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Africa and Asia push for 'new world order'

Mail & Guardian | April 27, 2005

African and Asian leaders, representing two-thirds of the global population, met in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday to discuss ways of achieving "a new world order".

The talks were part of the Asia-Africa Summit (AA) co-hosted by Indonesia and South Africa.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, South African president Thabo Mbeki and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan opened discussion by urging leaders to push for a new world order.

"Your peoples pay the highest price for inaction in the face of massive violations of human rights, and for the strains placed on the UN's peacekeeping, peace building and human rights machinery," Annan said.

He said developing countries suffered more than any others from the proliferation of small arms, light weapons, the scourge of landmines, and often bore the brunt of acts of terrorism and the events they unleashed.

"If we are to make our world a fairer, freer and safer place for all its inhabitants, the institutions of the UN should reflect the world of 2005, not 1945 -– particularly the Security Council."

He urged African and Asian leaders to attend the next UN meeting in New York in September, in force and well prepared in order to effect the necessary changes.

In his address, Mbeki urged leaders to use the summit to build and strengthen cooperation.

"We must mobilise all the political and moral spirit of Asia and Africa."

He said leaders should use their combined strength to give life to the ideals of the 1955 Bandung Conference which sought to eliminate poverty and underdevelopment and effect the economic rebuilding of Asia and Africa.

Yudhoyono agreed. He said it had taken 50 years for Africa and Asia to come together again, but they were now stronger and more able to take up the challenges they faced.

He reminded the conference that in 1955 many Asian countries had only just gained their independence and African countries were still colonies.

He described the Asian and African influence as the "missing link" in global politics.

"Now as Asia and Africa are free we must take on the battle for good governance and dignity. But the battle for dignity is not necessarily easier than the battle for freedom," he said.

He noted that before him stood a powerful group of leaders who combined represented almost half the world's population (about 4,5-billion people) and a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $9,3-trillion. This was said to be larger than that of the European Union.

Putting the AA into perspective, a South African Foreign Affairs official Anil Sooklal described the coming together of the 106 countries as significant.

"It's a powerful bloc," he said, noting that Asia was growing economically at just over six percent a year and Africa at four, compared to most of Europe which recorded between one and two percent growth last year.

He said the bloc also contained 70% of the world's mineral reserves and that if AA discussions were successful, free trade agreements would be reached. These he said could effectively eliminate Western influence in the diamond, gold and oil trade
between the two regions.

Last year trade between Asia and Africa stood at $72-billion, he said, but added it had been growing at an impressive average of 10% per annum.

Yudhoyono said the AA had to be in the forefront of global co-operation in order to attain the 1955 objectives of poverty eradication and the achievement of human rights.

The most fundamental, he said, was the right to life.

"No person should die because they are too poor to live," he said.

 

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