23 April 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Asian-African Conference, which has taken place all week in Bandung, Indonesia, marks another major milestone in strengthening of ties between Asian and African countries and peoples.
In 1955, 29 countries from Asia and Africa, many of them newly independent, gathered in Bandung to strengthen their sovereignty, independence, and neutrality. The movement was later transformed into a Non-Aligned Movement to counter threats posed by the Cold War. Cambodia was a founding member of the movement.
In the last 60 years, regional and global circumstances have changed significantly. The Conference, a bridge linking Asia and Africa, has been reformed to address emerging issues confronting both regions and beyond.
The agenda of the Asian-African Conference, or Bandung Conference, has broadened. In the Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership in 2005, cooperation covers three broad areas of partnership: political solidarity, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural relations.
This year is a special year. It marks the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference and 10th anniversary of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership. Delegates from 109 Asian and African countries, 16 observer countries, and 25 international organizations were invited to the meeting to commemorate.
At the conference, leaders called for restructuring the global order to be more inclusive and just. They stressed the importance of strengthening global norms with an emphasis on self-determination, equality, and non-intervention.
Speaking at the conference, the Indonesian host, President Joko Widodo, urged for the reconfiguration of the global economic order. He stated: “It’s imperative that we build a new international order that is open to new emerging economic powers.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “a new type of international relations.”
“The deepening cooperation of Asian and African countries could generate a ‘one plus one is more than two’ effect […] we need to deepen regional and cross-regional cooperation and promote liberalization of trade and investment.” Xi added.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen stressed the principles of self-determination and non-interference as foundations of international peace, stability, and development. He added that it is necessary to transform South-South cooperation into “a potential instrument of sustainable development and global prosperity.”
South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa urged for deepening economic cooperation between the two continents in the new era of global trade.
“Today our people are reaffirming a commitment made in 1955 and again in 2005 with the Asian-African strategic partnership that recognized the urgency to promote economic development in Asia and Africa,” stated Ramaphosa.
1955 Ideals Still Relevant
From the standpoint of the developing world, the Bandung spirit, which refers to the 10 principles of the 1955 Bandung Conference, remains relevant in contemporary world affairs.
The new directions of the conference reflect a commitment of Asian and African leaders to restructure an existing unfair world economic order mainly shaped by developed economies.
Leaders demand a more inclusive global economic system that is more open to the developing world. Trade, investment, infrastructure development, and sustainable development are four core areas of future cooperation between these two rising continents.
How far the Bandung spirit and the struggle to restructure the world economic order can be concretized depends on political will and capacity of conference member countries. They need to build an inclusive political and economic structure at home while promoting such norm abroad. People-centered regional integration and economic development deserve more attention at the conference.
China and India may need to take stronger leadership role in the group’s commitment and development agenda. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and BRICS New Development Bank can serve as core financial instruments to develop infrastructure and economic corridors between the two continents.