In Republic of Korea, Ban urges Asian nations to settle border disputes, historical issues
“This powerful continent is critical for prosperity and security around the world,” Ban told the Forum for Peace and Prosperity held in Jeju, Republic of Korea.
Noting at the same time that Asia accounts for nearly a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions, he stressed the importance of concerted action. Citing solar power and other innovative green technologies, he said “Asia is also a source of solutions.”
Ban went on to urge all Asian countries to quickly ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change, as only 16 of the 177 signatories have ratified it.
Asia’s robust economic growth helped the world cut poverty by half – and achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG). But two out of every three of the world’s poorest people live in Asia – a total of 450 million individuals. The continent faces major threats related to freshwater, land and pollution, he warned.
“That is why Asia must embrace the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.
There are many hopeful things. Four of our five top contributors to UN peacekeeping operations are in Asia. The Asia-Pacific region continues to be a centre of economic dynamism and influence. It is also home to political progress and greater democratization.
But there are challenges. A number of Asian countries claim the same territory and maritime areas, he said, calling on all parties to resolve their disputes peacefully. “It is time to agree on borders that are now disputed,” he said.
And Asian countries must rise above conflicting interpretations of history. By squarely and humbly addressing the unfortunate past historical issues, they can focus on the future, he stressed, adding that other continents, such as Latin America, Africa and Europe, have done that work through successful agreements and organizations.
Ban also spotlighted the importance of nurturing youth into global citizens because “national geographic borders do not mean much these days.”
Turning to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he noted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles only undermines its own security and hurts its citizens. Military spending remains high while children are wasting. Human rights are systematically abused. The country’s authorities must correct these wrongs, Ban stressed.
While welcoming progress made in the protection and promotion of human rights in Asia, he also expressed concern about shrinking space for civil society organizations, as well as rising intolerance, hate speech and violence in parts of Asia.
Many Asian countries showed compassion by hosting migrants, he said, calling on these nations to “give new arrivals the chance to make a difference.”
Ban will travel to Ise-Shima, Japan, on Friday, 27 May, to participate in the Outreach Session of the G-7 Summit.
The Secretary-General will return to the Republic of Korea for the opening session, on Monday, 30 May, of the UN DPI/NGO Conference in the south-eastern city of Gyeongju.
UN Photo/Mark Garten