Rising Leaders Call for Greater Regional Co-operation in Asia

Representatives from 14 countries on five continents presented their visions for Asia in 2030 which centered on the idea of greater regional co-operation to help better handle issues concerning geopolitics, rapidly aging societies, and energy and resource security. The event held in Tokyo, Japan on Friday, November 29, was co-hosted by Salzburg Global Seminar and the Nippon Foundation.

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Tokyo, Japan (PRWEB) December 08, 2013

Asia-Pacific Community

Recognizing the successes made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in handling regional disputes and aiding the economic rise of its member states, the Salzburg Global Fellows called for the formation of an “Asia-Pacific Community,” which would include the current members of ASEAN and countries in the wider Asia-Pacific region, especially the region’s biggest economies, China, Japan and India, to meet their vision for 2030 of an Asia that “takes a proactive approach to solving common concerns for sustained regional prosperity.”

The Asia-Pacific Community would not aim to see the end of the sovereign state, but would instead harmonize and strengthen existing regional corporation frameworks with a view to initially creating an umbrella structure to facilitate interactions between existing regional corporation mechanisms, and eventually, over the next 17 years, move towards an overall larger regional bloc, further helping the region benefit from globalization despite the individual countries’ economic and political differences. This formal grouping would give all member states equal voice in decisions and help enhance mutual trust and transparency between countries to tackle the greatest regional issues like resource and energy security. However, the Fellows proposed, such an organization would still allow for trilateral negotiation processes and bilateral trade agreements when necessary.

In order to achieve this vision of a more co-operative, prosperous and equitable region, the Fellows also called for new dispute resolution mechanism bodies and more regulatory and monitoring bodies to be introduced, and for more opportunities for international exchange (akin to the European Union’s ERASMUS program) to engender greater trust and understanding between countries on an interpersonal level.

Asian Partnership for Sustainable Energy

In addition to this new Asia-Pacific Community, the Salzburg Global Fellows also called for the formation of an “Asian Partnership for Sustainable Energy.”

Energy insecurity could lead to increased domestic and regional political instability, especially given the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea over potential oil and gas deposits. Thus, the Fellows called for not only the diversification of sources, reducing the region’s reliance on fossil fuels, and the modification of national behaviors to reduce individual countries’ emissions, but also for the integration of national grids and the building of pipelines across the region to help provide consistent and sustainable energy supplies throughout Asia.

Currently around 30% of the ASEAN region (approximately 130 million people) does not have a reliable source of electricity. Investment of $1.7trillion would be needed to meet this demand – far more than any one country could possibly raise alone.

To find the substantial funding needed to make this project a reality, the Fellows called for a regional fund to be established, into which all beneficiary countries would pay according to their GDP, as well as collecting new industry taxes.

Such a regional co-operation would bring multiple benefits for members: from the diversification and increased stability of the energy market and lower, more competitive prices, to greater domestic and regional political stability and economic growth.

Regional solutions for an aging population

Concerning the issues of aging and changing demographics, the Salzburg Global Fellows suggested a raft of policies that could be adopted by individual countries as the region prepares to deal with the similar demographic challenges of a rapidly aging and declining population as Japan currently is.

Introducing staggered retirement ages (meaning those who are currently 30 would retire later than those who are currently 40, and so forth), means-tested public pensions schemes (enabling cash-strapped governments to provide more for their poorer citizens than its wealthier population), and demographically-weighted voting systems in referenda relating to pensions (giving a fair voice to those who are not yet pensioners in countries where the vote would be otherwise skewed) would make retirement better funded and more equitable, argued the Fellows.

Policies must also be introduced to improve the work/life balance of women in the workplace to encourage those in countries struggling with a low birth rate to have more children, whilst also enabling women workers to not have to give up their careers (and thus also continue to contribute to social security schemes).

Other market-based policy suggestions included a credit system for child care and elderly care that will allow both generations, young and old to “swap credits” for volunteer service care, meaning capable retirees could provide child care services in return for greater care when they are incapable of caring for themselves.

The promotion of intergenerational dialog to enhance both the young and old to better understand each other and the situations they are in is also needed.

Scenario planning

These visions for 2030 were presented at an open public forum following a week of expert-delivered lectures, intensive group work, and scenario planning led by Michinari Nishimura, founder and CEO of Greenfield Consulting, at a seminar jointly hosted by Salzburg Global Seminar and the Nippon Foundation, entitled “People, Peace and Planet in 2030: Shaping Inclusive and Sustainable Growth” held in Kyoto, November 24 to 28.

Speakers at the seminar and public forum included Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary General of ASEAN; Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Commission; Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency; leading demographer Noriko Tsuya, Professor at Keio University, Tokyo; and Christine Wörlen, prominent German expert in renewable energy policies and energy systems integration.

The session was chaired by venture capitalist, entrepreneur and member of the Salzburg Global Seminar board of directors, William Saito, with Salzburg Global Fellow and NHK senior international affair commentator, Aiko Doden moderating the panel discussion held as part of the public forum in Tokyo.

Following on from the week’s discussions and presentations in Kyoto and Tokyo, the Salzburg Global Fellows, supported by Salzburg Global Seminar and the Nippon Foundation, will look for ways to continue their collaboration in their home countries and institutions as they progress through their careers, in the hope of implementing their visions for Asia in 2030.


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Rising Leaders call for greater regional co-operation in Asia