Statement by the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Mr. K P Sharma Oli at the 26th International Conference on the Future of Asia
May 20-21, 2021
Theme: Shaping the Post COVID Era: Asia’s Role in the Global Recovery
Mr. President of Nikkei Incorporated,
Ladies and Gentleman.
I feel honoured and privileged to have this opportunity to attend, though virtually, the 26th International Conference on ‘The Future of Asia’.
Over the years, this Conference has provided a significant platform to deliberate the issues of regional and global significance and contributed to our quest for solidarity and cooperation among the countries in the Asia Pacific region. I thank the Nikkei for this initiative.
The theme for this year, ‘Shaping the Post COVID Era: Asia’s Role in the Global Recovery’, is quite topical. I am confident that our discussion will contribute to strengthening Asian solidarity as we all strive to battle out the deadly virus and embark on the post COVID rebuild.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Past few years have become a watershed in world’s history. We have witnessed a sea change in international geopolitical landscapes. Of all the changes we have seen and we have gone through, Asia’s resurgence has become a phenomenal one.
Indeed, Asia has undergone fundamental and unparalleled transformation rarely seen in its history – in lifting millions of people out of poverty, in achieving technological advancement and in many other dimensions. As a result, shifting the gravity of global traction towards the East has become a defining feature.
As the entire world grappled with the challenges of protecting people and societies from the pandemic, some of the fellow Asian countries demonstrated the best practices and success stories in keeping the losses at minimum. Asian countries have also been at the forefront of vaccine cooperation as well as in advancing in WHO and other forums the cause of vaccine equity and access. This is a telling sign.
Asia’s resurgence is but natural. Its potentials are as large as its geographical size, if not larger. With one third of the landmass of the world and home to 60 percent of the world’s population, Asia enjoys a vibrant demographic dividend. Young and multitalented tech-generation of Asia will, I believe, be increasingly assertive in shaping the global agenda in the years to come.
On the face of this unprecedented difficulty, the time-tested Asian values of fraternity, peaceful co-existence and sense of equity and justice are proving once again their merit. These values were born out of our collective, civilizational conviction on harmony, discipline and primacy of the larger public good and interest.
In the background of the scarcity of Covid 19 vaccines, the most critical public goods today, we are saying, let’s share these life-saving shots. Our values emphasize more on sharing, caring and co-existing.
Asia is the most diverse society and hence, the tolerance of diversity is the hallmark of our character.
Asia is the region with rich civilizational history. This is the region that gave birth to great thinkers, leaders, innovators, explorers, scholars and researchers. We were once far ahead in term of level of intellectual advancement or the level of physical development. Past 200 years remained the time of exception, when most of the world prospered and we fell behind. Poverty and backwardness became Asia’s identity. Today, scenario is changing. Our ways and our values are gaining weight.
At a time when most of the world was clouded by superstition and ignorance, our region gave birth to Buddhism, one of the world’s most enlightening and human-centered philosophical system. In a small town of Southern Nepal called Lumbini, Buddha, the light of Asia, was born. As his message travelled to the rest of Asia and to the world, the huge reservoir of knowledge and wisdom, aesthetics and spirituality, way of life and pattern of social organization spread around, benefitting humanity.
Today, my country is taking steps to develop Lumbini as the international Peace City.
Like other Asian countries, Nepal takes pride in its glorious history and rich and diverse cultures. We feel, rightly so, that Nepal is an example in the management of diversity. Unity in diversity, Peaceful Coexistence, and Bashudhaiva Kutumbakam have become the ethos of our socio-cultural life since time immemorial.
We now aim at creating a civilized, modern and egalitarian society leaving no one behind while keeping our rich cultural heritage very much alive. For this, we have given importance to political stability, good governance, rule of law, liberty, freedom and justice as well as social and cultural cohesion. We are the believer in comprehensive democracy, which seeks to empower people politically, socially, culturally and technologically.
Driven by the national vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali”, we are effortful to unleash all our economic potentials and achieve rapid economic growth, which is inclusive and sustainable.
Our plan to graduate from the LDC status is on track so far. Similarly, we envisage to become a middle-income country as well as realize the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In the longer term, we have set a vision for 25 years to make Nepal a developed country by the end of this century. Our periodic development plans and policies are geared to attain this development goal.
In order to fulfil this development aspiration, we seek continuous support from our close friends, development partners, and regional and multilateral financial institutions. We also invite the private sector from countries around the world who can capitalize on Nepal’s vast investment potentials and contribute to our growth.
On its external outlook, Nepal continues to uphold the policy of constructive and cooperative engagement with our friends. We have adopted a balanced and independent foreign policy. ‘Amity with All, Enmity with None’ has become our mantra in conducting our foreign relations. We seek to maintain and further consolidate our relations with the neighbouring countries, development partners and other friendly countries on the basis of sovereign equality, justice, mutual respect and mutual benefit.
Prior to the onset of COVID 19 pandemic, we were making steady progress in most of our development indicators. For three years in a row, a sustained high growth of over 7% had been achieved. This gave us a lot of confidence in our potential as well as the resilience of our economy.
However, the first wave of the pandemic hit our economy hard and caused negative growth. We were just reviving some of our economic sectors with gradual reopening when the more threatening second wave of the pandemic started to pound on us severely. This is certain to leave a devastating impact on our economy for the years to come.
The second wave has turned out to be more infectious and lethal. Positivity rate has been sharply rising and so is the number of infected people. Over 8,000 new cases daily for the past several weeks is too high for a country with a moderate size population and too burdensome given the constraint of our resources and healthcare infrastructure. Even though the mortality rate is relatively low, the graph of the precious lives lost due to COVID 19 is rising at triple digits for past several days.
My government has taken requisite measures to control and prevent the spread of the pandemic. Testing, tracing and treatment facilities have been increased. We are trying our level best to provide critical health care to the infected population.
Confronted by this colossal threat, I have made an appeal to the international community and philanthropic organizations around the world to provide us with vaccines, diagnostic tools, oxygen kits, critical care medicines and equipment to help us protect our people’s lives. We are thankful that we have started receiving some help.
I take this opportunity to convey to our friends in the region and beyond that Nepal urgently requires more of your support, in particular supply of oxygen and vaccine. Though we have already started vaccination with the support of our neighbors, over half a million people of ours in critical age group are yet to receive even the first dose of vaccine.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The impact of the pandemic has been disproportionate across different countries and segments of populations. More vulnerable countries and societies have been hit harder. It will be difficult for them to stand back in the absence of robust, meaningful and enhanced global partnership. It is my belief that the international community should consider some sort of COVID response fund so as to help recover the severely affected countries.
At a time of worldwide humanitarian crisis, we must rise to the challenge in addressing it collectively. I call upon the governments of advanced nations to come forward with maximum flexibility in, for example, fair distribution of vaccines and waiving intellectual property rights for production of vaccines in developing countries. We can prosper together once all populations are safe and duly protected.
Indeed, ‘whole of the government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach may not be sufficient to overcome the massive crises we are facing. It is the ‘whole of the region’ and ‘whole of the world’ approach that is critically required.
The virus has also reinforced that in this connected world, nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Scaled-up vaccine cooperation among us will be critical in ensuring early post-pandemic recovery in the short term. In the medium and long term, there will be a need for increased development cooperation, enhanced focus on sustainable development goals, strong actions on climate change, reopening international borders, resuming supply chains, providing more trade opportunities for the least developed countries, facilitating investment and transfer of technology.
Countries like Nepal have also been disproportionately borne the brunt of climate change, for no fault of their own. Disastrous impacts are seen in the form of melting glaciers and likely glacial lake outbursts in our Himalayas. Needless to say, any ecological disruption on mountains have impacts on oceans.
With a view to focus on impacts of climate change on mountains, Nepal has initiated Sagarmatha Sambaad, named after the Mount Everest. This dialogue originally scheduled in April 2020 had to be postponed due to the pandemic. We are going to convene this in October 2021 so that the Sambaad could provide inputs from the perspective of mountainous countries for COP26. We hope to have high level participation from all your countries and institutions.
We are also in favor of an ambitious climate deal during COP26, which should contain strong green finance instruments, financial support and capacity-building for climate-vulnerable countries. This will help ensure a green recovery and environmental sustainability.
With our five years of experience of post-earthquake reconstruction, we have realized that however colossal the damage might have been inflicted by natural or man-made disasters or pandemic, we can build back better. What is required is a strong regional and global partnership and sound national institutions.
As we deliberate on shaping the post COVID era and Asia’s role in it, I wish to call upon all distinguished Heads of Delegation of fellow Asian countries as well as intellectuals and the private sector attending this important conference to work together to build a peaceful Asia, a robust Asia and a prosperous Asia. To this end, we need to ensure that no country and society is left behind.
All Asians desire for the Asia, where countries can sort out differences peacefully through dialogue and can then work in concert for the region’s greater welfare and prosperity. No doubt, when peace and harmony prevail in Asia, it prevails in the world map and serves once again as the beacon of a better, happier and more sustainable world order.
Friends, let us accept the important lessons that this pandemic has taught us.
Let us work together with utmost sincerity, harmony, solidarity and cooperation.
Let us strive continuously for constructive, peaceful and harmonious coexistence among ourselves.
Because, that is Asian tradition. That is our Asian value. That is who we are and where we come from.
I thank you all for your kind attention.