THEME: Upholding the Principles of Sovereignty and Political Independence as a means to Maintain International Peace and Security and Foster Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States
The Philippines adheres and abides by the principles of sovereignty and political independence, and non-interference in domestic affairs — no matter how inviting interference may be by the conflicted character of the domestic affairs in question.
The Filipino people toppled a corrupt, military- and US-backed dictatorship without any help from so-called friends of democracy abroad and that is why the Philippines is one of the few true democracies in the world. No foreign country or the UN helped the cause of democracy but the Filipino people on their own — led naturally by a woman and not a cowardly man like someone who comes to mind — restored democracy and good government.
To be sure, it did not hurt that, at the last stage of the political struggle, the European Parliament, at the behest of France, voted to declare for the woman champion of democracy as the winner in a hotly contested election, with a more hotly contested official result. But still it took the iconic massive but peaceful people power revolution, with a sudden shift in military loyalty, to deliver the coup de grace to tyranny.
We welcome the Political Declaration of the Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement on Upholding the Principles of Sovereignty and Political Independence to Maintain International Peace and Security and Foster Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. This is very timely and deeply relevant in light of certain developments in the relations among nations that threaten those principles.
Sovereignty and Political Independence
Sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence constitute the cornerstone of the 1955 Bandung Conference on which NAM was erected. It was a watershed moment when Third World states, as we were segregated and classified then, came together. We numbered more than half of humanity when we agreed on the 10 principles of inter-state relations.
The UN Charter is illuminating as an essential reference point. Its Article 2, Section 1, states that the UN “is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” On the other hand, Article 2, Section 4, states that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”
While the Philippines is strongly supportive of multilateralism, I always cite that the United Nations is not itself a sovereign collective, but a collection of sovereignties. It is therefore imperative to ensure, first and foremost, that the sovereignty of states is respected and upheld; even in the field of human rights. There are no problems but states, far and away, are the best positioned to solve them. No other agency or group exists that can replace it with anything close to the effectiveness of state action.
Only states have the wherewithal to challenge non-state actors, be they terrorists or NGOs with their own political agenda. If the state itself is the problem, the state is in the best position to solve it by a democratic vote or peaceful political action. We did it. We proved it.
So far, every attempt to outsource that job has resulted in historically unprecedented chaos and a situation far worse in brutality than anything before.
Africa was pummeled by Great Powers after independence, to show it did not deserve independence. The Middle East has been torn to shreds to grab its wealth.
But for the regional initiative of ASEAN after the Vietnam War, Southeast Asia would have gone the same way to hell on a road paved with the skulls and bones of good intentions.
Now, as a response to the rising power of a new, dynamic and far, far richer China — which is soon to overtake the Western world in economic progress and social inclusivity, ASEAN is working out a Code of Conduct among themselves. The West is suspicious of it but that is the problem of the West.
Political Independence and the Relevance of the NAM
At the end of the Cold War, questions arose about the Non-Aligned Movement losing its relevance. After the world woke up from the dream of a benign unipolar world, to the reality of anarchy absent the uniting threat of mutual destruction — multilateralism itself came into question. For it seems that multilateralism can be bent to unipolar purposes against its intended reason for being: the protection and safety of the weak and many against the strong and few.
“Unipolarism,” so to speak, has won out after all; except it is a “unipolarism” shared by 3 powers, or at most 4 if we include the federated power of Europe.
A case in point is the most recent Ministerial Meeting in Caracas, where a proposed update on a paragraph crafted by ASEAN consensus was excluded from the Outcome Document. A few friends of true multilateralism in NAM thought to bide their time, and called for reverting to the original language. But that language had precisely failed to engage specific concerns held by ASEAN consensus or unanimity; nor did NAM propose any specific language to improve the paragraph. It was our hope that NAM would at least engage us in a discussion on substance; that hope was peremptorily dashed.
The Philippines believes that one way for NAM to remain relevant and solid is for its collective understanding to be reflective of the real situation on the ground; instead of in the mind of whichever Great Power has a different take on reality.
It is also important for the Movement to review, and accordingly modify, its working methods to make them more efficient and responsive to NAM’s original objectives in the context of changing times. These would ensure that within NAM itself, as stated in the Political Declaration, we “continue to maintain, strengthen, and manifest the unity and solidarity among the membership of the Movement.”
Otherwise multilateralism will be as great a threat to itself as the most petulant explosions of unilateralism among the great powers. Frankly the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same: the weak suffer what they must and the strong do as they please, as the old Greek wisdom put it. Except it is covered by the veneer of multilateralism acting in behalf of unipolar interests. Thank you, Mr. Chair.