14 September 2005

Secretary-General Praises Close Cooperation Between UN, South-East Asia on Tsunami, HIV/AIDS, Development, in New York Address

NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-United Nations Summit in New York, 13 September:

It is an honour for me, and my colleagues, to welcome you to United Nations Headquarters for this ASEAN-UN Summit.

Our two organizations share a common interest in promoting peace, stability and prosperity -- both in South-East Asia and around the world.  We must work hand in hand in those efforts -- and I am glad to say that we have been doing so on a number of important issues.

The devastating tsunami that hit your region nine months ago touched a chord among people all over the world.  In the immediate aftermath, the United Nations was asked to take the lead in ensuring that the international outpouring of concern and generosity was properly coordinated, and that it truly supported your efforts in relief and reconstruction.

Today, led by my envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former President Bill Clinton, the United Nations family of organizations is working to ensure that international engagement is sustained for the long term.  In addition to reconstruction, we are also supporting your efforts to develop better early warning capacities, and to ensure that communities are more resilient should disaster strike again.

The tsunami had a heavy impact on broader development efforts in the region.  Notwithstanding this setback, many of your countries have been enjoying impressive economic growth.  Your successes can serve as a model for other developing nations.  Moreover, your investment in other developing countries is increasingly important to their development.

But there remain large development gaps between your countries, and within them.  I welcome ASEAN's decision to forge a Millennium Development Compact, as reflected in the Jakarta declaration.  The UN will support you in implementing that Compact, to help narrow the development gap among your members and achieve the Millennium Development Goals in all your countries.

Close cooperation in the fight against HIV/AIDS is essential.  We must work together to realize the Vientiane Action Programme's goal of scaling up action in prevention, treatment and care.  Infection rates among the most vulnerable groups remain high, and our assistance must focus on where the epidemic is concentrated.

I am very concerned about the threat posed by the current avian flu epidemic.  I am glad that a number of ASEAN governments have taken firm action to improve surveillance, identify infections and control the disease at its source.  Many governments, notably Malaysia and Thailand, have prevented human infection.  But we must all remain vigilant.  Human influenza pandemics exact a terribly high human and economic cost.  Early warning of a transmissible human flu virus is vital.  I understand that some governments are working closely with civil society and private entities on prevention and preparation, and that is, indeed, the way we should move forward.  Those efforts deserve strong international support, including from the United Nations system.

We also have a common determination to resolve conflict and promote peace.  I welcome the signature last month by Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement of a memorandum of understanding to end the conflict in Aceh, and I commend those ASEAN members who are providing representatives to the Aceh Monitoring Mission.

I also welcome the commitment of the Philippines to peace in Mindanao, and its efforts to promote peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  Malaysia's role in facilitating this process, as well as the deployment of regional monitors to verify the ceasefire, is another important instance of ASEAN cooperation.

Similar engagement is needed if we are to make headway to resolve the continued political impasse in Myanmar, where political freedoms continue to be unacceptably restricted.  The United Nations believes that the path to a better future for the people of Myanmar, and, indeed, for the citizens of all countries in the region, lies in respecting the principles of democracy, promoting the rule of law, and protecting human rights.

Tomorrow, the World Summit will begin.  Issues of great importance to the future of global cooperation are before world leaders.  On development, security, human rights, and institutional reform, the Summit outcome is vital.  But I also remind you that this is only a beginning.  Whatever is achieved, there will be lots of work to do after the Summit to implement it, and plenty of tough outstanding issues on which we will need to keep working to find common ground.

That will require very close cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations.  I therefore thank you for ASEAN's support of the United Nations.  In the years ahead, I am sure the nations of your dynamic region will make an even greater contribution to the work of the United Nations than they do today.  I certainly hope so.  I look forward to working with you in partnership to meet the challenges facing your region and our world, in order to realize our shared vision of a more peaceful and secure future for all.

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