices, in particular on energy use, will be crucial in enabling the world to achieve truly sustainable development.
"As we look ahead together, let us respond to the rising voices that rightfully expect their legitimate aspirations, democratic rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected. Let us promote the dignity and rights of women and young people.
Greeting by the Chinese president at the CICA conference in Shanghai China, 21 May 2014, UN Photo/Mark Garten
"Let us heal the region’s rifts and historical wounds through cooperation, not conflict, and through common interests, not unilateral action. As Chinese wisdom reminds us, a small hole not mended in time will become a big hole and much more difficult to mend."