Jakarta, 30 June 2004

Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

         Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to Your Excellencies ASEAN Ministers of Foreign Affairs and your delegations to this the 37th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. I hope you have a pleasant stay in Jakarta and I pray your Meeting will be successful because so much is at stake in it.

         Last October, I had the honour of chairing the Ninth ASEAN Summit. In that historic Summit, ASEAN Leaders agreed on a new strategy that would brace our region for the challenges of our time – by transforming ASEAN from an association of states into a real community of nations. This is so stated in that historic document, the Bali Concord II.

         To be faithful to the Concord, we will have to take new constructive initiatives on the basis of mutual trust and understanding. I believe this is the best way to demonstrate that we are able to live in peace with one another and with the world. Thus I find the Meeting’s theme very fitting: “Striving for Full Integration of ASEAN: A Prosperous, Caring and peaceful Community.

         The idea of an ASEAN that is prosperous, caring and peaceful germinated from the vision enshrined in a document of historical value to us all, the ASEAN Declaration. This Declaration signed some thirty-seven years ago by five Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN founding members envisaged countries of Southeast Asia living together in harmony and security, and securing for their peoples and for posterity “the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.”

         Some thirty years later, in “ASEAN Vision 2020” that idea would be reiterated as “a concert of Southeast Asian Nations, outward-looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, banded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.”

         Between the ASEAN Declaration of 1967 and the ASEAN Vision 2020 of 1997, we saw the Association expand to embrace all countries of Southeast Asia.

         For almost four decades now, ASEAN has been a force for peace and stability as well as prosperity in the whole Asia-Pacific region. It has achieved this by nurturing the habits of consultation and cooperation among the members of ASEAN and closely engaging with a tremendous array of Dialogue Partners. A good number of these Dialogue Partners, which aside from seeking economic integration with ASEAN, are also working vigorously with ASEAN in the cause of security and stability.

         And yet, we in ASEAN have no reason to be complacent. A formidable array of global and regional challenges is already testing our mettle. A surge of unilateralism in international affairs has shunted aside the established democratic ways of resolving disputes between and among nations. The conflict in the Middle East and the unending war in Iraq continue to destabilize the global landscape. The still unresolved nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula as well as the continuing vulnerability of the East Asian economy, have become a source of our distress.

         We have to keep our guards up against possible epidemics of HIV/AIDS, SARS, avian flu and other communicable diseases to prevent the havoc they can inflict on our peoples and our economies. We must also continue battling the traffic in illicit drugs, arms smuggling, people smuggling and trafficking in women and children. Money laundering and other forms of multinational crime.

         On top of all these, we must also be at forefront in the fight against the most inhuman of multinational crimes: international terrorism. At a time when we are exhausting ourselves fighting these threats and suffering their impact, we still have to struggle hard to advance our socioeconomic development.

         Various new threats and challenges continue to emerge ahead of us. Only our experience for many years has taught us a lesson that we can no longer resort to business as usual, such as formulating plans of action in the form of functional cooperation, or generating assistance from our dialogue partners.

         Indeed, we are left to our own devices to start devising more creative and effective measures. We must build concrete strength and mechanism that would enable ASEAN to secure itself from the threats as well as to respond to such challenges.

         I sincerely believe that the Leaders of ASEAN responded to that demand last October during our Ninth Summit in Bali, when we issued the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II and pledged to achieve an ASEAN Community by the year 2020.

         Through their vision and leadership, the ASEAN Leaders have laid the foundation for a new strength to overcome all challenges and threats, namely a Community that will rest on three pillars: an ASEAN Security Community, an ASEAN Economic Community and an ASEAN Sociocultural Community.

         With the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, now better known as the Bali Concord II, serving as the blueprint for the ASEAN Community, I am optimistic that we will in time attain this goal.

         We will certainly become an ASEAN Economic Community when the process of economic integration that we are undertaking now has made us a stable, prosperous and globally competitive economic region. By then, the ASEAN region will be characterized by the free flow of goods, services and investments as well as equitable economic development. We hope that when the time comes there will be no significant development gaps among members of the ASEAN family. We equally plan that at that point in time we shall have conquered poverty as a basic problem.

         As a socio-cultural community, together we will be effectively addressing problems of population growth, education and human resources development, and the prevention and control of epidemics environmental degradation and transboundary pollution.

         As a socio-cultural community, we will be aware of the common thread that runs through our cultures, and deeply appreciate one another’s national identity. In order to make this a reality, we must create a “we-feeling” so necessary for human beings to be able to form a community.

         As a security community, we will raise the level of our cooperation in political and security matters so that we can take full responsibility for addressing all threats to our regional security.

         Contrary to the misgivings of many, we shall not form a military alliance nor conclude a defense pact, because that is not what an ASEAN Security Community is about. At this stage, it is important that we in ASEAN Strengthen and enlarge our political cooperation so that we can enhance our capacity for preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building.

         We should also make it a point to cultivate a “we-feeling” so robust we can manage to resolve our disputes peacefully and amicably, no matter how sensitive the issues may be. We should be able to hold dialogue among ourselves openly and frankly even on internal or domestic issues that, if left unsettled, can have a severe impact on the region.

         Imbued with that “we-feeling” we can give our children and grandchildren a Southeast Asia that is not only free from but also able to wisely manage disputes. And thus, the ASEAN Security Community will be instrumental to the formation of a mature regional order.

         Such a regional order also requires us to expand ASEAN’s stakeholders beyond government officials, by including as much as possible members of our societies and by imbuing in them a strong sense of ownership of ASEAN. For this reason, we fervently believe that Southeast Asia ought to be progressive and not conservative when it comes to public participation in governance and in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,

         By enhancing our cohesiveness and solidarity, we will then be able to deal effectively with the dynamics of our region, as well as with the dynamics of our international environment. We can be more creative and responsive to the call of the larger process of integration and rationalization that is taking place in East Asia and in the Asia-Pacific – a process that covers the political, economic and social fields.

         We do need to increase the momentum of the ASEAN+3 process, which has bolstered our cooperation with our Northeast Asian partners. Within a decade, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and the Japan-ASEAN Free Trade Area will see the light of day.

         Our dialogue relations with India are intensifying, as India pursues a “Look-East” policy. We are forging closer economic relations with Australia and New Zealand, while the European Union, Russia and Canada seek to establish a gainful presence in Southeast Asia. In addition, we are also building bridges of cooperation to Africa and to Latin America. We should also respond wisely to the revived strong interest of the United States in Southeast Asia. Just as significant as the trend toward integration among nations and regions in the ferment for democracy that is taking place all over the world. Free, honest and successful elections were recently held in South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and here in Indonesia. In this context, we gladly note that a member of the ASEAN family, Myanmar, has added its voice to the cause of promoting democracy. We do encourage Myanmar to take every action that will add substance to the expression of its democratic aspirations.

         We in Indonesia also take pride in the success of our latest parliamentary elections. And we are confident that the firs direct presidential elections, which we will hold a few days from now, will be just as successful as an affirmation of the sovereign will of the Indonesian people.

         Of course, we have a long struggle ahead of us before we can altogether overcome these challenges. Moreover, in a globalized, interdependent world, we are not immune to the impact of external developments, such as the erratic trends in the prices of oil and in the exchange rates, as well as the sudden contraction of export markets. Like the rest of the ASEAN family, we are not immune to the threats that pervade the regional and global landscape.

         However, I am convinced that, with a better resilience and sturdier strength, we in ASEAN shall always overcome these threats and challenges together in the future. Moreover, we can ride the powerful positive trends of economic integration and democratization – if we are determined and we succeed in keeping our house in order.

         This, then is the core of my message today: that in ASEAN we already have the blueprint for keeping our house in order, for summoning the strength that we need to overcome the challenges of our time, and for securing the credibility that we need to join in that larger process of integration.

         That blueprint is Bali Concord II, which prescribes our transformation into an ASEAN Community, in keeping with the ideals enshrined in the ASEAN Declaration of 1967, with the spirit of Bali Concord I and with the goals set in ASEAN Vision 2020.

         In the context of our time, we can be a strong ASEAN only by becoming an ASEAN Community. That means that we must be all of three things: an ASEAN Security Community, an ASEAN Economic Community and an ASEAN Sociocultural Community. We cannot be any of them without also being the two others.

         Above all, we must do what we have said we will do. We must now give substance to our rhetoric and earn our credibility.

         The rest of Asia and the Pacific and the world at large are observing us. Let us not be engrossed in hiding our weaknesses; let us show them our strength – by becoming the Community that we say we will be.

         In that spirit, I now declare this 37th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting open.

I thank you.

Jakarta, 30 June 2004