People-to-people strategy for Asean
Azlan Othman

HIS Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office in his sabda stressed the importance of regional cooperation.

Speaking as personal representative of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday, His Royal Highness told the Assembly that, as current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Brunei Darussalam has chosen the theme “Our People, Our Future,” to highlight the role of the region’s people in Asean Community-building efforts.

“We hope this people-to-people approach will promote cultural exchange and understanding,” His Royal Highnes said, noting that Asean’s work has also been strongly influenced by the current MDGs. Within Asean, we have an agreed plan to achieve an Asean Community by 2015.

“Brunei has also encouraged Asean member states to begin working on a regional strategy beyond 2015 to further strengthen the collective mission in promoting peace, stability and prosperity.

Elaborating more on the theme that Brunei has chosen as Asean Chair, His Royal Highness added, that it signified our people’s role in Asean community-building efforts. In addition, we have also encouraged our member states to start working on an Asean plan beyond 2015 to further strengthen our mission in promoting peace, stability and prosperity, he said.

“We will also continue to work together in strategically positioning Asean in a wider region and the world at large. In this regard, we are pleased that Mr Ban Ki-moon has accepted our invitation to come to Brunei Darussalam for the 5th Asean-UN Summit,” His Royal Highness said.

“We look forward to sharing our views and experiences with him. We hope this will strengthen the cooperation between our association and the UN.

“We are also encouraged by the recommendations put forward by the recent report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on how we can assist our people better in their daily lives through providing food security, quality education and eradicating extreme poverty. “Overall, the millennium development goals (MDGs) offered us many lessons indeed and now it is time for all of us to move forward.

“Touching on the millennium development goals (MDGs), His Royal Highness said, “Thirteen years ago at this Assembly, our leaders made a promise to our people to fulfil their hopes and expectations for a better life.

“This is why we see the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a very important global partnership.

“It has shown us that progress can be made if we work together locally, regionally and internationally. I therefore would like to put on record our appreciation to our Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his predecessor Kofi Annan on the support and commitment that the UN agencies have given to realise this historic initiative.

“We are now approaching the end of the 15 year period. Like many other nations, Brunei Darussalam has been able to learn much from the experiences in implementing the MDGs. We understand the high expectations for all to do well.

“However, we need to consider the problems that some member states are struggling with. These include limitations to natural resources, political conflicts, socio-economic problems and natural disasters.

“That is why, Mr President, this year’s theme is so appropriate. The theme focuses on ‘setting the stage’.

“For us in Brunei Darussalam, this means having a national vision, the ‘Brunei Vision 2035’.”

“It clearly provides the direction towards attaining a dynamic and sustainable economy in the interests of our people.

“In line with the vision, we give great emphasis to help our younger generation in order to realise their hopes. We have done this through providing quality education, encouraging innovation and creating better job opportunities.

“We also do what we can to assist fellow developing countries either bilaterally or in partnership with other countries and international organisations in human resource development, offering scholarships to study in Brunei Darussalam as well as providing training under community outreach programmes within the region.

“On Palestine issue and its relations to achieving MDGs, HRH said regardless of the statistics of who has achieved the goals or not, we feel that much has been attained through the concept of the MDGs itself. The goals have opened up opportunities to every member to develop in their own way and to involve their people in that development, even beyond 2015.

“Unfortunately, the options open to some people are severely limited. This is so when their basic fundamental right of self-determination is denied. We particularly refer to the people of Palestine whom we believe can attest to this.

“Their legitimate struggle for a homeland of their own remains unresolved. Hence, we support calls by the international community to intensify efforts towards realising this basic right that we take for granted today.

“The November 29, 2012 was indeed a memorable day in the history of Palestinians when they were accepted as an observer state in the UN. I would like to once again express our support for their full membership, as well as for their legitimate struggle to regain the right to their own independent and sovereign state.

“On conflicts in Syria, HRH said the worsening situation in Syria continues to be of serious concern. We join the international community in condemning the use of chemical weapons, which has caused the loss of lives in the country.

“More importantly, we support all efforts, particularly by the UN, in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. In this regard, we welcome the US-Russia Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons and the recent adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria,” His Royal Highness concluded. - Borneo Bulletin (1 October 2013)