The 7th Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue,
Astana, Kazakhstan – 16th October 2008
Statement of Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign
Affairs of Sri Lanka at the 7th Ministerial Meeting
of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue,
Astana, Kazakhstan – 16th October 2008
H.E Marat Tazhin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan,
Sri Lanka considers the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) as an indispensable and crucial diverse Grouping of 30 countries of Asia, both large and small and developed and developing, which could promote and nurture economic development, in all spheres, and instill a sense of political stability and predictability. The member countries of the ACD are based on the concept of cohesive Asianness and Asian inclusivity in an unequivocal basis. It may also be germane to state that most of the members of this Grouping are members of other proactive and highly vibrant regional economic groupings and blocs such as the SAARC, BIMSTEC, ASEAN, APEC, GCC, OIC and IOR-ARC, which would further strengthen and bolster the cohesiveness of the ACD and the affinity between and among the member countries. It is most heartening to note that the ACD, which is hardly six years since her inception, has already evolved, progressed and advanced in to a powerful Grouping of Asian nations, reflecting the intrinsic and inherent strengths of the members of the ACD. Having stated this premise, it is of no doubt that the ACD plays a pivotal and instrumental role in the realm of interdependence and cooperation between and among the member States.
I would be remiss if I do not state at this juncture that the ACD has already galvanized and stimulated tangible economic cooperation and more importantly, connectivity between and among the members. These courses of action engender and reinforce a sense of Asian identity and common values. The identified projects of the ACD, which are underway and are in progress, would enhance the economic base of many a developing countries and could empower the less privileged people. The projects and commercial initiatives in the sphere of trade, finance, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and tourism would enhance the collective competitiveness and comparative advantage of the developing countries, in particular, and member States of the ACD, in general.
I am pleased to state that in August of this year Sri Lanka assumed the Chairmanship of the SAARC, which is the largest regional grouping in terms of population. Further, Sri Lanka is a member of the BIMSTEC, IOR-ARC, G-11, G-15, ARF and a founder member of the Non-Alignment Movement and a member of the Commonwealth with a seat in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). On the same note, may I place on record that my country is enthusiastically looking forward to host the 8th ACD Ministerial Meeting. These developments lucidly reflect the active integration and engagement of Sri Lanka, both geo-politically and geo-economically.
It is often being stated, both by policymakers and economists the world over, that the 21st Century belongs to Asia and the main theater of economic activity is moving inexorably from the traditional and conventional centers of growth in the Western world to the Eastern part of the world. The ACD member States consisting of nearly 2/3rd of humanity are endowed with a significant amount of natural resources ranging from oil, gas, coal and minerals to steel, aluminum, copper and hydro power, thus cogently demonstrating the economic potential and prowess, which is yet to be fully realized in many developing countries. May I take this opportunity to broach that the current economic and financial turmoil of unprecedented global scale should be addressed in a concerted and coordinated manner, since many of our countries would feel its repercussions. The livelihood of these people matter most when they are compelled to confront global threats leading to economic downturn and even to recession. It is opportune that all of us of the ACD should meet at least on an annual basis and formulate a pragmatic agenda, which would assist and accommodate member States on economic cooperation, whilst addressing the economic challenges. Again, the ACD could address these pressing economic issues with a high degree of deftness, dexterity and finesse, given its vast diversity, capacity and connectivity. It also propitious to focus on intra-Asian concentration as the members of ACD consisting of nearly 2/3rd of global humanity. Further, it may be correct to state that over 2/3rds of total global foreign reserves are in the Asian countries.
Since Sri Lanka is a Co-Prime Mover of the SME sector among the 19 identified projects of the ACD, along with Singapore, my country would duly inform the dates for the ACD SME Forum to be held in Sri Lanka. The proposed ACD SME Forum would be highly beneficial to academics, policymakers, proven entrepreneurs, technocrats and senior government officials and political personalities engaged in the SME sector in order to make the SMEs more viable and energetic in the economic fabric of the ACD member countries. The SME is often described as the backbone of a given economy, be it in a developed or in a developing nation. It is needless to state that my country places high priority in enhancing the viability and productivity of the SME sector. The SME sector, on a personal note, is very close to me since during my previous Ministerial portfolio, which was Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development, I formed the first ever SME Bank and brought legislation to form the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA), which is the key focal point of the SME sector in Sri Lanka. I could state with a degree of conviction that the SME sector has great potential, which is yet to be realized in a developing country such as Sri Lanka.
Allow me to move to a different subject, a subject that affects directly or indirectly all of us regardless of where we live, which is none other than terrorism. Terrorism, which over the years has matured and grown to international levels by transcending its nefarious and despicable acts of violence to foreign territories, has today become a global threat. It would be correct to state that in today’s highly integrated global milieu, the greatest and most potent threat not only to the humanity but to economic advancement, is terrorism. Sri Lanka is a victim of terrorism and is in the process of addressing it accordingly. May I state with a sense of modesty but with conviction, that my country deals with and addresses terrorism, in a manner that it deserves to be dealt with. I earnestly submit to this august gathering of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, envoys and delegates from the 30 ACD member countries that terrorism should be vehemently and unconditionally condemned, thus leading to the obliteration of such heinous terrorist groups. In order to address international terrorism in all its manifestations, the comity of nations in the ACD, in particular, should execute concrete and tangible as well as concerted courses of action. I earnestly believe that this forum is well poised and positioned, which possesses economic and political endowments, tenacity and perspicacity, to address international terrorism with the highest degree of efficacy. The terrorism, as all of us are well aware, not only hinders economic growth and prosperity but also creates a sense of deep instability and unpredictability as well as maims and kills innocent civilians.
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
In conclusion, this century belongs to Asia and, as stated before, is often called “the Asian Century”. The ACD, probably the only major Grouping of nations, which spreads across the entire spectrum of Asia, could well leverage to take the advantage of the economic and political opportunities of this vast region.