The power of partnerships

Ban Ki-moon takes questions after the inaugural Fullerton Lecture. Photo IISS/Sam Toh

By Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS-Asia

A satellite launch planned for next month by North Korea, developments in Myanmar and the increasingly urgent need to find a solution to the conflict in Syria were among the themes touched on by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the inaugural IISS Fullerton Lecture in Singapore. The speech focused on ‘Securing our Future: Singapore, the Region and Beyond’, and Ban said he was ‘very troubled, very deeply concerned’ by the DPRK’s intention to launch a satellite on 15 April, the hundredth anniversary of the birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung.

‘Security Council resolutions clearly prohibit the launch of any satellite using ballistic-missile technology,’ he said, briefly departing from his text to add that the launch would be a clear violation of UNSC resolution 1874 in particular. The Secretary-General had spoken to Chinese, American and Russian leaders and ‘urged them to exercise their influence to persuade the DPRK to reconsider its decision’. He said he would further discuss the situation while attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul next week.

Ban hailed the role of the ASEAN regional grouping in leading international engagement with Myanmar, and supporting recent political reforms inside the country. ‘Our collective work… has helped lay the foundations for change. We must continue as Myanmar prepares to assume the ASEAN chairmanship in 2014.’

The Secretary-General underlined the need in the twenty-first century for close cooperation between global institutions like the UN and regional institutions like ASEAN or the Arab League. ‘This is true multilateralism for a multilateral age,’ he said. ‘It may not be well understood – or appreciated just yet – but we are seeing an evolution in global governance. We are seeing the power of partnerships – of regional organisations leading to get global results.’

Such cooperation had already been seen in response to events in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and most recently Syria, where former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was working as joint special envoy to the UN and the Arab League.

Saying that the international community had been divided over what to do in Syria for too long, Ban welcomed the recent Presidential Statement in the UN Security Council, calling on Syria to cooperate with Annan’s mission. He said Annan had dispatched a team of experts to Damascus ‘who are working to advance concrete proposals as we speak’.

The Secretary-General argued that ‘many lessons’ could be learned from the Asia-Pacific region. The two disastrous Asian tsunamis – of 2004 and 2011 – showed the willingness of Asian states to abandon narrow notions of sovereignty in favour of international collaboration in disaster relief, and had led to the establishment of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center.

Globally, it was necessary ‘to think and act in an integrated way’. Food, water and energy security were inextricably linked. Governments needed to consider new ways of integrating the ‘three pillars of sustainable development’: environmental, social and economic. All relevant actors needed to be involved. The rise of new powers and new technologies, and the growing ‘engagement and empowerment’ of people, were providing ‘more tools to secure our future’.

Singapore was ‘at the frontier of this new era’, said the Secretary-General: it was at the ‘leading edge of innovation and change’. Singapore had shown the way to build a ‘tolerant society’ where diverse ethnicities, religions and cultures could co-exist harmoniously. Singapore showed that there was no limit to creativity, possibility and imagination. In conclusion, Ban called for the harnessing of these energies in the interest of ‘sustainable peace… sustainable development… and a secure future for all’.

Watch the lecture

Read a transcript


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