Report On Asian-African Summit, Jakart

Dr. Syed Husun Ali
Report On Asian-African Summit, Jakarta

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the historic Bandung Conference in 1955, an Asian-African Summit was held at the Jakarta Convention Centre, Jakarta on 22-23 April 2005. Heads of States/Governments and other government representatives from 92 countries were present as Participants. Among them were only two women, the President of the Philippines and the Prime Minister of Mozambique. In addition, there were Observers from 20 countries and 28 organisations. Altogether, more than 1,000 persons were in attendance during the opening ceremony.

Prior to the Summit, an Asian-African Senior Officials' Consultation Meeting was held on 19 April, which was followed the next day by the Asian-African Ministerial Meeting. An Asian-African Business Summit also took place on 21 April. The Ministerial Meeting produced a Joint Ministerial Statement on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership Plan of Action. The Business Summit, attended by 768 CEOs from 24 Asian and African countries, was also addressed by several leaders including the Presidents of China and Nigeria. A joint declaration on Enhancing Cooperation for Progress between Asia-Africa Business Community was signed by 15 businessmen representing their countries.

Ministerial and Business Summit Statements
" The Ministerial Statement reaffirmed its commitment to the Ten Principles of Bandung, acknowledged the need to build a bridge between Asia and Africa, emphasized the importance to build on internationally agreed development targets and goals, recognized the need to enhance technical cooperation capacity building and human resource development, emphasized the roles of Asian and African regional and sub-regional organizations, and desired mutually beneficial cooperation that are "pragmatic, structured and sustainable". It spelt out concrete measures under three headings;
Under Political Solidarity, it enumerates ten points, namely, promoting conditions necessary for peace and stability, striving to prevent conflict and resolve disputes by peaceful means, encouraging regional and national mechanisms to prevent conflict, supporting peaceful settlement of Palestine, strengthening democratic institutions, promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, strengthening cooperation to fight terrorism, combating transnational crimes, preventing and combating corruption, and promoting the reform of the United Nations.
Under Economic Cooperation, there are 13 points emphasizing efforts to create the environment to compete and benefit from globalization, to resolve poverty in collective and comprehensive fashion, to promote direct trade and investment between Asia and Africa, to maximize the benefits of trade liberalization, to build effective technical assistance and capacity building programmes, to strive for sustainable development, food security and rural development, to maximize benefits from protecting intellectual property rights, to strengthen cooperation among SMEs, to strengthen cooperation in narrowing digital divide, fostering R & D and sharing of technologies, to promote development of sustainable energy resources and technologies, to undertake exploration of the Indian Ocean, and to encourage the establishment of an Asia-Africa Business Forum.
Under Socio-cultural Relations, ten measures suggested are: Fostering greater people-to-people contact, enhancing civilizational and inter-faith dialogues, promoting mutual understanding of diverse cultures and societies, advancing youth, gender equality, education, science and technology, fighting against aids, tuberculosis, malaria etc., enhancing the role of media to promote mutual understanding of diverse ways of life, developing networks among universities, libraries and research institutions, building cooperation for environmental protection, striving to improve management and conservation of biodiversity and advancing efforts to create emergency preparedness mechanisms.
The Business Summit made eleven recommendations, namely: to strengthen cooperation and increase trade among Asian-African countries on the basis of "equality and mutual benefit, to increase trade between these countries, to exchange information and share experiences, to set up working group to identify areas of business cooperation and harmonise policies, to focus cooperation on investment in various sectors, to strengthen commitment to multilateralism and ensuring globalization that will improve quality of life of people, to give priority to increased public and private sector investments, to promote constructive dialogues with development partners, to foster collaboration between government and business, and to organize an Asia-Africa business conference every two years that include public and business sectors.

Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).
The outcomes of the Ministerial and Business meetings, together with the Joint Asian-African Leaders' Statement on Tsunami, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters were tabled at the main Summit. There was also mention of the Workshop on the Role of Women and Youth in Furthering Asia-Africa Cooperation as well as the Asian-African Symposium on Renewable Energy, but no report on them was tabled at plenary session. Although all the statements, declarations and reports were referred to by various Heads of States and Governments, the main focus of their discussion was on their Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).
The NAASP declaration reiterates the Leaders' conviction with the Spirit of Bandung and its core principles of "solidarity, friendship and cooperation" and commitment to the principle of self-determination and support for the "creation of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state". It also emphasizes on "multilateral approaches to international relation" and adherence particularly to the UN Charter. It recognizes the need to "ensure the equitable sharing of benefits of globalization", and "to meet the international targets and goals aimed at poverty eradication, development and growth." It acknowledges the positive developments of intra-regional/sub-regional cooperation, besides stressing the need for continent-wide inter-regional cooperation and the "importance of complementing and building upon existing initiatives that link the two continents".
Further, the NAASP declaration also underscores "the urgency of promoting economic development". It stresses "that poverty and under-development, gender mainstreaming, communicable diseases, environmental degradation, natural disasters, droughts and desertification, the digital divide, inequitable market access, the foreign debt, remain as issues of common concern", which call for "closer cooperation and collective action". It envisions an Asian-African region "at peace with itself", and visualizes the region as "characterized by equitable growth, sustainable developments as well as common determination to enhance the quality of life and well-being of (the) people".
In the NAASP declaration the Leaders strive to achieve "peace, prosperity and progress", based on nine principles and ideals as follows:
1. The Ten Principles of Bandung of the 1955 Asian-African Conference;
2. Recognition of diversity between and within the regions, including different social and economic systems and levels of development;
3. Commitment to open dialogue, based on mutual respect and benefit;
4. Promotion of non-exclusive cooperation by involving all stakeholders;
5. Attainment of practical and sustainable cooperation based on comparative advantage, equal partnership, common ownership and vision, as well as a firm and shared conviction to address common challenges;
6. Promotion of sustainable partnership by complementing and building upon existing regional/sub-regional initiatives in Asia and Africa;
7. Promotion of a just, democratic, transparent, accountable and harmonious society;
8. Promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development;
9. Promotion of collective and unified efforts in multilateral fora.
For two full days, Leaders attending the Summit "discussed" their Declaration, by reading their own individual statements. These inevitably touched on the disastrous tsunami, reference to the significance of the Bandung Conference,the necessity for reform of the United Nations, the need for widening, enhancing and strengthening political and economic cooperation between Asian and African countries, the will to fight against poverty, disease, ignorance and for social development as well as human dignity, and the support for Palestinian liberation struggle and the establishment of their own state, and the imperative of regional and world peace and so forth.
Following the conclusion of the two day Summit, which was rather businesslike, repetitive and oftentimes boring, all the leaders made a trip for a more relaxed and largely ceremonial Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Bandung '55. A meeting was held at Gedung Merdeka, the hall in which the Bandung Conference took place fifty years ago. Short speeches were made by the Indonesian President and a few other leading Heads of State. The NAASP declaration was ceremoniously signed and publicly announced. These leaders also took a short nostalgic and symbolic ten minute stroll, following the path taken by the pioneers of the Bandung Conference. Of course, there were impressive cultural performances in addition.

Personal Impressions and Evaluation
I had time only to follow the Jakarta Summit, although as an Observer from AAPSO I was invited to attend all sessions and ceremonies. What are my impressions of the Summit?
It is admirable that Indonesia managed to stage this big and historic gathering, despite the tsunami tragedy it suffered. This gathering was simple and did not at all display any unnecessary pretension or extravagance. There was always an air of informality, which might have been quite unfamiliar to some kings and presidents who were present with their retinue. The Summit was certainly successful and very good especially for Indonesia's image and of course that of the Asian and African countries as well.
As usual with such meetings, well crafted statements and declarations of aims and ambitions are presented and adopted. The question is: how many will ultimately be followed up and implemented and how many will remain as rhetoric, beautiful only on paper. What actions will follow the declarations and statements? Of course this will depend among others on the political will of the various leaders, the strength of their commitment, their common economic as well as political interests and, this may be somewhat underplayed, how much leeway and space will be allowed by the superpower that now apparently rules the world for them to act independently on their own.
When the first Conference was held fifty years ago, only 29 independent nations were present, three of which were from Africa. This relatively small number was made up by the attendance of some legendary leaders who fought for their country's independence and their peoples' freedom; they were the founding fathers of their own countries and nations. This time round, 92 Asian and African countries came to attend the Summit. There was no lack of some colourful leaders appearing.
Owing to their own and their country's experiences in fighting against colonialism and for liberation, many of the prominent leaders who attended the Bandung 55 were imbued with and fired by the spirit of anti-imperialism and anti-racism, which dominated the Conference. Such spirit has almost but disappeared in Jakarta 2005, probably because countries in Asia and Africa have attained their independence, and the Apartheid is no more. In 1955 the participating countries showed strong tinge of nationalism with some tendencies towards socialism.
In contrast, under the present scenario, a very large number of the leaders participating in the Summit are charting different paths for political and economic development for their respective countries. Nationalism is treated as a potentially negative force, free market seems to be the order of the day, and the road to development is charted more along capitalism. It is almost a tragedy now that there seems to be not a small number of leaders and countries that cannot hide the fact they are indeed subservient or beholden to the neo-conservative oligarchy now ruling the United States.
These leaders repeatedly talk about the problem of poverty, but seem to avoid explaining one of its basic root causes, which is concentration of wealth at the domestic and global levels. Lest we forget, there have been UNDP (1992) figures that point out about 300 multinationals control 25 percent of the world's assets, and that the total income of 25 million of the rich people in the US is almost the same as that of more than two billion of the world population. Is it possible that business building between Asia and Africa by some leading companies will turn out to be much faster and more effective in creating a handful of very rich than alleviating poverty? We must also be mindful of the fact that many articles and a few books have been written about the "Ugly Asians" or even "Ugly Malaysians" who have ruthlessly taken advantage from their business dealings in Africa.
At the same time we see that many leaders and their Declaration are strong in their support of the Palestinian struggle to establish their own homeland. They feel safe to condemn Israeli occupation and cruelty over Palestine, but they do not dare to criticize the US for their occupation of Iraq and their threats to the Islamic world. They endorse the stand to fight against "all forms of terrorism", but they fail to mention state terrorism perpetrated by the occupying powers that be. Unfortunately, it is only the President of Zimbabwe who dared to speak up against the "weapons of mass deception" and the world threatening "unilateralism" of the imperialist power.
The terms and clichés used and the values expressed in the speeches of many of the leaders constantly remind us that we are already living in an almost different world. But, at the same time, they cannot but admit that after 50 years many serious problems still remain. For example, poverty and disease have not been eradicated, fundamental human rights are still violated, socio-economic inequities at national and international levels remain serious, conflicts, aggressions and occupations continue in different forms and areas. Colonialism may be history, but imperialism is perpetrated through different forms of political, economic and military globalization, although admittedly there are aspects of globalization that can benefit many developing countries.
Much was said during the Summit about the relevance of the Sasila Bandung (the Ten Principles of Bandung) adopted by the first Conference. Now we have a new set of Nine Principles declared by the Asian and African Summit in Jakarta. The latter is the continuation of the former, to meet the challenges faced by Asia and Africa, and indeed the whole world. As stressed in the Jakarta Post editorial (22 May 2005), entitled Principles of Life, "the tasks that lie ahead of the leaders meeting in Jakarta and Bandung (now) are no less formidable than those that faced their predecessors in 1955. We can only hope that they have the same determination to uphold and realize the Bandung Principles." Of course we should not overlook that some of these principles were later violated even by their own proponents.