Secretary-General’s opening remarks at the 11th East Asia Summit

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Vientiane, 8 September 2016

Your Excellency, Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Chair of ASEAN in 2016, Distinguished Heads of State and Government of the East Asia Summit members, Your Excellency, Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank His Excellency Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith for inviting me to address the East Asia Summit.

The engines of growth and economic power are shifting across the globe. Asia continues its rise as a centre of technological progress, dynamism and influence.


This summit gathers countries within and beyond the region to work together on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Coordination and consistency across and beyond East Asia are essential to meeting regional and global challenges.

The United Nations is committed to working with you to bring peace and security, sustainable development and human rights to every person and community in every country of this vast region, which is home to half of humanity.

Excellencies, East Asia faces some grave threats and challenges to peace and security that put at risk our shared goals and raise the spectre of turmoil and violence.

I am deeply concerned about the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

I call in the strongest possible terms for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abide by all the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which has met eight times so far this year on non-proliferation and the DPRK.

On Tuesday, the Council called again on the DPRK to refrain from further actions in violation of Council resolutions and to comply fully with its obligations under these resolutions.

I urge the leaders of the DPRK to reverse their course, take steps towards de-escalation, and commit to de-nuclearization.

Second, I encourage you to strengthen cooperation in responding to the threat of terrorism and the spreading poison of violent extremism. The recent terrorist attacks in Davao City in the Philippines are a reminder of the global nature of these threats.

Regional cooperation between domestic law enforcement and judicial authorities has led to successful prosecutions. But more can be done upstream, to address the drivers of violent extremism.

I urge all countries to implement relevant recommendations from the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism that I presented earlier this year to the United Nations General Assembly.

Addressing extremism is at its core about building peaceful, resilient societies.

Respect for human rights must be central to these efforts. We must avoid countermeasures that are counterproductive and fuel the very problems we are trying to solve.

The UN stands ready to support you in developing and implementing your own national plans. I welcome the forthcoming ASEAN-UN regional dialogue to strengthen the cooperation between the two organizations in this important field.

Third, I call for concerted efforts to prevent tensions over territorial or maritime claims from impinging on regional relations and stability.

I have consistently urged all parties to resolve their disputes in the South China Sea in a peaceful and amicable manner, through dialogue and in conformity with international law.

It is more important than ever to exercise the utmost restraint. Tensions can only be eased through dialogue with one another; through constructive approaches and through efforts to understand the perspectives of all parties.

We look forward to the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Fourth, the East Asian region faces serious challenges in dealing with the production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs and the chemicals used to make them. The high-level debate at April’s United Nations General Assembly Special Session shaped comprehensive, rights-based approaches to this problem, founded on the international drug control conventions.

The outcome document, adopted unanimously by Member States, stressed a balance between criminal justice and law enforcement based on proportionality and the rule of law. It had a strong focus on prevention and the treatment of drug users. This outcome document is consistent with the approach of the United Nations.

I reiterate once again my deep concerns about the extrajudicial killings of suspected sellers and drug users, which are contrary to human rights law and the international drug conventions. I call on all countries to approach the drug problem in a comprehensive and balanced manner.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, as we address these immediate threats, we also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to buttress our long-term prospects for peace and prosperity for all, and the health of our planet.

The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement was a testament to the hard work, vision and partnership of governments, the private sector and civil society.

All of you have signed this landmark agreement. I thank the Governments of the United States, China and Laos for ratifying it in the past few days.

I strongly encourage those who have not ratified to deposit your legal instruments at the High-Level Event I will host in New York on 21 September.

The sooner the Paris Agreement enters into force, the sooner we will make the transition to an era of low-carbon growth and resilience.

Hand in hand with the Paris Agreement on climate change, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda offers great promise for all countries here.

I commend efforts at the G20 to align global economic targets with the 2030 Agenda, and to move forward with an Action Plan.

This new Agenda applies to all countries. Even the wealthiest must conquer poverty, pollution and prejudice. Even the poorest have lessons to teach all of us. You have all embraced the Agenda in spirit; now it is time to make it tangible in the daily lives of all your people.

As a step towards helping those furthest behind, I urge all countries here to participate in the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants that will be held in New York on 19 September.

I appreciate President Obama for his own initiative to deal with this issue at a Summit on 20 September.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, over the past ten years, I have seen East Asia make significant advances in conflict resolution, sustainable development, democratization and human rights.

East Asian countries met or nearly met almost all the Millennium Development Goals, setting an inspiring example for progress towards the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

Even as you face some daunting challenges, many countries are making rapid economic and social gains. East Asia is a key region for South-South cooperation and trade.

Engagement with the United Nations has grown across the board, from peacekeeping to humanitarian affairs. Our partnership is stronger than ever.

But there is still much work to do to ensure that everyone, throughout this region, enjoys basic freedoms, rights and opportunities.

I urge you to continue strengthening your regional architecture, so that it supports your efforts to resolve differences peacefully and take a common approach towards the global challenges that characterize our era.

Every country has an important role to play in ensuring that this interdependent region continues to advance on the path towards peace, prosperity, sustainable development and respect for human rights.

It has been a great privilege to have been able to work with the leaders of East Asia to achieve our common goals for peace, development and human rights.

Thank you, and I wish you a successful summit.

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