Leaders and delegates from some 100 Asian and African countries gathered here Friday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference, also known Bandung Conference, and signed a Bandung Message to revitalize Asian-African partnership.
Security is beefed up here with police and military officers blocking the way heading to the historic raw white three-story Merdeka Building in the West Java capital, some 150 km south of Jakarta.
A high troupe of Asian and African leaders took a historic walk on the 50-meter-long street, between Savoy Homann, a 19-century grandiose hotel, and Merdeka Building, or the Independence Building — the same route of the then Asian-African leaders at their first summit in 1955 walked from their residence to the meeting venue. During the commemoration ceremony, leaders and delegates recalled the journey of Asian and African countries have gone through over the last 60 years.
Welcoming speeches were given by leaders from Indonesia, the host, Zimbabwe, co-chair of the conference, Egypt, representing African countries, Myanmar, representing Asian countries, and Venezuela, representing Observers.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for Asian and African countries to continue work towards prosperity by echoing the Bandung Spirit and forging partnerships based on equality.
Asian and African countries must work shoulder to shoulder to create prosperity through economic and trade cooperation, Widodo said.
The Spirit of Bandung, which highlighted solidarity, friendship and cooperation, will bring welfare to people, he said, stressing that the goals of Asian and African countries “must be materialized through cooperation.”
Widodo said that as the Indonesian president, he realized that Indonesia has not been freed from poverty and it is still left behind by developed countries in other parts of the world.
“This problem is also faced by friends in Asia and Africa,” he said.
He thus asked Asia and Africa to carry forward the Bandung Spirit, “continue the struggle of our leaders 60 years ago,” and promote mutual understanding and world peace.
Citing inadequate representation of Asian and African countries in the world’s multilateral system, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe stressed that “time has come for us to revive the Spirit of Bandung” in order to more effectively push the development agenda of the South.
He said that the China-spearheaded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) displays the voice of the South.
Time has also come to consider more options of securing the place of the South in global affairs, of which the AIIB is an example, according to the president.
His speech also tried to draw attention to the fact that trade flows between Asia and Africa have increased rapidly, but in a highly imbalanced way.
One of the major factors accounting for the huge imbalance is the Asian-African trade pattern, in which Africa’s exports are dominated by raw commodities and imports by manufactured goods.
“We can and must correct this unsustainable situation,” he said, stressing that African countries have thus decided to transform their economies through resource-based, value-added industrialization programs and projects.
This economic transformation agenda “offers immense opportunities for deeper cooperation between our countries,” through investment and technology transfers among other exchanges, Mugabe said.
He also underscored the need to “put in place programs that will bring our peoples in direct contact through cultural, sports, academic, business and other exchanges.”
Asian-African solidarity will be devoid of character and substance if it does not express and manifest itself in greater understanding between the two regions’ peoples, he noted.
“The value of our partnership should not be measured purely in trade terms, or monetary terms even, but more importantly, in the solidarity and friendship of our peoples,” Mugabe said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Myanmar President U Thein Sein stressed that the Bandung Spirit is still relevent to address the current challenges.
Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said that Asia and Africa should also unite with Latin America and the Caribbean to fight neo-colonialism.
“Economically we must never walk alone, we must do it together as a strong bloc, and assist other small countries in achieving independence, not only politically, but also economically,” he said, calling for a solid bloc among countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbeans.
After the speeches, representatives of Asian and African leaders signed the 41-item Bandung message to revitalize Asian- African partnership.
In the document, leaders of Asian and African countries committed to achieving sustainable development for the two continents by advancing cooperation in a wide range of fields, from combating transnational organized crime and terrorism to promoting tourism, trade, logistics, investment and transportation.
Meanwhile, April 24 has been declared as the Asian-African Day to celebrate solidarity, cooperation and partnership to promote world peace and prosperity, according to the message.
The commemoration is held after a two-day summit in Jakarta that adopted three important documents: the Bandung Message, the Declaration on Reinvigorating the New Asian African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) and the Declaration on Palestine.