|Remarks by Mr. XU Hong at the Panel Discussion on Multilateral Diplomacy at 70|
As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, many international organizations are reflecting on the remarkable role and value of the UN in the past seven decades. The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) is the only platform across Asia and Africa for consultation and cooperation on international law. It is thus both timely and significant for us to have this panel discussion during the current UNGA Session. I wish to thank the AALCO Secretariat and Permanent Observer Dr. Roy S. Lee for their hard work. I feel privileged to attend this panel discussion to share with you my observations on the UN and the development of international law.
I. A Review of History: the UN's Contribution to the Development of International Law
Seventy years ago, the earlier generation of mankind established the UN after victory of the Anti-Fascist War. This is an epoch-making event in human history and a milestone in the development of international law. At the 54th Annual Session of AALCO in Beijing last April, discussions were held about the UN's role in the development of international law. It was widely believed that the international system underpinned by the UN and its Charter has played an irreplaceable role in maintaining world peace and promoting common development. Let me elaborate from the following aspects:
— The UN Charter provides the basis for contemporary international law. Principles enshrined in the UN Charter, including sovereign equality, non-interference in others' domestic affairs, settling disputes by peaceful means, non-use of force and fulfilling international obligations in good faith, have become the yardsticks for the international community to judge whether a country's act is lawful or just. These principles have been widely recognized and observed by countries in the world.
— The UN has expanded the role and scope of international law. The collective security mechanism with the Security Council at its center has provided strong safeguards for world peace and development. The UN General Assembly have adopted a plethora of international instruments by consultations, covering the political field, security, disarmament, economy and trade, social development, human rights protection, humanitarian endeavors, health, the sea, environmental protection, climate change, intellectual property, combating terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption and various transnational crimes. Together, they form a systematic and comprehensive global governance structure. The Legal Committee of the UN General Assembly, the International Law Commission of the UN, the UN Commission on International Trade Law, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space, and the UN Human Rights Council, among others, have kept the international law vibrant and up to date by interpreting and applying relevant international rules. The International Court of Justice, with its verdict and advisory opinions, has also played an irreplaceable role in peacefully resolving international disputes. In addition, "soft laws" such as Declarations of the UN General Assembly have been inexhaustible drivers of the development of international law.
— The UN has strengthened the rule of law in international relations. The fundamental value of the UN is to reject the rule of the jungle, advance the rule of law in international relations, and promote fairness and justice so that international law will increasingly become an important safeguard for peace and security, for development and human rights, and for fairness and justice. The prevailing trend in our world today is to uphold peace and stability and promote win-win cooperation on the basis of international law. And it is the broad consensus of the international community that everyone should operate within the boundaries of international law.
II. The AALCO Perspective: Developing Countries' Contribution to the Development of International Law
Sixty years ago, delegates from 29 Asian and African countries, the majority of which had just gained independence from colonial rule, gathered in Bandung, Indonesia. It was a moment when developing countries came to the international stage as a new force, and a new chapter opened in the history of the UN. Developing countries started to take part in the international legislation at the UN platforms as equal entities. This has enabled international law to develop from the so-called "law between civilized nations" in its early days to the law of global reach between equal states. This has also significantly increased the representation and universality of the UN, and injected fresh impetus to the development of international law.
— Developing countries have actively applied and developed basic principles of international law. The Bandung Conference established the ten principles governing state-to-state relations with emphasis on sovereignty, human rights, equality and cooperation, echoing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Drawing upon the UN Charter, China, India and Myanmar jointly put forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which ushered in a new era for interactions between countries different in ideology and social system, and enriched and advanced the basic principles of international law based on the UN Charter.
— Developing countries have taken an active part in and contributed significantly to international legislation. Ideas initiated by AALCO such as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Archipelagic States have been incorporated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and concepts such as sovereignty over natural resources and common but differentiated responsibilities proposed by developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have become important guiding principles in the development area. In recent years, AALCO has, building on past achievements and with a keen understanding of the trend in the development of international law, carried out in-depth discussions on many important topics such as the law of the sea, international law in the cyberspace, counter-terrorism and violent extremism, environment and sustainable development, and contributed Asian-African perspective and ideas to relevant international legislation.
— Developing countries have upheld international fairness and justice. Developing countries believe in developing state-to-state relations featuring mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit based on the principles of international law. They earnestly fulfill their treaty obligations according to the principle of “pacta sunt servanda”, effectively promoting the development of international rule of law. AALCO members make judgments in keeping with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, speak up for developing countries on the Palestine-Israel issue and other issues, uphold the common interests of developing countries and work to promote international fairness and justice.
III. A Future of New Opportunities and Challenges
The world today has come to a historical turning point. The international balance of power is shifting profoundly with the rapid rise of emerging markets and a large number of developing countries. The trend toward a multi-polar and globalized world is gaining momentum. Democracy and the rule of law have gained more popular support. Countries are more interdependent with the awareness of a community of shared future stronger than ever. At such a historical juncture, international law faces bright prospects of development. The basic principles enshrined in the UN Charter are strengthened and there is a stronger force for a fairer and more equitable international order. Dialogue, exchange and harmonious coexistence have become the prevailing trend of international relations, and it is a widely shared consensus to build international mechanisms, observe international rules and pursue international justice.
At the same time, we are still constantly reminded by the hot-spot issues such as the European refugee crisis and turmoil in the Middle East that today’s world is still confronted with many problems and challenges. Hegemony, power politics and “neo-interventionism” in various forms remain widely seen. Terrorism, cyber security, food security, climate change and other global issues keep emerging, the wealth gap and digital divide caused by uneven development are widening, and there are still attempts to deny the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, reverse the historical verdict on aggression and violate the basic norms of the UN Charter. Mankind still has a long way to go toward the ideal of universal peace and common development.
These new circumstances make it imperative for developing countries to work together to promote international rule of law, firmly defend the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and jointly build a community of shared future for mankind.
— The UN’s status must be upheld. The role of the UN is to be strengthened, not weakened, and its authority to be upheld, not undermined. Conflicts and injustices occur in today’s world not because the purposes and principles of the UN Charter have become outdated, but they have yet to be effectively implemented. Developing countries should join hands to build the UN into a strong safeguard for international peace and security, and an active promoter of world development and prosperity.
— Equity and justice must be advocated. We should continue to promote democracy and the rule of law in international relations, uphold equity and justice in international relations, and apply those universally-recognized rules in making Judgments, pursuing peace and seeking development. Countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are all equal members of the international community, and hence should equally participate in the making of international rules and exercise their rights in accordance with law. No country should violate the rights or interests of others in the name of “the rule of law”.
— Developing countries’ needs must be addressed on a priority basis. The UN needs to do more to heed the calls of developing countries, address their needs, and increase their representation and voice in the UN and relevant international institutions. We should use the 2030Sustainable Development Agenda as an opportunity to deepen partnerships and make new strides in the course of global development.
— New issues and challenges in international law should be tackled with joint efforts. Developing countries should get deeply involved in the international legislation processes on cyber, outer space, sea bed, counter terrorism and climate change. Countries should follow the basic principles of international law, build a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace, actively leverage the UN’s role as the main channel, and discuss new rules regarding the fight against cyber-enabled crimes, behaviors in the cyberspace and international cyber governance mechanisms. We should uphold the peaceful use of outer space and oppose arms race in or the introduction of weapons into outer space. We should uphold the principle of common heritage of mankind, promote the formulation of regulations on the exploration and development of international sea-bed resources. We should fight terrorism in all its manifestations and formulate the comprehensive convention against international terrorism on the basis of the UN Charter and universally recognized principles of international law. We should build a global climate governance system that is fair, equitable and win-win based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, equity and respective capabilities.
IV. China’s Contribution to Defending and Building International Rule of Law
At the General Debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out China’s propositions on how the UN could better address the central issue of world peace and development under the new historical environment. He clearly pointed out that “we should renew our commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, build a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and create a community of shared future for mankind.” He also made a solemn commitment that China will continue to participate in building world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold the international order. This sets the broader context for one to appreciate China’s commitment to supporting the UN and defending international rule of law.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the reform and opening up in particular, the Chinese government has attached great importance to international law. While abiding by the widely recognized basic principles of international law and fulfilling its obligations of international treaties, China has also actively applied international law in safeguarding its lawful rights and interests, and taken an active part in the development and innovation of international law. In a word, China has been deeply involved in upholding and developing international law and the international system.
China has vigorously participated in the negotiation and conclusion of bilateral and multilateral treaties and encouraged all countries to follow unified rules of international law in international relations to uphold and strengthen international rule of law. Since it restored its lawful seat in the UN and all its bodies in 1971, China has joined over 400 multilateral treaties, and participated in all specialized UN agencies and most of the inter-governmental organizations, fully integrating itself into the contemporary international order. In recent years, by formulating the Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China has promoted the international rule of law in related areas and contributed to regional and global stability, development and prosperity.
China has been active in contributing Chinese wisdom to international rule of law and set Chinese examples. In the 1950s, China, together with India and Myanmar, initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and with other Asian and African countries the Ten Principles of Bandung. Last year, China, India and Myanmar held a commemorative activity marking the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which brought the importance of the Five Principles to a new high. During the UNGA general debate, President Xi Jinping expounded on the propositions of building a community of shared future of mankind and a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation. They are China's efforts to carry forward and further develop the spirit of the UN Charter. These ideas bring new values to the international rule of law and make distinctive Chinese mark on the contemporary international relations.
In face of new international environment, China will stay committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and endeavor to help make the international order and international system more just and equitable, especially increase the representation and say of emerging markets and developing countries in the international governance system. China is ready to work with other countries to establish partnerships based on equality, consultation and mutual understanding, set up a fair and just security architecture developed and shared by all, pursue open, innovative and inclusive development of mutual benefit, promote exchanges of civilizations featuring inclusiveness and harmony in diversity, foster a nature-friendly eco-system for green development and build a community of shared future of mankind. This is China's position and proposition for future international relations, and key ideas and values that China upholds in pushing forward international rule of law.
V. Milestone of Asian-African Solidarity and Collaboration: the Beijing Annual Session
China has assumed AALCO Presidency of the 54th Annual Session. I wish to use this opportunity to brief you on this annual session.
This year's session was held in Beijing in April. Around 250 representatives from 42 AALCO member states, seven observer states and several international organizations attended the session. Twenty three countries were represented by officials at or above vice ministerial level, and UN Under-Secretary-General Serpa Soares attended the session as special representative of the UN Secretary-General. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended and addressed the opening ceremony. After reviewing the splendid journey that Asian and African countries have traveled in jointly pursuing a just and equitable international order since the Bandung Conference, Premier Li made constructive propositions on how Asian and African countries can work together to promote world peace and development and fairness and justice under new circumstances.
During the 54th Annual Session which focuses on upholding post-war international order and advancing international rule of law, a special event marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference and an international colloquium on the UN Charter and the Post-war International Order were held. Discussions covered international law in cyber space, fight against terrorism and violent extremism, law of the sea, environment and sustainable development and other important issues of international law. Eleven resolutions were adopted on reinforcing the role of AALCO and strengthening Asian-African solidarity and cooperation.
To join other Asian and African countries in promoting international rule of law and injecting new momentum into AALCO, China announced at the annual session to launch the China-AALCO exchange and research program on international law. In July this year, the first training course took place in Xia’men and 22 trainees from 14 Asian and African countries participated. The Chinese side is working hard to prepare for next year's program and we welcome the active participation of all member states.
I also brought from Beijing pamphlets of this China-hosted Annual Session. Feel free to take a copy.