Onlanka News – By Janaka Alahapperuma
(Pix by: Sudath Silva)
Asian Continent cannot be the playground of other forces, who seek our wealth, our assets of nature and human resources. Our progress must draw from the best of our own cultures and while learning from the best of others who come with genuine friendship, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said. He further said; “we are seeing the dawn of the Age of Asia. We must together see it bring new light to a troubled world dominated by the grave errors of other Continents”. President Rajapaksa made these remarks at the first Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Summit in Kuwait City on Tuesday.
Asia should strive to regain and safeguard its independence that is challenged on many fronts and across many borders. The countries of Asia can succeed in rebuilding our continent by greater reliance on our cultural affinity, rich history, and the strength of our human resources, the President added. The ambition for progress and development in our Continent of Asia is limitless. Our tasks will not end till our cooperation makes us fully realize the economic, political, social, technological and human capabilities and potential of our Continent. The strides we have made have helped enlarge our ambitions with greater tasks to achieve with determination and persistence. This is the call from our great history and the hopes and promises of the future
We are also confronted with pressing challenges such as the menace of terrorism, piracy, climate change, natural disasters, environmental pollution and anti-social activities. These challenges are a call for greater cooperation as we now see in the ACD. One other challenge many developing countries, such as mine, are facing is the burden placed on the developing world by rapidly fluctuating oil prices. This has imposed a heavy strain on our resources thereby hampering our long term plans on development said the President.
Earlier Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah called for setting up a $2-billion fund to support development projects in Asian countries. The proposed fund could be managed by a development institution in Asia such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which could handle the financial assets and oversee their use in implementing projects in the least developed Asian countries, Shaikh Sabah said at the opening ceremony of the ACD.
“It gives me pleasure to announce that Kuwait will contribute $300 million to the fund and we hope that the proposed amount will be reached through contributions from ACD member countries,” Shaikh Sabah further added.
Monday evening President Rajapaksa was accorded a warm welcome as he arrived on a three-day visit to attend the first ACD summit. The Amir of Kuwait, accompanied by the crown prince Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmad al Sabah, reached the airport to personally greet the visiting President in a special gesture of brotherly relations between the two countries.
The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Petroleum Resources Minister Susil Premajayantha, parliamentarians Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, A.H.M.Azwer and Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga also attended the summit.
Leaders from the 32 ACD member countries attended the opening of the summit amid reports that energy and food security issues topped the agenda for the event.
Full text of the President’s speech:
His Highness Amir Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah,
Heads of State and Heads of Government and Leaders of Delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be with you today at this landmark First Asia Cooperation Dialogue Summit in this Kuwait city.
I express my appreciation to the Government of the State of Kuwait for the excellent arrangements made for this Summit and the reception accorded to me and my delegation. I also thank the Islamic Republic of Iran for the leadership given and contributions made to the ACD during their term of office.
I recall Sri Lanka proposing to the eighth ACD Ministerial Meeting held in Colombo in 2009 to take the ACD to the highest level of political participation by convening a Summit of the Heads of State or Government of Member Countries. I congratulate His Highness Amir of the State of Kuwait for making it a reality.
Though ACD is a unique regional organization, its activities are carried out through voluntary contributions and voluntary participation of the Member Countries. Although it has no binding Charter we are bound together by being Asian with strong bonds of understanding and friendship.
We are rightly proud of Asia’s rich, multi-faceted heritage. Many civilizations have flourished in Asia. The four major religions that prevail today have their origins in Asia. Asia has also been a major source for food, energy, education, manpower and industrial products to the world.
Today, Asia is the world’s largest and most populous Continent. Together with great diversity Asia also has great unity among its people the feeling of Asianness. While modern transport links us today we were linked in the past, with the legendary Silk Routes of land and sea. We now look for new links to make our bonds stronger.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With more than half of the world’s population Asia has an abundance of much needed human resources. It is moving ahead in exploring and the use of natural resources in manufacturing and new technology. Asia is now producing the giants of the emerging world and once powerful economies are competing for opportunities here. We stand out among the biggest producers of energy in the world and look forward to moving further ahead with new technology.
With some of the world’s largest and fast growing economies Asia also has the smallest and the least developed. Similarly, within our countries we have the rich and the poor living side by side resulting in poverty alleviation an area of high priority for all of us.
With rapidly growing economies and income levels, Asia is one of the most promising markets in the world. The abundance of our natural resources has the potential to address the challenges of food and energy security. Yet, our people are faced with threats to traditional exports as the world economy shrinks due to the crises in other regions.
We are also confronted with pressing challenges such as the menace of terrorism, piracy, climate change, natural disasters, environmental pollution and anti-social activities. These challenges are a call for greater cooperation as we now see in the ACD. The ACD seeks to combine all the sub-regions of Asia into a continent of greater strength. One other challenge many developing countries, such as mine, are facing is the burden placed on the developing world by rapidly fluctuating oil prices. This has imposed a heavy strain on our resources thereby hampering our long term plans on development. I am certain that I echo the views of many of my colleagues when I suggest that this matter calls for serious attention of this august assembly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is useful to recall the three aims of the ACD process proposed by former Thai Prime Minister, Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra at the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the ACD in 2002. They are,
· First, to provide for the exchange of ideas and experiences with no institutional obstructions.
· Second, to improve national and regional capabilities to make Asia a strong partner for other regions, and
· Third, to serve as a forum for Asian countries to exchange views with one another in a frank manner on international trends and developments which have a direct bearing on Asia.
The absence of institutional obstruction is what makes the ACD unique. Therefore, the Honourable Ministers and Senior Officials need a mandate to evolve a new mechanism to work together without the blocks and traps of institutional structures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to share Sri Lanka’s own experience on the Development Framework of my Government, the “Mahinda Chinthana”, addressing the challenges of combining the positive attributes of a free market economy with domestic aspirations. Development of the rural economy and support for small and medium enterprises are the central pillars of our policy where domestic enterprises can be supported while encouraging foreign investment.
There are many other fields which we are developing to achieve poverty alleviation an important area of cooperation in our continent. We are investing heavily in infrastructure and Information Technology, to empower our large rural population who are the main beneficiaries of our economy. We see tourism as a rapidly developing sector with useful stimulus to create and sustain employment. With increased employment opportunities particularly to the rural youth these also reduce the gaps in income levels.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Over the last 10 years, the ACD has made important advances in identifying 20 areas of cooperation. It is now time to follow up on decisions made. This will help take the ACD towards further progress for the people of Asia.
After its first decade, the ACD must now move to implement the projects of cooperation to significantly transform our vision into reality. In a world of increasing crisis the urgent areas of action include reducing the impact of climate change, protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development. We must work hard to generate employment ensure food security while reducing poverty, expanding literacy and ensuring gender equality.
It is our belief that Asia should strive to regain and safeguard its independence that is challenged on many fronts and across many borders. The countries of Asia can succeed in rebuilding our continent by greater reliance on our cultural affinity rich history, and the strength of our human resources.
Today, we see two contrasting, and opposing trends in the world, namely, the increased competition among countries in a globalized market place and the strengthening of regional integration. These two trends provide good reason why we, as Asians, should consider the importance of regional forums such as the ACD.
As the only pan-Asian regional cooperation mechanism, the ACD has the potential to bring diverse voices together. This will help forge collective economic strategies to maintain Asia’s competitive advantage over other regional groupings. This is important at a time when the troubles in one regional grouping are causing grave problems the world over.
As countries in diverse regions come together for better economic strength, we cannot be the only continent without an effective regional forum to consolidate our strengths and to project a unified voice in world affairs.
In this light, this first Summit of Asian leaders has deep meaning. The ACD Study Group to be launched, will pool the resources of Asian government officials academics and experts to map out the future directions of the ACD. It is our search for new ways to realize the great potential of this forum with new ideas to better shape our cooperation as Asians.
The ACD represents an influential platform for each Member State to create favourable conditions for its foreign-economic activity. The ACD provides access to the markets and promotes bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the countries and international institutions of the Asian continent.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ambition for progress and development in our Continent of Asia is limitless. Our tasks will not end till our cooperation makes us fully realize the economic, political, social, technological and human capabilities and potential of our Continent.
The strides we have made have helped enlarge our ambitions with greater tasks to achieve with determination and persistence. This is the call from our great history and the hopes and promises of the future.
This Continent of Asia cannot be the playground of other forces, who seek our wealth, our assets of nature and human resources. Our progress must draw from the best of our own cultures and while learning from the best of others who come with genuine friendship. We are seeing the dawn of the Age of Asia. We must together see it bring new light to a troubled world dominated by the grave errors of other Continents.
I am confident that our commitment to cooperate within the Asian framework will see the progress of the Asian Dialogue. I wish all the ACD Member States success in implementing their goals and tasks to fully realize the Age of Asia.
Let me conclude with the assurance that we look forward to working closely with Tajikistan who will be the next host of the ACD.
May the Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem be with you.