Jakarta, 8 August 2011

Change and Continuity towards Attaining the ASEAN Community in 2015 and Beyond


Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

Peace be upon us all.

Menteri Luar Negeri, Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa,

Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN,

Excellencies Ambassadors, and Other Members of Diplomatic Corps in Jakarta,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, to those who observe Ramadhan, I wish all of you the blessings of this Holy Month. Selamat menunaikan ibadah puasa.

I have the pleasant task to begin by thanking Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN, for inviting me to deliver this lecture, on the occasion of the 44th Anniversary of ASEAN. Dr. Pitsuwan has done an exemplary job, as Secretary-General of ASEAN. Since assuming his chair, he has brought fresh energy, strong dedication and enormous creativity into the ASEAN Secretariat, and we owe him a debt of gratitude. I would like to thank all the staff of ASEAN Secretariat, for the hard work that they have done in advancing ASEAN cooperation. I know sometimes it feels like a thankless job, but believe me, your hard work is noticed and well appreciated.

I am delighted that the ASEAN Secretariat continues to grow, from strength to strength, since it was established by the historic Bali Concord of 1976. Back then, the Secretariat represented the first major expansion of ASEAN’s work.

Over the years, the ASEAN Secretariat has been a major factor in the evolution of ASEAN. It has contributed to what ASEAN has become today: one of the world’s most successful regional organizations.

I join you today in tribute to the ASEAN Secretariat, and the host of nameless and dedicated individuals, who are contributing to its development.

And in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, the 44th Anniversary of ASEAN, I will focus my lecture today on two main points:

First, what ASEAN has achieved and where it is today—as it approaches the attainment of the ASEAN Community 2015.

And second, what more needs to be done, so that the ASEAN Community will be beneficial not only for the peoples of Southeast Asia, but also for the global community of nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Six years ago, on the 38th Anniversary of ASEAN, I addressed an audience here at the ASEAN Secretariat.

On that occasion, I stressed the imperative to make ASEAN relevant to the peoples of the region.

The issues that I addressed in that lecture remain relevant today. These included the management of and response to disaster; the role of the East Asia Summit in the shaping of regional architecture; and the development of ASEAN as a people-centred and people-oriented organization.

Although these issues have remained with us, they have not remained the same. They have changed—as ASEAN has also changed. Six years may be a fraction of a heartbeat in the reckoning of history. But for ASEAN, we have transformed ourselves significantly within these six years.

At that time, I highlighted the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, and the urgent need for disaster preparedness and mitigation. Today, ASEAN has become a working hub of Asia-Pacific cooperation in addressing natural disasters.

Our capability is such that ASEAN was able to immediately coordinate our support to Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeastern part of the country last March. The ARF DirEx; the AHA Centre for Disaster Relief; and the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Disaster Response, are making our region more resilient.

When I spoke here in 2005, the idea of an East Asia Summit, as a building block of the regional architecture, was still being developed. It was an idea waiting to be invested, with concrete reality.

Today it is already a strong and increasingly mature forum—still ASEAN-led—and made even stronger by the participation of the Russian Federation and the United States of America.

A forum in which leaders discuss in depth, and act upon strategic regional and global issues. A forum dedicated to the principle and ideal of dynamic equilibrium—and therefore, a major building block of the evolving Asia-Pacific regional architecture.

At that time, I spoke of the need to make ASEAN more people-centered and people-driven. Today, we have an ASEAN that has invested efforts to achieve this ideal.

An ASEAN, whose Leaders are directly engaged in dialogue with representatives of civil society and the youth. An ASEAN, that promotes cooperation among the region’s parliamentarians.

An ASEAN fully committed by virtue of its Charter, to the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.

An ASEAN fully committed to food and energy security. And to the achievement of connectivity, that will bring about economic activities and social exchanges, and thereby, achieve unprecedented socio-economic benefits for the ASEAN people.

This year, with Indonesia serving as Chair of ASEAN, we set out to consolidate ASEAN Community building, and to ensure a regional environment conducive to the development of ASEAN member countries. We also stressed on the need to prepare ourselves to make significant contributions to the global community of nations.

We are seeing to it, that efforts to settle the Thai-Cambodian border dispute are in accordance with principles enshrined in the TAC. And because of these efforts, the two countries have given their trust to ASEAN.

Trust and confidence are also expressed by the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice, for the capacity of ASEAN to facilitate a solution to this dispute. Thus, we have earned the recognition of the international community, as a regional grouping capable of effectively addressing our own security problems.

We also scored a breakthrough, with the adoption of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration of Code of Conduct of Parties, in the South China Sea. This sent a powerful signal to the international community, that the future of the South China Sea is manageable, and hopefully will lead to greater confidence.

Another breakthrough is the resumption of our dialogue with nuclear weapon states, with the prospect of their accession to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.

Through the ARF, we have also provided an environment conducive to the beginnings of a dialogue between North Korea and South Korea.

We have also projected ASEAN’s leadership and centrality in the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

These developments demonstrate that ASEAN remains on the driver seat in managing regional affairs. They show that ASEAN was

able to swiftly adapt to new challenges, laying down new groundwork of diplomatic foundations, and are capable to produce creative policy responses. They also reflect that ASEAN is now able to move with greater speed, than what ASEAN used to be several decades ago.

ASEAN will need plenty of this versatility and agility, to face the brave new world that lies ahead.

More than ever, ASEAN now has a unique opportunity to transform the region, shape the architecture of Asia Pacific, as well to contribute to the global agenda.

First, through its various dialogue mechanisms, and like no other regional organization, ASEAN has emerged to become an indispensable diplomatic hub in the Asia-Pacific. This has placed ASEAN in a very strategic position, to be a mover and shaper of regional affairs.

Second, ASEAN has demonstrated its economic resilience, in the face of the recent global financial crisis. The ASEAN region is predicted to grow between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent this year, which is higher than the world average of 4.5 percent.

Third, ASEAN has developed assets that are relevant to global issues : we have ample forests; we have natural resources and commodities; strategic maritime space and resources; we have huge population with dynamic youth; we are a region with extremely diverse religious and ethnic make-ups; we are open societies and we embrace moderation.

And fourth, ASEAN has increasing ability to speak with a collective voice in international forums. This enhances our capacity to contribute to the resolution of global issues.

Indeed, we are blessed that Southeast Asia today is much more stable, much more peaceful, and much more coherent, than at any other time in history. We are fortunate that today there are no wars in Southeast Asia, and that ASEAN – as a group and individually – has developed constructive relations with all major powers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are now starting the final lap just before the finish line—the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015.

When the day comes that ASEAN is fully integrated as a community, we must be sure that this is celebrated not only here, at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. And not only in the ASEAN capitals.

It must be celebrated in all the cities, towns and rural areas throughout Southeast Asia. This means that we must do more, to spark in our peoples a sense of participation—a sense of ownership in the work of ASEAN.

This also means that we must fully carry out our program of connectivity, so that our peoples have every opportunity to interact with one another, and know one another more closely. We could achieve this, if we could soon agree on a common visa arrangement.

We must continue to sharpen the region’s capacity, for effectiveness and speedy response to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

We must also ensure that our people enjoy the economic benefits of the work of ASEAN. The overall population of ASEAN is already more than half a billion, half of which is the new middle class. And we have a combined GDP of USD1.5 trillion.

This clearly shows that ASEAN is a worthy economic partner of any other region in the world. An emerging hub of vigorous global economic cooperation.

We must therefore continue to develop new approaches, to engage the private sector and dialogue partners. We must ensure access to public services, social safety nets, development of small medium enterprises, and financial inclusion schemes. That is how we can build a regional economy and national economies, that can promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.

We must continue to build on our recent achievements, in creating a more positive politico-security climate in East Asia. We have to move toward agreeing on a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

We must continue our dialogue with the nuclear weapon states, so that eventually they will accede to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-free Zone Treaty.

And we must continue to encourage dialogue in order to create peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.

On the whole, we have to contribute to the changing politico-security climate of the Asia-Pacific region for the better.

And in the light of our new responsibilities and our new roles in international affairs, we are called upon to be more proactive and more creative. We have to contribute to world governance, not only in the economic sphere, but also in the politico-security realm.

For our strength is not in terms of military projection. Our strength lies in our capacity for dialogue, cooperation and problem solving. Our capacity to turn potential conflict into actual cooperation.

That is why, ASEAN has the responsibility to be an ASEAN Community in a global community of nations.

An ASEAN that is a net contributor to the promotion of peace, and to the cause of disarmament.

An ASEAN that is a net contributor to the solution of the systemic problems of the world—especially the reality of climate change, and the challenge of food security and energy security.

Thus, I am convinced that we should not stop with the establishment of the ASEAN Community. Surely, that is not the end of our journey.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has transformed itself tremendously. It has adapted, and will have to continue adapting, to the ever-changing regional and global circumstances.

We elevated our mission by committing ourselves to political, security and economic cooperation, through the Declaration of ASEAN Concord of 1976.

In 2003, we saw the need for a stronger framework for our cooperation. The Declaration of ASEAN Concord II elevated our cooperation to a higher level. That led us to envision the establishment of the ASEAN Community.

Now, we must prepare ourselves for what must come beyond the establishment of the ASEAN Community. We need not wait for 2015. We can start the process right now. An ASEAN Community in a global community of nations can already be built on the breakthroughs that we recently achieved.

An ASEAN with a global platform and a global outreach that the rest of the world can rely on.

Change and continuity is necessary to ASEAN’s continued relevance. Indeed, ASEAN’s ability to realize such change and continuity will be constantly put to the test, as we face dynamic regional and global challenges.

However, as long as we stay true to our commitment, we will be able to overcome the challenges ahead. And, I believe in this.

In addition to finding solutions, we must also act fast. ASEAN must be bold in taking concrete and precise steps. In the end, our ability to solve issues quickly will become the measure of our success.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must continue to move forward. We must never stand still. For history is rushing ahead at breakneck speed. If we are not proactive we will be left behind.

We must therefore take our place at the vanguard of history. We must become what we have envisioned to be: not just an ASEAN Community, but also an ASEAN Community with a well-earned place in the community of nations.

Thank you.

Wassalammu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.