By FORMER PHILIPPINE SPEAKER JOSE DE VENECIA
(Remarks at the UPF Asia Pacific Summit 2019, November 18-20, 2019; Phnom Penh, Cambodia “Peace, Reconciliation, Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values”)
Our UPF conference here in this great capital by the banks of Mekong River is a fitting tribute to the Cambodian people whose indomitable spirit surmounted decades of armed, violent conflict, and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime which murdered more than two million Cambodians.
Despite the past tragedies and the current challenges being faced by the Cambodian people –- which in a sense are also besetting some other countries in our region –- Cambodia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been enjoying sustained economic growth and infrastructure development.
May we also pay homage to late great King Norodom Sihanouk, whose leadership and sacrifices gained independence for Cambodia and created the beginnings of the country’s modernization; and whose son, our colleague in the earlier Asian conferences, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was Hun Sen’s co-prime minister, and later, president of the National Assembly.
Community is the wave of the future
Over this last decade, the Asia-Pacific groupings clustered around ASEAN have contributed to reducing tensions in our home regions. But, looking forward to the next 15 to 20 years, the Asia-Pacific still seems the hemisphere with the greatest risk of major armed conflict.
The only real solution –- the only lasting solution –- to these tensions is to embed all our countries in a network of economic, political, and moral relationships –- in an Asia-Pacific community of consent and through a sustained dialogue among the great religions and great civilizations of Asia and the world. This is perhaps the formula for building regional and global peace that will endure.
Community, then, seems the wave of the future –- not only for ASEAN but for the whole of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific.
And it will be our generation’s burden –- and glory –- to lay the foundations on which these communal and moral structures are to be erected, so that those who come after us can then turn without distraction to the work of delivering our people from their bondage to poverty, ignorance, ill-health; to the ever-increasing threats of conflict, war, terrorism and extremism; and the new frightening challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.
A new economic ideology for developing countries
We live in a world where every aspect of ordinary life is being contested: our security by extremist terrorism; our accustomed politics by a great wave of populist rebellion; and conventional economics by the unintended consequences of globalization.
Thus, our globalizing world needs to develop a system of ideas and ideals that will make globalization work for all our peoples.
Particularly the nations and states just joining the global economy need practical lessons in “late industrialization” which is achieved by learning from earlier modernizers.
In my view, the East Asian idea of the market and the state not as competing but as complementary operating systems can become the basis of a new economic model — particularly for the poor countries entering the global economy for the first time. And I believe such a model should combine the best elements of both capitalism and socialism.
It has been my belief that the individual initiative that capitalism stimulates — combined with socialism’s compassion for those whom development leaves behind — should become the basic element of a new economic model for our globalizing world.
Obviously, building this new economic model won’t be easy. All we now know — from recent experience — is that the market by itself is not enough.
Capitalism’s natural drive is to maximize returns on capital. It has no internal governor to check its social behavior. Left to itself, the market remains indifferent to the ethical dimensions of what its workings do to vulnerable people.
Obviously, government must reassert its powers to regulate markets and protect the rights of people from runaway capitalism. Of course, government cannot solve all our problems. But government should do the things people cannot do for ourselves.
Before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC in 2009, at the United Nations University in Barcelona in 2011, and at the earlier conferences of ICAPP, UPF, and other international organizations, I proposed a review of the global political and economic system in the aftermath of the Wall Street meltdown at the time. I suggested then that there might be merit in bringing together the best elements of capitalism and socialism.
Best elements of capitalism and socialism
Today I propose once again that the concept could integrate the finer features of Germany’s “social market” economy and should operate under the aegis of a liberal constitutional democracy committed to free elections, free markets, and a free press.
In Beijing, the great Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping advocated — and started off — something similar: a Chinese “system neither Marxian socialism nor (Adam) Smithian capitalism but something in between and better — which can be called Confucian synergism.”
I do not know in detail what specific ideas and ideals will shape this new economic ideology. I only know we need to find today a way out of our seemingly endless cycles of boom-and-bust.
I also know we should respond to the needs, wants, and hopes of ordinary people the world over — whether those in the emerging countries or in the failed states or those peoples in advanced countries suffering from grave financial crisis — who desire no more than secure employments, adequate incomes, and decent livelihoods.
Institutionalizing/reviving the inter-faith Dialogue
We in the UPF and ICAPP campaigned in the UN General Assembly, in the UN Security Council, in the halls of the UN for an interfaith, intercultural, and inter-civilizational dialogue with our proposal to create an Interfaith Council in the UN at a time when it was still taboo to introduce religious issues into the UN system.
We pointed out that if creating a new council is overly difficult — as some legalists have warned — then, perhaps, we could write an interfaith mandate in the mission order of the Trusteeship Council of the UN which has anyway run out of trust territories to supervise.
We proposed as an interim concession that at least a focal point in the Office of the UN Secretary General be created and indeed it was approved by the UN.
From these “interfaith dialogues,” we should expect no miracles — except those epiphanies that result from open hearts, the willingness to see the other side’s viewpoint, and a multitude of patience.
On the raging Sunni-Shiite issues, wecannot discount the magnitude of the barriers that intense doctrinal separation has raised between these two great schools of Islam.
In my much earlier letters to Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I said it would be of great relief to our region and the world, if the two leaders of Islam, representing the Sunnis and Shiites, respectively, of the Muslim world, could perhaps meet in Mecca and bring about the beginnings of reconciliation and the end of violence in the lands of Islam.
It is most difficult but more than ever this urgent, absolutely necessary meeting between the two leaders of Islam must be set and undertaken and we pray that to some extent if it ever happens, it will succeed for the peace of the region and the world.
No to Cold War in the Asia Pacific
As the balance of global power shifts from West to East, we’ll also strive to help prevent the outbreak of a new Cold War in the Asia Pacific — by encouraging the peaceful rise of every emerging great power in the nations of the G-20 and in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); and supporting popular movements that advocate peaceful co-existence among the East Asian states.
Between Moscow and Washington — and between Washington and Beijing — mutual accommodation must be found, that gives the parties strategic reassurance and respect for their “core interests.”
Ironically, the hard peace between the earlier Cold War principals — the United States and the Soviet Union — enabled the smaller countries to enjoy well over a generation of political stability and economic growth.
For us in Asia, at least for a long while, the age of ideological conflict is and should be over. We declare we want no new Cold War in the Asia Pacific. It has been said that the Pacific Ocean is large enough for the great powers. And we see no reason the relationships between the great powers should be adversarial. We see no differences between them that sustained diplomacy and understanding and realpolitik cannot resolve.
One human family under God
With the multiple violent conflicts and outbursts of extremism in some of the areas of the Middle East and Africa, South Asia, Eurasia, and the terrible tolls on human life, more than ever, I say, we in the UPF, ICAPP, governments, parliaments, political parties, civil society organizations, and indeed all sectors must get our act together and work to promote peace and reconciliation, cooperation and dialogue, urge tolerance among our nations and peoples, understand the diversity of our cultures and religious beliefs, for indeed, in the last analysis, we all belong to “one great human family under God.”
With deep thanks to one and all and a good day.
Tags: Jose C. De Venecia Jr.