My congratulations, Mr. President, on your election to this high office. You are well known in United Nations circles and your election is a tribute to your country, Côte d’Ivoire, and to you.
May I also congratulate Ambassador Insanally and thank him for his great contribution. We are proud that a fellow member of the Commonwealth has served the United Nations with such skill and distinction.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome South Africa back to the General Assembly. We have long admired the courageous leadership of President Mandela in his country’s struggle for freedom. He now faces equally great challenges in rebuilding South Africa. We wish him success.
I must also congratulate the people of Palestine on their courage and vision in signing the historic Peace Agreements. The people of Palestine also face the challenge of putting their painful past behind them and of building a peaceful and prosperous future. To succeed they will need the support of the international community and the United Nations.
In our region the people of Cambodia are also struggling to build a new future. The United Nations played a crucial role in Cambodia, but some obstacles remain. My country supports the efforts of King Norodom Sihanouk and his Government to rebuild and reunite Cambodia. We wish them success.
The end of the cold war has placed economics at the top of the international agenda. The challenge is how to increase economic cooperation through more trade and investment. The world now needs a stable international environment to allow this to happen. We must resist the trend towards protectionism. Instead, we must encourage and reward those who liberalize and open up their economies.
The United Nations and its specialized agencies can help in this. But the end of the cold war has stretched the resources of the United Nations. Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti and other trouble areas are consuming much of the limited financial and manpower resources of the United Nations, and this has reduced its role in promoting development. It is tragic that problems of development are on the back-burner. This is not the fault of the United Nations. The United Nations can do no more than its
Members are willing to do.
One way to reduce the drain on United Nations resources is for regional organizations to work with the United Nations in accordance with Chapter VIII of its Charter. We may not have fully used the potential of Chapter VIII. As the Secretary-General has pointed out, regional arrangements can help to reduce the burden on the United Nations. The United Nations takes the primary responsibility for international peace and security, but regional organizations such as the Association of South-East
Asian Nations (ASEAN) can reduce its load through preventive diplomacy and regional economic cooperation. They can complement the United Nations.
Of course, there are many regional organizations; every region has its own. But not all of them work. If we are to realize the potential of Chapter VIII, we need fresh approaches to regional arrangements. Regional organizations must be realistic in their goals. They have to build a framework for cooperation which suits their conditions.
ASEAN, of which Brunei is a member, has achieved some success. ASEAN offers one possible vision of regional cooperation and development. We do not have set institutions and legal undertakings, as does the European Union. Our aim is more modest. We seek to foster a culture of cooperation. Through consultation, consensus and cooperation, we have been able to contain, resolve or reduce our differences. We have concentrated on working together for our common interests. This is a process of enlarging a set of shared values. Since ASEAN was formed in 1967, its members have evolved an informal style of sorting out their differences. Cooperation is not the result of formal agreements but comes from a strong sense
of common purpose.
We are not without our problems. Most ASEAN countries have unresolved territorial questions with one another. Sensitive questions of ethnicity, culture and religion are often involved in our relations with each other. We do not deny the existence of these issues, but we continue to work together wherever we can. Differences among us do not stop cooperation for mutual benefit.
It is wiser for regional organizations to start with less ambitious goals. It took ASEAN a quarter of a century, from 1967 to 1992, to establish habits of close cooperation and consultation. Only after this was
achieved did ASEAN feel confident enough to take the significant, though modest, decision to set up an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) within 15 years from 1992. We are now discussing how we can speed up AFTA and complete it within 10 years.
We have also formed a number of growth triangles straddling the adjacent territories of three or more member countries. We are all members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (APEC), an organization for economic cooperation and trade liberalization, which will give greater opportunities to all. Because of such cooperation and the general stability of the region, trade and investments have greatly increased. All ASEAN countries are industrializing rapidly, with high growth rates.
I offer these comments on ASEAN in the hope that they can contribute to discussions that will strengthen the United Nations system. ASEAN is well aware of its own limits and limitations. ASEAN does not exist in a vacuum. We could not have succeeded without a favourable international environment.
ASEAN is not an alternative to the United Nations. Where ASEAN succeeded, as in Cambodia, it was because we worked with the major Powers within a framework defined by the United Nations. Otherwise, we would have failed. We will and must continue to work closely with the United Nations. All regional institutions need the over-arching framework of the United Nations. The United Nations, and particularly the permanent members of the Security Council, must retain primary responsibility for international peace and security.
No regional organization can succeed if it shuts itself off from the world. Our goal is an ASEAN of all South-East Asian countries. We are gradually creating what can be loosely described as a culture of peace and security in South-East Asia. We hope to extend it by linking up with other regional organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN wants to engage all the major Powers in a pattern of constructive relations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The ASEAN Regional Forum, inaugurated in Bangkok in July, brings together all major and middle sized Powers - the United States, Japan, the European
Union, China, Russia, Canada, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand - in a common framework. We want the United Nations and all major Powers to associate themselves with ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and
The fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations is approaching. It is an appropriate occasion for us to rethink how we can strengthen the United Nations system to enable it to face successfully the challenges of the twenty-first century. I offer my comments in the spirit of contributing to our common goal of strengthening an open world that will benefit all countries.