Outcomes from the 2015 Asian-African Conference Commemoration, which took place last month, are seen falling short of those from the historical event of 60 years ago, with today’s geopolitical shifts witnessing nations of both continents growing gradually apart — barely united under a single cause.
By Jakarta Globe on 09:35 pm May 05, 2015
Jakarta. Outcomes from the 2015 Asian-African Conference Commemoration, which took place last month, are seen falling short of those from the historical event of 60 years ago, with today’s geopolitical shifts witnessing nations of both continents growing gradually apart — barely united under a single cause.
When Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, hosted the inaugural event in the West Java capital of Bandung in 1955, Asian and African countries were facing a common enemy: Western colonialists, says Bantarto Bandoro, a lecturer with the Indonesian Defense University.
Leaders from the two continents were united under a single cause, namely to gain independence and reject the influence of the Western and Eastern power blocs.
“But we see the 60th anniversary commemorations as being full of rhetoric. The meetings didn’t produce anything concrete,” Bantarto told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “We couldn’t even feel their sense of belonging. It seems that delegates made an appearance only because they wanted to be seen as committed to the Asian-African solidarity.”
Bantarto said he saw no real “collective efforts” to address pressing problems plaguing some Asian and African nations, adding that event participants tended to be more “individualistic” with their own countries’ needs.
Of the three documents produced during the conclusion of the commemorative event on April 24, the lecturer said he found nothing new and nothing of substance; they contained the same old declarations wrapped in a “new package.”
More than 20 heads of state attending the Asian-African Summit in Jakarta and Bandung from April 22 to 24 signed three documents at the conclusion of the event as part of the anniversary commemorations, namely the Bandung Message, the Declaration on Palestine and the Declaration on Reinvigorating the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership.
In addition to supporting Palestine’s “inalienable right to self-determination,” which is mentioned throughout all three documents, delegates also reiterate their commitment to Asian-African solidarity by strengthening economic, trade and investment cooperation, and bolstering partnerships against extremism, terrorism, racism and discrimination.
They also call for reforms within the United Nations, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, arguing that the world order has changed and the UN, too, must change accordingly.
Cooperation in the development of the maritime sector, in line with President Joko Widodo’s vision to develop Indonesia as a global maritime fulcrum, is also mentioned in the documents.
They also touched on Indonesia’s chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, saying it is “welcome.”
Toning down his criticism, Bantarto said the ceremonial gestures, despite their lack of substance, could help maintain solidarity between Asian and African nations. However, he again emphasized that they were no longer sailing on the same boat.
China, for example, has grown into a new superpower, becoming a threat to some Southeast Asian nations, while several African countries have been plagued with internal conflicts in which Asian and African nations have vowed not to interfere — according to the documents.
“As soon as they go home, they’ll forget [about their AAC commitments]. They will once again be busy with their own [respective] problems,” he said. “If the objective of the event was to maintain solidarity, the ceremonial aspects were fitting. But you can’t expect [leaders] to go beyond that unless you have a real, concrete agenda for future challenges.”
Ultimately, Bantarto saw the event as “a waste of time, money and energy.”
“The problem is, this Asian-African conference is just a movement without an institutional basis,” he added.
Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations lecturer with Bandung’s Padjadjaran University (Unpad), has taken a contrasting stance, calling the Declaration on Palestine and the calls for reforms in the UN significant outcomes.
“The [organizational] structure of the UN is too strong and that has been going on for far too long; it is outdated. There are other countries now that better understand how to deal with the world, such as Japan, Germany and Australia,” Rezasyah said last month, specifically referring to the permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
With regards to Palestine, Rezasyah pointed out how the veto right continually exercised by the United States has blocked all attempts at building an independent Palestinian state that is free from the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian debate has long been an issue for the Non-Aligned Movement, most of whose members are AAC participants, with Palestine being the only participant of the 1955 conference that still has yet to gain its independence.
“We deplore the fact that sixty years since the Bandung Conference, the Palestinian people remain deprived of their rights, freedom and independence; that millions of Palestinians are still living under occupation and as refugees; and that this historic injustice continues,” reads an article in the Declaration on Palestine.
Rezasyah believes reforms in the UN, more specifically the Security Council, is the only solution for the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“As long as there are no reforms within the UN, there will be no end to this matter. Joko is correct in demanding change; the calls for reforms in the UN are strong.”
“The question remains: Will there be a follow-up?”