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AEPF9: Citizens of Asia, Europe seek path to prosperity

Vientiane Times, Oct 17, 2012

The Asia-Europe People’s Forum is a great opportunity for sharing wisdom, ideas and experience and furthering the comprehensive development of every country in Asia and Europe, in response to people’s legitimate aspirations. Dr Thongloun Sisoulith addresses the opening ceremony of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Vientiane on Tuesday. This was the message from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Thongloun Sisoulith, delivered at the opening ceremony of the forum at the National Culture Hall in Vientiane yesterday.

About 800 people from the two continents are attending the forum under the theme “People’s Solidarity against Poverty, Injustice, Inequality and for Sustainable Development, Building States of Citizens for Citizens”. The forum, which will run until Friday, will discuss lessons and experiences in bringing prosperity to the people of the two continents on the basis of sustainability. Dr Thongloun said he believed the forum would be a platform to consolidate the unity of the peoples of the two continents with a view to enhancing mutual understanding, friendship and bonds, as well as further deepening understanding of each nation’s aspirations, specificities, historical background and unique culture and traditions.

“Over the past 16 years and through the organisation of the previous eight Asia-Europe People’s Forums, discussions have highlighted the strong aspiration of peoples of all regions to live in peace and dignity as well as to enjoy a better and sustainable lifestyle,” he said. “The voice of the people that reflects their aspirations can help their respective governments to carefully study and formulate a policy and national development strategy, taking into account the specifics and reality of the situation throughout each country’s history.”

Dr Thongloun explained that in the early 20th century, people in various regions, including Asia, struggled for their independence and dignity. For almost seven decades, the people continued their fight to safeguard their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as to strengthen sustainable development. As a result, concrete achievements have been made. This has ensured peace in many countries of the two regions, living standards have improved, and people are benefiting from development and various services. The advancement of development has provided a conducive environment for people to pursue a livelihood, which has brought a sense of happiness and deepest satisfaction, reflecting the opinions and views of citizens.

“I would like to take this opportunity to share my view that sometimes material advancement does not necessarily reflect a genuine moral civilisation. For instance, Bhutan has proposed that the international community consider a new indicator for happiness. The Bhutanese are considered the happiest people in the world, but Bhutan is not by any means an advanced industrialised country,” Dr Thongloun said. “We should be objective and admit a reality, which has both positive and negative sides.

This also applies to development. Rapid development does bring about enormous benefits to all people but, at the same time, it also entails numerous negative social consequences. It is important that we understand with objectivity the causes of those negative consequences.” He went on to say that today the world is facing serious challenges that are of great concern and threat to the daily life of people in many countries. The international community, including Asia and Europe, has made a tremendous effort to address these challenges and mitigate the impacts. The Asia-Europe People’s Forum will hold workshops in different venues around Vientiane today.

Moderator’s note 22 Oct 2012: The Final Declaration of the AEPF9 can be downloaded here.

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