08 Aug 2019
High Commissioner Chua Thai-Keong, High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore and the current Chair of the ASEAN Pretoria Committee,
Ambassadors and High Commissioners of the ASEAN Member States,
Members of the Diplomatic Community,
On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, I would like to thank High Commissioner CHUA Thai-Keong and the Heads of Mission of the ASEAN Member States for this invitation. It is an honour for me to join you in the celebration of the 52nd ASEAN day, which is indeed a milestone in the history of this prestigious organisation.
When the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in Bangkok, Thailand, fifty-two (52) years ago, it was under very different circumstances and a totally different world. ASEAN was born during a turbulent era marked by heightened conflict in the region. However, the five founding members (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) had a common vision of a prosperous, united and peaceful region. They possessed the strategic foresight of creating an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of their people through peace-building and exploitation of the region’s full economic potential. ASEAN can indeed be proud of its accomplishments of improving socio-cultural cooperation, increased regional integration and its contribution to the global economy. As we celebrate the founding of this august organisation, we are reminded that bold decisions can yield fruit.
In the immortal words of the former Thai Foreign Minister, Thanet Khoman, “the goal of ASEAN is to create and not destroy” It would help build a new society that will be responsive to the needs of our time. These prophetic words ring true, more so today than ever. The world is currently undergoing momentous change with heightened security threats coupled with the rise of fundamentalism and populism, which threaten to erode hard-fought gains of democracy. The time to be bold is once again upon us and we should continue to build partnerships that bolster our strength and capacity to tackle common global problems.
We cannot help but marvel at the progress that ASEAN has made over the years. Since its inception, ASEAN has made significant achievements towards regional peace, stability, and prosperity. To mention but a few, the Association membership increased to ten (10) Member States by 1999; the conclusion of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Agreement was in place in 1992; Establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR); and the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community on 31 December 2015. These are testament to the fact that ASEAN has grown in leaps and bounds has formed a helped form a huge market of more than 600; million people the same size as the Tripartite FTA – SADC, COMESA and EAC.
As you know South Africa’s request to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) has been approved by ASEAN. Following the finalisation of internal processes, South Africa will be in position to sign the necessary instruments relating to the accession. We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all ASEAN members for expressing their confidence in South Africa. Accession to the Treaty will usher in a new era for our relationship as we set common goals and strengthen political, economic, security and socio-cultural cooperation both bilaterally as well in relevant multilateral fora.
As countries of the Global South, we have a common responsibility to uphold the centrality of the multilateral system and ensure that all countries have an equal say in global governance and on issues that have trans-national dimensions, such as climate change; poverty eradication and conflict resolution. By forging closer relations, we can help shape the global agenda towards a greater focus on development, cooperation, and harmony, as envisaged by the founding fathers of this august body.
In the immortal words of the former Thai Foreign Minister, Thanet Khoman, “the goal of ASEAN is to create and not destroy” It would help build a new society that will be responsive to the needs of our time. These prophetic words ring true, more so today than ever before. The world is currently undergoing momentous change with heightened security threats coupled with the rise of fundamentalism and populism, which threaten to erode hard-fought gains of democracy. The time to be bold is once again upon us and we should continue to build partnerships that bolster our strength and capacity to tackle common global problems.
ASEAN and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) share a lot of similarities. Both organisations are pivotal for the realisation of economic integration and play an integral role in their respective regions. We look forward to closer collaboration between ASEAN and SADC to bring the people of Asia and Africa closer together, as envisaged at the Bandung Conference. ASEAN’s vision for its people corresponds with Africa’s vision for inclusive and sustainable development as embodied in the African Union’s development blueprint Agenda 2063.
As we celebrate the 52nd anniversary of ASEAN, we look forward to closer collaboration between our respective regional architectures and the elevation of strategic relations between ASEAN and South Africa, in particular. South Africa has a lot to learn from ASEAN member states and we look forward to greater cooperation.
In closing. I would like to invite you to toast the good health and prosperity of the Governments and Peoples of ASEAN.
I thank you.