Opening Remarks by H.E. Le Luong Minh Secretary-General of ASEAN at The ASEAN-UN Workshop Lessons Learned and Best Practices in Conflict Prevention and Preventive Diplomacy

on Friday, 05 April 2013. Print

Your Excellency, Mr. Marty Natalegawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia,

Your Excellency, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to be here, to share our perspectives and to learn from yours at this ASEAN-UN Workshop on Lessons Learned and Best Practices in Conflict Prevention and Preventive Diplomacy.

The subject matter of the workshop, conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy, is indeed key in the mitigation of tensions, prevention of disputes and in the maintenance of peace.

Fundamentally, building and preserving peace has been the raison d’être, a timehonoured endeavour, a core value and a major contribution by ASEAN to the Southeast Asian region. The birth of ASEAN in 1967, at the height of the Cold War and amidst all the tensions among its own member countries, is a telling story of our aspiration for peace and our determination to build peace, despite all the fractures and constraints of history at the time.

Thus, ASEAN is, first and foremost, a work for peace. And the most important foundation for ASEAN’s success so far is the maintenance of peace and stability in the region through its constant efforts of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building.

In fact, this work is continuing. In a recent development, the right to peace has been enshrined in the newly adopted ASEAN Human Rights Declaration – the first regional human rights instrument to do so. Since peace is the right of all people, preserving peace is the responsibility of all. It cannot be the work of governments alone. Therefore, I am gratified that we have the broad participation of not only government officials but also of Track-2 representatives here today.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over a period of nearly half a century, ASEAN has gradually but consistently built up its capacity to pursue peace and prevent conflicts, not only in terms of conceptual, normative and institutional development but also in its real-time, on-the-ground engagement in preventing and resolving conflicts in the region. Through these homegrown efforts and experiences, we have many lessons to learn and practices to share with the wider global community.

A major component of ASEAN’s preventive diplomacy is developing and sharing norms through instruments of peace, in which the premises and principles of peaceful co-existence and pacific settlement of disputes are laid down and which are binding upon Member States. One such instrument is the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). Concluded in 1976 by five original ASEAN members, the TAC now has 31 High Contracting Parties in its fold, including all five members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The TAC has been widely recognised as a code of conduct to govern inter-state relations and a regional mechanism for peaceful settlement of disputes in Southeast Asia.

Apart from the TAC, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) is another important instrument of peace – a key framework for ASEAN and China to defuse tension, prevent conflicts and promote peace in the South China Sea. And it is our strong belief that the DOC will be significantly enhanced with ASEAN’s current efforts to engage China in the formulation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea (COC) at the soonest possible time.

The ASEAN Charter in 2008 and the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint in 2009 furthered developed the ASEAN’s tool-kit of preventive diplomacy through specific provisions and measures with regard to confidencebuilding, greater transparency in defence policies and security perceptions, the pacific settlement of disputes and strengthening ASEAN’s capacity to deliver good offices, mediation and conciliation. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Work Plan on Preventive Diplomacy which was adopted last year is another step forward in this undertaking.

Nurturing the culture of dialogue and consultation through a web of regional mechanisms and platforms, such as the ARF, the East Asia Summit (EAS), and the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), is another prominent aspect of ASEAN conflict prevention. Through these mechanisms and processes where ASEAN plays a central and neutral role, trust and comfort level are built up. We actively engage not only ASEAN Member States but also our partners from within and beyond the region to consult and cooperate on issues affecting peace and security in the region. As such, preventive diplomacy is practiced in a gradual and incremental manner.

On another note but of equal importance is the growing inter-dependence, regionalism and integration in Southeast Asia, not only in economic terms but also in the increasing interactions and understanding among our peoples from all corners of life. The people of ASEAN have a stake in the continued well-being and prosperity of their own region, hence the preference for dialogue and consultations in difficult times. Again, the practice of preventive diplomacy is seen.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ASEAN and ASEAN countries have been partners for peace with the UN both at multilateral and bilateral levels for many years, whether in the search for a settlement to the conflict in Cambodia or in the UN’s peace building efforts in Timor Leste. Cooperation is also seen in the global endeavour towards general and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons and towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to ensure a durable peace in Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s norms and principles for inter-state relations are well grounded on and contribute to the realisation of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The ASEAN Charter also echoes the right of Member States to the modes of peaceful settlement contained in Article 33(1) of the UN Charter.

The past ten years have witnessed the political will and efforts by both organisations to strengthen the institutional framework for ASEAN-UN cooperation at various levels over a wide spectrum of areas and issues. In the realm of peace and security, we are mandated by the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership adopted in 2011, which calls upon both parties to strengthen the partnership in maintaining peace and security in Southeast Asia and beyond through relevant institutions and mechanisms, and to share experiences and best practices in good offices and mediation. We are also guided by relevant UN resolutions, particularly Resolution 1631 of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 17 October 2005 on developing cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations in maintaining international peace and security.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Though we are all blessed by the prevailing peace in the region, peace must never be taken for granted. Conflicts in today’s world have taken on new dimensions and complexities, which are unfolding not only among States but increasingly within a State’s boundaries. They are driven by not only historical legacy, territorial disputes, religious and ethnic divides but also are due to resources competition, failed governance and ultra-nationalism. Some recent conflicts and tensions in the region are of great concern and drive home the complex realities facing ASEAN and its Member States. They challenge us to keep finding ways to nurture and enhance peace.

In that context, the convening of this workshop has been timely. For the United Nations, preventive diplomacy remains a key priority in its political-security agenda and a focus in its partnerships with regional organisations. For ASEAN, there is a strong commitment to reinvigorate ASEAN’s efforts in conflict prevention and resolution for which Indonesia is proudly a pioneering champion. The quick response of ASEAN to the Cambodia-Thailand border dispute in 2011 and the “shuttle diplomacy” by Indonesia - the then ASEAN Chair represent a breakthrough in ASEAN’s conflict management capacity. This engagement has enjoyed the official and strong support by the UNSC as well as the International Court of Justice, which manifests the UN’s confidence in ASEAN’s ability to help settle disputes among its Member States through amicable regional solutions.

It is also heartening to note the efforts by individual ASEAN Member States in resolving conflicts and disputes in their countries. These efforts have resulted in, for example, the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the “Peace Dialogues” between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the representatives of the Muslim communities in the southern border provinces, both with the facilitation by the Government of Malaysia.

The launch of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) by the ASEAN Leaders in November last year is another testament to ASEAN’s determination to promote peace and conflict prevention in the region. The challenge facing us now is how to operationalise the AIPR in an effective and sustainable manner. To deliver on its mandate, the AIPR should have adequate financial and human resources and enjoy good collaboration with relevant institutions and partners. In this regard, the AIPR should be able to tap on the wealth of experience and expertise of the UN in the field of peace and security. It is our hope that this workshop will come up with concrete follow-up activities between ASEAN and the UN, especially in enhancing ASEAN’s capacities in good offices, mediation and reconciliation as well as in supporting the work of the AIPR upon its operationalisation.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, “preventive diplomacy is not an option; it is a necessity”. In ASEAN, preventive diplomacy is gaining greater momentum and more interest both at the regional and national levels. It is essential that we keep a sustained commitment to this important undertaking. It is also important that we share and learn from each other’s approaches and practices and explore mechanisms and instruments for conflict prevention. This workshop is a good venue to contribute to these objectives. On that note, I wish you a very lively and fruitful discussion.

Thank you for your attention./.