The Contribution Of Think Tanks And Ngos To Integration In Asia

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The United Nations and the multilateral organisations intended to provide forums for the diplomacy that should avoid the chaos and conflict have failed in their task....

Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good afternoon all.
 
All over the world, dialogue has been failing.
 
Sadly, the violence and upheaval so bitterly experienced has not galvanised us to become creatures of constructive action, but instead we are all seen to be people of disagreement and delay.
 
The United Nations and the multilateral organisations intended to provide forums for the diplomacy that should avoid the chaos and conflict have failed in their task. The honourable and optimistic hopes of these institutions’ founders have been corrupted, with spoilers and self-interest weakening their achievements.
 
All the while, the fire spreads. With that in mind, any initiative that promotes dialogue and cooperation among nations and their peoples is a laudable [LORD-ABLE] aim, and I welcome the efforts that have gathered us all here today.  Think Tanks and NGOs have a role to play, as does business, which is really the only way in which people from different countries and backgrounds truly interact.
 
I was happy to read in the vision statement for this conference that think tanks and NGOs must play a positive role when it comes to developing and sustaining relations within Asia. It has long frustrated me to see the collective and considerable intelligence, experiences and insights of the people who staff these organisations write reports that merely get filed and forgotten in one swift movement.
 
According to the University of Pennsylvania, who produce an annual ranking list of global think tanks, the Asian countries of China and India occupy positions 2 and 3 on the list of most think tanks per country. Looking at the global data for think tank distribution, the G7 countries dominate – but this is perhaps not unexpected. However, Asia has some 18% of the global total of think tanks, the list suggests.
But these are statistics, which of course can be manipulated to express any number of things. It is quality, not quantity, that should interest us here and in reality, the test of any think tank or NGO is what impact it has, not the thickness of its reports.  It is not just a question of talking, it is necessary to build bridges, and then encourage people to cross them and interact. 
 
Governments alone cannot carry all the burden; in fact, the chances of success are so much higher if we realise that the rebuilding of alliances is a social project requiring the support of the majority.  But a word of warning about NGOs. They have been described as the government in exile, or the revolving door to government; independence from a political line is not guaranteed. There is a fine line between policy research, and policy endorsement, which often blurs.
 
NGOs must be seen to be independent to be legitimate, with interests aligned with those of the people as a whole, not those of the government. As we are discussing NGOs, it is important to consider how they are regulated, in order to be kept free of political corruption.
 
They must travel a narrow path, but must be listened to, speaking with the voice of the street, not the voice of the powerful. The Middle East region and beyond is learning - to their cost in many cases - that communicating with the government and knowing you have been listened to is a crucial aspect of a citizen’s demands today.
 
As I said in my opening remarks yesterday, reform not revolution is the key to peaceful and long term change, and NGOs and Think Tanks have a role to play in that reform process. Although the Middle East is in flames, hidden beneath surface is a wonderful opportunity for all its people.  I only hope that we can help to put out those flames quickly and find the goodness beneath, and try to avoid too many fires in the future.
 
God be with us, but it is foretold in the Quran that God's hand will only be with those who unite for humanity and world peace. May the peace and mercy of God be upon all of you.  
Now, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on think tanks, NGOs and integration. 
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