Mr. Nong Sakal, Director-General of ASEAN-Cambodia at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, gave a lecture at the United Nations University (UNU) Headquarters in Tokyo on 22 November 2012.
The lecture, entitled “Recent Developments in ASEAN: Achievements & the ASEAN Chair’s Perspective”, was held in the wake of the combined ASEAN Summit/East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (18 to 20 November 2012). That summit was hosted by Cambodia, which held the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012. Mr. Nong had been closely involved in the preparation of the summit, particularly with regard to political and security issues.
In his lecture, Mr. Nong outlined the history and achievements of ASEAN (the Association of South-East Asian nations) from its founding in 1967 to the present day, with particular focus on the accomplishments of Cambodia during its Chairmanship in 2012. One result of the recent summit in Phnom Penh was the adoption of Drug-Free ASEAN 2015, a declaration that commits all ASEAN member states to eradicate drug use by 2015. On the economic front, an important development was the adoption of the Phnom Penh Agenda on Community Building 2015, which reaffirms the commitment of member states to establish an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.
Also adopted at the summit was the Phnom Penh Declaration on “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”, in which ASEAN countries agreed to strive towards the continued integrity and prosperity of Southeast Asia with an eye to keeping it peaceful, stable and secure.
Following the lecture, Mr. Nong engaged with the audience in a question-and-answer session. Particular interest was expressed in the ongoing territorial issue in the South China Sea, where a number of ASEAN member states have overlapping claims with China. Mr. Nong stressed the desire of Cambodia to see the issue dealt with through friendliness; he also emphasized that the conflict cannot be settled in a short period of time.
Members of the audience also raised the issue of the widely differing cultures, religions and languages that make up the mosaic of the ASEAN people, emphasizing that bringing the peoples of ASEAN together would be more difficult than in the European Union. Mr. Nong, however, argued that despite the differences in cultures the ASEAN peoples share prosperity as a common goal.
Mr. Nong Sakal′s lecture was part of UNU’s Ambassador Lecture Series, a forum that provides an opportunity for UNU students, fellows and interns to directly engage with government officials on political, economic, and social issues.