Albright Intervention at the ASEAN Meeting (1)
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright Intervention at the ASEAN 10+1 Meeting Bangkok, Thailand, July 28, 2000 As released by the Office of the Spokesman U.S. Department of State
(Text as prepared for release)
I am pleased to be in Bangkok and look forward to this ten plus one session. Malaysia has done an outstanding job as our dialogue coordinator these past three years. So I want to congratulate and thank Foreign Minister Hamid. And I am confident that our conversations during the next three years will be equally productive with Vietnam in the coordinating role.
These ten plus one sessions are a useful complement to our other meetings here at ASEAN. They give us a chance, in a small group, to focus on the many dimensions of cooperation among members of the Asia Pacific community.
For example, ASEAN nations played a key role in restoring order in East Timor after violence erupted following last year's consultation on independence. Several ASEAN members, including Thailand and the Philippines remain important participants in the UN peacekeeping operation.
This matters because nearby countries can provide a unique and helpful perspective to international peace operations. And it demonstrates the vital contribution ASEAN can make to regional security. The United States is pleased to play a strong supporting role.
The most significant area of U.S.-ASEAN security cooperation is what we refer to broadly as transnational issues. These are subjects that relate directly to the quality of life our citizens enjoy, but which require multilateral action. No nation can fully protect its citizens from international crime, environmental degradation and disease through its own actions. We need to help each other--and we are.
The production and sale of illegal drugs is a huge problem for members of ASEAN, and for the United States. To counter it, we are striving to move ahead on all fronts, working together to reduce demand, cut supply, intercept shipments and disrupt criminal organizations.
The United States has a history of close cooperation with most ASEAN countries on narcotics issues. We fund training programs bilaterally and through the UN. And we are committed to exploring strategies that will succeed region-wide, because we know that, in fighting drugs, we are often only as strong as our weakest link.
One very positive development over the past year has been our progress in responding to the growing problem of trafficking in human beings.
At the 1999 PMC, I announced that the U.S. and the Philippines would jointly sponsor a regional conference on this subject. The Philippines subsequently did a fine job in organizing and hosting that event, which drew strong support from ASEAN members, and resulted in plans for concrete action. As an example, I announced this morning a $1 million U.S. grant to the International Labor Organization to combat trafficking in children.
It is vital that we sustain the momentum of our efforts in this area. Last year, I visited NGO projects in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that are assisting women and children who have been victimized by traffickers. Such initiatives serve as a reminder that what we say and do together can have a direct and beneficial impact on people's lives. But to succeed, we must be honest about the extent of the challenges we face, and determined in our joint efforts to address them.
One very tangible demonstration of our seriousnesss is the new and already expanding International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok. Strengthening the rule of law requires people skilled in the enforcement and administration of law. The Academy's training programs are a clear expression of America's commitment to work in partnership with ASEAN to combat the plagues of corruption and crime.
The United States also shares ASEAN's concern about environmental degradation. It is essential to sustainable development that we preserve the richness of this region's natural resources and the health of its fragile ecosystems.
We have been pleased to coordinate with you through our regionwide Environmental Initiative to respond to such problems as forest fires, coral reef degradation and pollution. We have begun a new Environmental Diplomacy Fund to support negotiations on toxic chemicals, climate change, sea turtles and other concerns. And AID's U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership is also active in this part of the world.
My fellow ministers, I look forward to our discussion, and want once again to express my thanks for the opportunity to focus on these issues. Clearly, the need for cooperation among our countries will continue to increase as challenges that span international borders grow. ASEAN provides an indispensable means for organizing and directing our shared efforts, and I am confident that it will do so even more effectively in years to come.
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