Secretary-General of the United Nations

(Remarks at the ASEAN-UN Summit, Bangkok, 12 February 2000)

I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Leekpai and the Government of Thailand for their initiative in convening this unprecedented informal ASEAN-UN Summit. Given the challenges and opportunities facing the region and the world, the conversation and exchange of views we will have today could not be more timely.

ASEAN’s commitment to multilateral action is visible today in virtually every sphere of human activity.

Together, you in Southeast Asia are weathering the recent financial and economic crisis. As partners, you are paying increased attention to forging a collective response to regional security challenges. And in a region of great diversity, you have agreed on a common vision of ASEAN as an outward-looking concert of nations, bonded together “in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.”

That language, and your determined efforts to make that vision a reality, complement both the Charter and the day-to-day work of the United Nations. Indeed, our two organizations have a history as development partners that stretches back several decades. On issues ranging from poverty, good governance and disaster prevention to the environment, employment, and the role of women in society, UN bodies – many of them represented here today – have tried their best to support the region’s own remarkable efforts towards peace and prosperity.

But there is room and, in my view, the need to expand and deepen this relationship. Why is ASEAN the only major regional organization without observer status at the United Nations? Why have we found little to say each other on peace and security issues at the very time when new forms of security challenges are presenting themselves? ASEAN itself is asking these questions, and has decided that it should explore ways to enhance cooperation with the United Nations. Already, you have attended one of series of meetings the United Nations has held with regional organizations. We will hold another in June in New York. I hope ASEAN will accept the UN’s invitation to be there.

Still, we have yet to establish a structured way to collaborate with each other in promoting regional peace and stability. I believe such cooperation would strengthen both our organizations, and build on the fruitful working relationship we have in other areas, which of course are linked to peace and security issues.

The Secretariat would welcome the opportunity to explore with you how we can move ahead. We might want to start with a regional roundtable, under the auspices of our two organizations, for experts from inside and outside government to come together and discuss multilateral aspects of peace and human security in Asia-Pacific.

We would also be ready to take part in the official and informal discussions of the ASEAN Regional Forum. I salute your leadership of this vital forum, which remains the only multilateral arena in which to address political and security issues in Asia. Its work on confidence-building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution deserves every possible support.

In recent months several members of ASEAN have provided important support on a vital matter of regional peace and security: assisting the emergence of East Timor as the newest nation in the region. I was particularly glad to see the warm welcome extended to Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta during their recent visits to several ASEAN nations.

Indeed, that support bodes well for the future of the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor. UNTAET has been given a formidable assignment. Basic services, infrastructure and institutions must be built or rebuilt almost from scratch.

The fate of this mission will have important implications for the peace, stability and prosperity of the entire region, and I look forward to working closely with the members of ASEAN in ensuring its success.

On development issues, ASEAN merits praise for its rapid integration into the world economy, which is the envy of nations on the margins even despite the economic and financial crisis. As rapid globalization continues, and as you continue your efforts toward full recovery, all of us must find ways to protect against future upheavals.

That means attention to fundamentals such as good governance – public as well as corporate. It means creating more and better social safety nets, and doing so by moving from ad hoc approaches to institutionalizing such protections. And it means a shift towards development based not only on natural resources but also, in our knowledge-based economy, on the development of the region’s human resources.

These are just some of the many challenges facing the region as we build secure societies for a new millennium. No matter what the issue, you will find the United Nations and its system of specialized agencies ready to do its part for progress. For my part, I am glad to be here, and you can count on my sustained commitment. The ASEAN-UN partnership is strong; let us make it even stronger. Thank you very much.