By Outgoing Secretary-General (2008 – 2012)
H.E. Surin Pitsuwan
Ceremony for the
Transfer of Office of the
Secretary – General of ASEAN
09 January 2013
ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta
Your Excellency, Minister Marty Natalegawa, Your Excellencies, Mr Le Luong Minh, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning. A belated happy new year to you all.
It has been an honour and privilege for me to serve as the Secretary-General of ASEAN for 5 years between 2008 and 2012. It was a trust and a challenge that I enjoyed undertaking. I served during a period of tremendous regional and global change.
The Secretary-General of ASEAN coordinates issues across all ministries, and as a representative of the ASEAN Secretariat, I served and reported to the Leaders. With the adoption of the Charter, the roles of the Secretary-General and the Secretariat evolved to reflect the new global situation.
As the only ASEAN organ which has an exclusively ASEAN character, the Secretariat worked hard to build a global profile for our region.
Given the tremendous challenges confronting the region, it soon became apparent that we had to develop several strategies and initiatives to remain relevant and to maintain ASEAN’s centrality. I cannot mention all of our work but among the key initiatives were the following and if I can mention them briefly:
I prepared a report called “ASEAN’s Challenge: Some Reflections and Recommendations on Strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat”: This is because the Secretariat is a central organ of ASEAN and coordinates the policies of the member states. Here, I can only add that we should be relentless in pursuit of strengthening the Secretariat, and our good intentions must be supported by political will and resources.
Networked Secretariat: This concept allows us to build upon the strengths of ASEAN’s growing leadership around the world and those institutions who would want to see us succeed by networking across countries and institutions to bring goodwill towards ASEAN, and raising resources. The idea is that the ASEAN Secretariat and its constituents will catalyze projects that are people-centered and that raise awareness to build the momentum for ASEAN. Examples of related initiatives include the ASEAN Symphony Orchestra, ASEAN Air Caravan, ASEAN Rickshaw Rally, Japanese and EU business networks in ASEAN, and trade between ASEAN and other regions, and others. There are great opportunities to be exploited.
We have also improved our disaster management and response. We have established the AHA Centre (ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management). Many Dialogue Partners, countries and institutions from around the world have helped us to improve our capacity to respond to natural disasters and the immediate need of our people.
We encouraged stakeholder engagement across all pillars, including business, academic and civil society networks. I encouraged the official ASEAN meetings to engage with stakeholders so that ASEAN can reach out to the people because the notion of a people-oriented ASEAN Community is embodied in the ASEAN Charter. We reached out to ASEAN’s stakeholders to encourage their ownership and contribution to make this organization theirs.
The implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) must be encouraged. There are gaps in development among and between the ASEAN member states. ASEAN must build a strong foundation to stand on by reducing the development gaps ASEAN members, and recognise innovative ideas such as the Lao Pilot Project (LPP) to address development capacity at the national level.
The ASEAN Global Dialogue brought together on one platform the Heads of State and Government of the ASEAN Summit, the East Asian Summit and multilateral institutions to deliberate on the issues facing ASEAN, such as the Millenium Development Goals. All the Heads had the opportunity to tell us what their had observed in ASEAN’s journey to create the Community and what more they expect us to deliver to the region and the global Community. The idea is to channel the goodwill and willingness to help ASEAN raise its influence. The initiative must be continued in order to realise the Global ASEAN.
Minister Marty [Natalegawa], with your leadership and guidance, we have witnessed many high level visits to the ASEAN Secretariat, such as by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former United Nations Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the honourable John Keys, Prince of Belgium, Prince and Princess of Norway, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and others. I want to thank Minister Marty for encouraging your guests to put ASEAN on their agenda.
We must continue to work on these issues. In the next decade, we will continue to witness great shifts in the power dynamics and trade flows in the Asian region that will affect all of us. The regional environment will become more challenging. With these tests to our unity and solidarity, ASEAN will need to do more to retain its centrality.
ASEAN is the new growth centre of global commerce. We must manage the strategic bonds between us and beyond. ASEAN member states must do more to strengthen mutual trust, resilience and political convergence for peace, development and stability. ASEAN must continue to sustain dialogue among the world’s great powers to keep the peace. ASEAN’s Community-Building must be accelerated, and we will need more and more resources to develop our cooperation around the world. Moreover, we must build an ASEAN Community based on the values of freedom, democracy, human rights, human dignity and human security. I know that my successor Secretary-General Minh will continue to promote these agenda for ASEAN.
I want to end by wishing my successor Secretary-General Minh all the best and to appeal to the Committee of Permanent Representatives, Ambassadors of ASEAN and our Dialogue Partners that you give my successor your full and active support to do his job for ASEAN and the global community.
There are many people the Secretary-General relies upon to get his job done. For this reason I owe a debt of gratitude to many people in this respect – the member States, the ministers including Dr Marty, the dialogue partners, civil society, the business community, and for the support and cooperation of my staff.
Naturally I cannot thank everyone in person, but I can’t leave without mentioning my Special Advisor Mr M Rajaretnam for his relentless efforts and interest in supporting me in my undertakings. I also want to thank my immediate staff especially Ms Lip Li, Ms Fella, Ms Theresia and Ms Iche and the great personalities assembled at the Secretariat for helping me a great deal. I want to particularly mention ERIA, especially its Executive Director, Mr Nishimura for his support in helping us find solutions to many of our questions to ASEAN’s economic problems and his insights on new directions for ASEAN and East Asian integration. I know that all of you will support Mr Minh.
Let me officiall
y close by wishing Secretary-General Le Luong Minh the very best in these challenging times, perhaps far more challenging than what I faced as the great powers take greater interest in our region.
I also call upon all of you the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the Dialogue Partners, and ASEC to support SG Minh to raise ASEAN to achieve even greater heights and to make it better known among our own people. The mission of ASEAN has yet to be accomplished. I am confident he will do his job well.