The Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC) was founded in Bangkok on Sept 5, 2012 by a group of world statesmen and former policy-makers consisting mainly of former heads of state, heads of government, cabinet ministers such as foreign and finance ministers, businessmen, as well as distinguished academics and peace experts, some of whom are still serving in their respective governments.
Among the founding members are Tun Abdullah Badawi, Malaysia's former prime minister ; Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's former prime minister; Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia's former vice-president; Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesia's former foreign affairs minister; Shunmugam Jayakumar, Singapore's former deputy prime minister, foreign affairs minister and senior minister; Tan Sri Dato Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia's former foreign affairs minister and former home affairs minister; Jose Isidro Camacho, the Philippines' former finance secretary and the current vice-chairman of Credit Suisse Asia-Pacific; Weerasak Kowsurat, Thailand's former tourism and sport minister; Tej Bunnag, Thailand's former foreign affairs minister and current assistant secretary-general to the Thai Red Cross Society; Juha Christensen, director of the Peace Architecture and Conflict Transformation Alliance (Pacta) Finland; and ambassador Virasakdi Futrakul, the secretary-general of the APRC who is former permanent secretary of Thailand's foreign affairs ministry.
Since December 2012, the secretariat has been established at Eastern Asia University near Bangkok.
The purpose of the APRC is to be an Asian mechanism for regional peace and reconciliation. Its aim is to mobilise the collective wisdom and experience of Asian statesmen and experts to reduce regional or domestic tension and assist the peaceful solution to regional or domestic conflicts as the case may be, thereby fostering a peaceful regional environment in Asia conducive to the expansion of political and economic cooperation.
!Toward this goal, the APRC is in the process of creating a network of experienced individuals from within and outside of Asia, whose expertise and connections can help to promote peace dialogue and reconciliation and reduce tension arising from conflicts in the region. The APRC will be a platform where collective expertise can be shared, research funded and experts deployed to assist in peace dialogue, peace-building, conflict management and reconciliation upon the request of governments and communities facing political, social, cultural and religious conflicts or facing tensions in bilateral relations.
The APRC's operations will complement the work of the United Nations and will support Asean and other regional processes.
The APRC is unique because, firstly, council members have a wealth of knowledge and experiences not only in promoting peace but also in bureaucracy, international relations, social and political realities and constraints in decision-making process.
Secondly, members, because of their diverse backgrounds, have comfortable relations with parties to the conflicts at different levels.
Thirdly, under the APRC, council members will put their resources together and act collectively. Such synergy will help reduce tensions and create peace. Their expertise and experiences can help governments, societies, communities to solve conflicts peacefully.
The APRC will uphold the non-intervention principle and operate only upon the request of parties to the conflict, be those of governments or local communities.
Silent diplomacy will be the core principle in the APRC's operations. Negotiations and coordination will be done discreetly and in confidentiality. Experts can be deployed to speak with all parties to the conflict and their "good office" can be used to encourage and assist parties concerned toward finding peace amid conflict.
The principal criteria for the APRC's engagement in any peace process is the consent of all concerned parties for APRC's involvement.
The APRC will also be guided in its operations by having an awareness of the comfort level of all concerned parties.
In summary, the APRC, which is an independent, international and non-governmental organisation with a secretariat based in Thailand, will do the following:
- Deploy individuals to provide "good offices" for governments and communities in conflict.
- Provide an experienced and expert resource for countries to draw upon in supporting peace and reconciliation.
- Advocate and provide help to countries and communities to find solutions to conflicts.
- Generate information and offer policy recommendations on peace-building and reconciliation to governments and regional institutions.
Our plan in 2013 is to meet policy-makers and leaders of countries in the region. In these meetings, we will emphasise the principles of the APRC _ non-interference, silent or quiet diplomacy, consent and comfort awareness of all concerned parties.
We will discuss areas where the organisation can be helpful in creating peace dialogue and finding solutions to conflicts and tensions within the region.
The founding members of the APRC's foremost priority is to use their experiences to contribute to fostering a peaceful environment in Asia that would be conducive to its peace and prosperity.
Asia is at a historic crossroads. Never in modern history has Asia's prosperity risen to such a high level. However, never has Asia's peace been so threatened by international and domestic tensions and confrontations over territorial claims fuelled by nationalism and competing demands for food, energy and natural resources.
Economic prosperity in Asia today is threatened by political conflicts that can erupt suddenly into military confrontations. This is why the founding members of the APRC have decided the time has come to work together for a peaceful environment in our region so that Asia will continue to fulfil its destiny in this century.
Edited excerpts from the speech of APRC chairman and former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai in Indonesia yesterday.
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Writer: Surakiart Sathirathai