Asia-Africa Summit ends on high note

From Caesar Zvayi in JAKARTA, Indonesia

The highly-subscribed Asia-Africa Conference ended here yesterday with the adoption of the Jakarta Declaration reaffirming the two regions’ commitment to the spirit of the Bandung Declaration, whose 60th anniversary will be celebrated today in the West Java province capital of Bandung. Bandung was host to the inaugural, historic Asia-Africa conference of 1955 that laid a framework for Asia-Africa co-operation, and the decolonisation of many of the countries that were still under the yoke of oppression.

Just as it was 60 years ago, the leaders of the two continents closed the historic conference with a pledge to forge closer ties so that the people of Africa and Asia can free themselves from the dictatorship of the UN system and the autocracy of the international financial architecture, that remain virtual big boys clubs.

Among the conference resolutions was a call for the independence of Palestine and a new world order that respects the economic and political power of the developing world. Twenty-one Heads of State and Government participated in the conference that ran under the theme: “Advancing South-South Co-operation”.

Europe and the Middle East sent delegations to the conference.

The delegates cited economic inequality and global terrorism, among the major problems they face today. The conference-ending declaration calls for increasing direct trade and investment between developing nations to address the global economic imbalance that sees the developing world, that makes up 75 percent of the world population, contributing only 30 percent to global GDP.

In his closing remarks, President Mugabe hailed the deliberations of the past two days, saying the Summit had been as historic and epochal as the inaugural one in 1955. ‘‘I hope you will all agree with me that this was a very successful meeting as illustrated by the impressive attendance at the highest level by the leaders of our two regions. Our success is also measured by the spirited deliberations in all the sessions of our Summit,” he said.

‘‘There is no doubt, therefore, that this Summit will be as historic and epochal as the one that gave birth to the Bandung spirit in this very country in 1955. As I stated in the opening session, in order to move forward our challenge is to manifest our unity beyond our reaffirmation of the 1955 Bandung principles.’’

The United Nations system, particularly the powerful Security Council, has remained the virtual monopoly of the victorious allies of the Second World War: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, to which other UN members get membership on a rotational, temporary basis while the global financial architecture has been used as an instrument of Western foreign policy with the United States retaining the preserve of choosing the president of the World Bank, while Europe picks the boss of the International Monetary Fund.

Asian and African leaders were unanimous that this global imbalance needs urgent redress so that the voice of the developing world can come to matter in global affairs.

‘‘We have shared our views, ideas and opinions and we would like the Bandung spirit of 1955 to take the people of Asia and Africa. All the outcome of our work is well captured in the three main documents of the summit referred to just now by the president . . .

‘‘In order to move forward, our challenge is to manifest our unity beyond our reaffirmation of the 1955 Bandung principles,’’ President Mugabe said.

The 10 Principles of Bandung are:

  • Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
  • Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations large and small.
  • Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
  • Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Abstention from the use of arrangements of collective defence to serve the particular interests of any of the big powers, abstention by any country from exerting pressures on other countries.
  • Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
  • Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of the parties’ own choice, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations. Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
  • Respect for justice and international obligation.

Conference adopted three documents as proposed by the ministers who met ahead of the summit, among them the Bandung Message, the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership and the Palestinian Question. It was also resolved that the Asia-Africa forum meet at Summit level every 10 years, every two years at the ministerial level, with the two co-chairs of the partnership meeting annually to monitor the progress of the partnership.

Today, the leaders commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference of 1955. The conference was the precursor of the Non-Aligned Movement.