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Welcoming Remarks by the Honorable Aburizal Bakrie, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Republic of Indonesia at the EWC/EWCA 2008 International Conference, Bali, Indonesia, November 13, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen:

This conference is very timely. The world is now in the eye of an economic storm whose scale of destruction, if not contained soon, is comparable only to that of the Great Depression in the 1930s. This crisis can perhaps be called “the first crisis of the 21 century.”

Let us hope that we have seen the bottom of it all, and very soon the world is on the path of recovery. This crisis is global in nature. Although it was originated in Wall Street, it is the latest proof of how our world has become one, of how actions and decisions in a distant land can affect life in a different part of the world.

Most serious economists now say that because it is a global crisis, the response should also be global in nature. Countries and leaders of government, especially the major ones, need to work together and coordinate their policies, and support a new financial architecture.

Here, I am not going to talk about economics and financial issues. But by mentioning the current crisis, what I want us all to remember here is that, once again, we are reminded of the need to improve our cooperative efforts, of our bonds together, of the common mechanism that we can use to solve our problems, in economics, politics, law, culture, and other areas.

There are a lot of countries and cultures in the world. "Unity in diversity" is perhaps the best phrase to express this global condition. And our relations to each other are dynamic, not static. Countries rise and fall. So do cultures and economies. This current crisis, for instance, affects the balance in geopolitics, which weakens one country and strengthens another. Some experts say that because of the current crisis, the U.S. is now going down, while China's rise and power is going to be magnified even more, even though it is also going to slow down in the short run.

So, power shifts and relationships evolve. In such condition, as history of the 20th century has taught us, if we do not improve our cooperative mechanisms, if we do not strengthen our friendship and understanding, we are going to repeat our mistakes again: conflict, war and prolonged poverty. Let us not repeat this mistake again.

We have to make the 21st century a century of progress and peace. Let us avoid the fate of the previous century, with its world wars and bloody conflicts. The opportunities are plenty to make our world a much better place. Technology is now much more advanced. Communication is much more possible to enlarge our horizon and help us understand each other better.

Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of this important conference is very relevant: “Building an Asia Pacific Community: Unity in Diversity.” The theme is not only pertinent to the current need of strengthening relations in the region and serving as a national and regional resource for information and analysis on Asia and the Pacific, but also functioning as a meeting ground where members and participants with a wide range of perspectives exchange views on topics of regional concern.

As we have witnessed, the region of Asia and the Pacific has become a growing force in the 21st century. Following Japan and South Korea, China and India have risen as prominent players in the global market, next to the European Union and the United States. In the present global configuration, Asia-Pacific is no longer merely a marketplace for global consumption, but has become a center of production and dissemination of goods, ideas, and culture.

One important aspect of the Asia-Pacific globalization to note here is the intensification of intra-Asia-Pacific exchanges, which results in making the region most dynamic not only economically, but also culturally. In this regard, the East-West Center has played a very important role.

As a friend, I want to suggest that one of our greatest tasks in Asia-Pacific is to open our region even more, but at the same time to preserve our identity and national pride. Mahatma Gandhi once said that India can play a constructive role on the international stage only by becoming a better India. Internationalism and nationalism are inseparable. No nation and society can be constructive, in whatever role, if it is weak, falls apart, and is uncertain of itself.

So, while Asia-Pacific is becoming more globalized, it should not become disoriented, wobbling and confused as to the true nature of its society and culture. We have to strike a good balance between change and continuity, between preservation and movement, between nationalism and internationalism.

That is one of our real challenges. And I am sure all of you here are determined to face them and bring our region, with all its richness and diversity, to become a respected, proud member of the world community.

It is possible that in this 21st century most, if not all, of the countries in our region will complete the transformation from basically agrarian society to industrial and service society. It will remind us all of the futuristic writer Alvin Toffler’s ideas of a tectonic shift, from first to second and third wave of historical change.

If the transformation is completed, say by 2050 or 2060, hundreds of millions of people will be lifted from poverty, many of our scientists will become Nobel laureates, our kids will study in world class schools, and our old people will be taken care of in clean and super-modern hospitals.

And I hope if all of that happens, some of you here are the ones who will help make them happen. Some of you are going to be remembered as leaders of your country, your societies, who become the forces for good, the transformers and shakers to make our dreams come true.

Once again, let me congratulate alt of you for attending this conference. To the East-West Center and its alumni association: keep doing the good work. You have inspired and made possible the meeting of mind and continuity of friendship of so many people. We all thank you for that.

Thank you.