Brief Introduction for Meeting of Heads of Asia's Regional/Sub-regional Organizations
Origin:Boao Forum for Asia      Time:2013-12-13 14:51:03     Views:233436

  Mr. Tsogtsaikhan Gombo

    Acting Director, UNDP Tumen Secretariat

    Dear Chairman,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    First of all I would like to thank the organiser, particularly Secretary General Mr. Long Yongtu for giving us the opportunity to attend this astounding Annual Conference of BOAO Forum for Asia and the roundtable. Let me very briefly introduce to the participants of this roundtable the Tumen River Area Development Programme or commonly known as the Tumen Programme. 

    The Tumen Programme is the decade old initiative of five countries in Northeast Asia that promotes regional economic cooperation and integration in the region. The programme, with the strong support of the United Nations Development Programme or UNDP, has truly championed the ice breaking first efforts of the countries and the international community to restore peace and improve geopolitical conditions in once tense region of Northeast Asia at the end of the cold war era.

    The Tumen region, which is located in the remote corner of Asia, where China, the Russian Federation and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea today border, was until recently virtually a white spot in the world map, closed to even own citizens in some areas not to mention outsiders. Moreover when the Tumen Programme was initiated by the governments of five states of China, Russia, ROK, DPRK and Mongolia in 1991, the region was regarded as one of the turbulent corners of the world, with its war time memory and unfriendly, hostile relations between the states. Throughout the last century the Tumen region had been subjected to historical upheavals of competing nations hence has a colourful history. 

    This rich historical heritage coupled with the natural beauty of the Tumen river valley may have played a magnifying role in choosing the name and location of this historical international forum that still enjoys the only title. Although there are many other regional cooperation initiatives and discussion forums in Northeast Asia the Tumen Programme is the only formal cooperation mechanism that was established by international treaty agreement, signed by the governments of the participating countries.  

    The region, provinces, their economies have all changed during the decade. The three bordering provinces of China, Russia and the DPRK have opened their doors to each other and the region to the rest of the world. The economy of the provinces has been grown fast with a dramatic increase in cross border economic exchange from a zero level just a few years ago. Despite remoteness from the economic and political centres, world markets and the perceived image of being backwater in the respective countries foreign direct investment is steadily increasing.

    Successful economic cooperation in turn played an important stabilising and facilitating role in improving underlying geopolitical conditions. However the most valuable, irreversible change that has occurred during these years is people, their mindset, appreciation and understanding of economic cooperation.

    The second dimension of the Tumen Programme is the whole of Northeast Asian subregion. From its onset the programme endeavoured to contribute to peace and stability in the subregion through policy dialogue and economic cooperation measures among the member states. The programme provided much needed discussion forum for all six countries in the subregion as well as for the broader international community especially at the beginning when the Tumen Programme was the only venue that can bring in by then seclusive state of DPRK. The sixth country in Northeast Asia- Japan is not yet a member of the programme but participates some activities of the programme at the observer's capacity.

    In short the UNDP supported Tumen Programme has brought about initially envisaged changes to this once distant corner of the world, contributed to peace and stability of the region, helped to the countries and provinces to peacefully co-exist and cooperate for wellbeing of their people.

    The Tumen Programme has not certainly evolved without difficulties and problems. Resources for development funding, ups and downs in geopolitical conditions of the subregion, discrepancies in national policies over the regional cooperation in Northeast Asia, security and other concerns of member states have all played own positive, negative roles in development of the programme hence on the advancement of regional cooperation and integration in the subregion.

    As far as the future of the Tumen Programme is concerned one thing can be said with certainty is that the national governments of all six countries in the subregion today fully understand the tremendous unrealised potential of the united Northeast Asia. There will be enormous synergy to be generated from closer economic cooperation among the countries whether it is in the form of establishing common market or economic community or even creating an all encompassing political block. And the countries, their governments are more and more aware of that the timing for such engagement in the subregion is now ripe. The Tumen Programme with its well established institutional and legal framework can play a key role in such undertakings in Northeast Asia.  

    At the request of the programme member states the Tumen Secretariat has recently developed a proposal to create a region wide cooperation mechanism. This year's major event, the TRADP Intergovernmental Meeting, which is held annually at the vice ministerial level from the participating countries, and scheduled for late June, will discuss the future course of the programme including the proposal. We are confident that the programme will continue contributing to forge good neighborly, friendly relations between the countries through regional economic cooperation initiatives.

    It is very meaningful for BOAO forum to organise this round table discussion not only because the forum is maturing so fast in its way to become an opinion leader in Asian and world affairs but also the trend of globalisation and regionalisation is becoming a powerful drive for development of human societies in this century. I believe that BOAO Forum will gain its strength from conference to conference and will contribute to the development of the region and wellbeing of its people.

    There is all reason to believe that the Tumen Programme and BOAO Forum for Asia can have mutually beneficial cooperation in promoting regional integration in Northeast Asian subregion, which is widely regarded as the soon-to become growth engine of the world. Joining efforts of the interested parties in fostering regionalism in Northeast Asia is more relevant and more critical given the late start and slow pace of cooperative movement among the countries in the subregion. There is certainly an ample room for BOAO Forum to play a bigger role in regional cooperation promotion in Northeast Asia.               

    Thank you again for making possible us to attend this important event in Asia and wish all the success to BOAO Forum for Asia.  

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