The Socialist International Asia-Pacific Committee reaffirms its commitment to fulfilling the hopes of the people of this dynamic region for peace and security. In line with the work of our International throughout the world, we recognise that conflicts can be resolved only through political and not military means. We therefore reiterate our belief, based on long experience and restated in the recently issued appeal of the International for an end to the violence in the Middle East, that peace and security cannot exist without each other and that both can be maintained only through democratic rule and the practice of good governance.
Because of the fundamental importance of the political dimension, we remain committed, in solidarity with social democratic parties in all regions, to resolving conflicts through the promotion of dialogue and cooperation, both within nations and between them. In this regard, we fully support the efforts of the government in the Philippines, including the important role of our member Philippines Democratic Socialist Party, to seek, through negotiations, peaceful resolutions to internal conflicts and the inclusion of all segments of society into the democratic system.
The Committee advocates as well that in the pursuit of peace the Socialist International, which has within its family people of all religions, seek greater dialogue and common ground between our social democratic parties and moderate Muslim groups in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, an important country undergoing a difficult period of transition. Our International is closely following the situation and will be organising an SI delegation to Indonesia to strengthen relations with social democrats and other likeminded movements there.
The Committee also emphasises that terrorism, which has become such a tremendous threat to security in the world, must be fought in a number of different ways to be effective and not simply through a military response. This is particularly true in Afghanistan, but also in a number of countries in the Asia- Pacific region and elsewhere in the world as well. Crucial to the struggle are finding and implementing mechanisms to reduce poverty and marginalisation and to counter the negative effects of globalisation such as the widening of the gap between rich and poor, all of which tends to foster political extremism and violence. The Committee therefore remains engaged with our International in working on new ways to finance and increase development assistance for the hundreds of millions of people in Asia and worldwide who live in deep poverty on less than one dollar per day. The approach must also include concerted efforts to defend civilian populations caught amidst conflict, particularly refugee populations among whom women and children suffer the most.
As on previous occasions, the Committee underlines the importance of promoting and strengthening democracy in the overall effort to achieve peace and security. Rarely if ever do democracies initiate wars, democracies are best suited to collectively reducing nuclear threats and only democratic governance, with solid guarantees for workers' rights, can ensure that economic growth is equitable. The Committee further reiterates that the vitality of democracy and the strength of democratic institutions require the full respect for the rights of women, in law and in practice, particularly in our region where poverty and violence frequently impact women the worst because of their traditional societal roles.
With regard to specific areas and countries in the region, the Committee notes a mix of both positive and negative developments.
The Committee expresses its support for the recent revival of talks between South Korea and North Korea and the steps toward renewed progress in the process of reconciliation between the two countries. It further hopes that the latest warming trend will help facilitate the carrying out of an SI mission to both countries as part of its continuing efforts to enhance the prospects for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula.
There is also renewed hope in Sri Lanka, where a four-month ceasefire between the government and the Tamil separatists is still holding and the next stage of the peace process mediated by Norway is expected to get underway shortly.
At the same time, the Committee notes with great satisfaction that East Timor, where the longstanding involvement of the International combines our efforts on behalf of both peace and democracy, becomes an independent, democratic nation on 20 May. There are still enormous challenges ahead, but East Timor remains an example of how even the darkest moments can be overcome through people's determination for freedom, and international support and cooperation on their behalf.
In Burma, however, while the Committee recognises the efforts of the UN special envoy and the continuing talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime, the pace remains very slow and little has been done to improve the repressive conditions. The Committee therefore advocates that the International continue to press for profound and lasting democratic change based on the full restoration of political freedom, the end of the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of all political prisoners and the respect for the human rights of all Burmese people. Further, it strongly urges the military regime to transform the current but secret talks into a formal, substantive political dialogue in order to ensure that the process toward democracy is irreversible.
The Committee also remains very concerned about the situation in Nepal, where the Maoist insurgency broke the ceasefire last November and has since resorted to increasingly bloody attacks against the nation's democracy and democratic institutions, the elected government of our member Nepali Congress Party, innocent civilians, party workers of the Nepali Congress Party and many forms of infrastructure. The Committee urges increased solidarity and support by all members of the International on behalf of democracy and the preservation of democratic institutions in Nepal. In this regard, the International will be taking the concrete step of sending an SI mission to the country.
Kashmir also is going through a particularly violent period and the Committee remains concerned by the potential negative effects in a region already experiencing heightened tension. The Committee recognises the efforts of civic organisations working toward the restoration of democracy in Kashmir as a necessary step toward peace and urges India and Pakistan to find the common ground necessary to get a peace effort on track. The Committee also expresses serious concern about the Hindu-Muslim tension in India. At the same time, it reiterates its support for the full restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan and shares the concerns of the democratic political forces in that country in relation to the referendum announced for May.
In Malaysia, the Committee is concerned that anti-terrorist efforts, including the continued abuse of internal security legislation, are being utilised against legitimate political opposition. It reiterates its full support for SI member Democratic Action Party as it continues efforts under difficult conditions to maintain the momentum of the movement for democracy and the rule of law.
In the South Pacific, the Committee again expresses the solidarity of the International for the SI member Fiji Labour Party in its continuing efforts to return Fiji to democratic rule following the coup in 2000. The Committee is pleased that the courts have recently ruled in the party’s favour on crucial constitutional issues, but recognises that the struggle continues for the full restoration of democracy based on the 1997 constitution.
The Committee also has continuing concerns about the Solomon Islands, where ethnic conflict and lawlessness still threaten constitutional rule; Papua New Guinea, where ethnic tensions continue to undermine democratic procedures and the peace arrangement ending the Bougainville conflict remains fragile; and Vanuatu, where despite relative peace there have been ten governments in ten years and political uncertainty continues with the approach of elections in early May.