Friday, March 25, 2011


“Asian Approaches to Development Cooperation Dialogue:
Lessons for Development Effectiveness,”
Kuala Lumpur
(22-24 March 2011)

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD)
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd Jamil Maah, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic & International), University of Malaya

Dr. Goldon Hein, Vice President of The Asia Foundation

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     I would like to begin by thanking the organisers, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), The Asia Foundation (TAF), and the International Institute of Public Policy and Management (INPUMA), University of Malaya – the host – for inviting me to give a short talk in conjunction with the “Asian Approaches to Development Cooperation Dialogue: Lessons for Development Effectiveness.”

     I am indeed honoured and privileged to have before me such a distinguished audience consisting of:  Senior officials from KDI and TAF, and other delegates from China, India, Singapore and Thailand. Let me also acknowledge the presence of officials from Wisma Putra, my former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of the diplomatic corps in Kuala Lumpur. Thank you for taking time to be here this evening.

     Before I proceed further I like to thank Associate Professor Dr Sumiani Yusof for her gracious and kind remarks when introducing me. As it is, any apparent incongruity as to why the Chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission – or SPAD according to its Malay initials – has been asked to give a talk in an event on development aid I am sure by now it has been resolved, I must say!

     Anyway I just like to say that SPAD is charged with improving how public transportation is designed, planned, implemented and regulated. And I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to serve as its first Chairman by the government.

      Having said that I just like to recap my involvement when I was the Foreign Minister. At that time, I had the opportunity to be directly engaged and involved on issues concerning South-South cooperation, including development programmes to our South-South countries, that were less developed. Issues on development have always been close to my heart. Today when I am invited to speak, I felt nostalgic and privileged to share some of my thoughts having served for almost a decade as a foreign Minister.  It was such a long time ago already. How time flies.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

      I consider it is timely now to look back, review and deliberate on the strategies for aid assistance thus far, and to enhance them where appropriate. The effectiveness in the delivery mechanisms – amongst South-South and fellow Asian countries. I am happy to know that in the next two days this forum intends to exactly do that and focus its attention on the way forward to enable you to draw up strategies and determine the effectiveness of the delivery system and makes much changes as maybe considered necessary.

       I am confident with the delegates vast and varied backgrounds and experience, the Dialogue will be able to look at these issues from differing perspectives, with greater insights for the purpose of charting new approaches to development aid. It is therefore pertinent and timely to revisit old assumptions and practices without sacrificing the vision and principle into new desire, establish a more just, fair and equitable world.

       Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, As Foreign Minister and consistent with Malaysia’s foreign policy stance I had been a staunch supporter and advocate for the reform of South-South cooperation to keep tandem in with the changing architecture and landscapes in socio-economic developments of the world particularly amongst the South-South and Asian countries. In other words the need to pursue programmes that will bring mutual benefits to all recipients in order to improve the well being and quality of lives of our peoples.

       The impressive GDP growth has enabled a number of non-Western countries to join Japan in the ranks of donor countries. It is also true today that many Asian countries who had in the past provided aid in one form or another particularly China and India has now become major Asian as well as global powers.

Today, together with countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, the emerging Asian powers have established themselves as key players in providing development aid spanning the globe – traversing continents and building relationships with Asian, African and Latin American countries.

It is thus heartening, as an Asian, to see countries which were formerly recipients of development aid had graduated to other countries. Even Japan, it is to be recalled, was dependent on foreign aid for its reconstruction in the aftermath of the Second World War.  

Every country went through different experience in its economic development. What is very clear is that by collaborating and cooperating country will get the benefits to enjoy change in its economic status. In the contemporary world interdependency is inevitable and is beneficial to both sides. Political reforms must move along with socio-economic development that can bring peace, stability and improvement in the quality of lives.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In India, for many decades, the socialist system was unable to cope with the rising population, cost and the related social problems.  Whilst in the case of South Korea, it was a largely agrarian country ravaged by war with its northern cousin, now has transformed itself into a developed country by pursuing appropriate economic policies and programmes.

And obviously not only those three major Asian powers, but also other Asian countries, including Malaysia, have graduated from “recipient” to “donor” status – within a relatively short span of time.

During its fledgling years as a newborn nation, our country has received help from the West, principally the US and also from Japan. Not least, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the generosity of even non-governmental organisations such as The Asia Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Those who live through the 1960s will remember the American volunteers who came to Malaysia to live and work amongst our people in the cause of socio-economic and human capital development.

And of course, I must make special mention of the immense contribution by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation in laying the foundations of modern Malaysia in significant ways from offering scholarships to promising leaders and scholars of the day to providing funds for irrigation projects. Likewise, these benevolent organisations have been instrumental in promoting the development policies of our closest neighbours, Thailand and Indonesia.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Without a doubt development aid is set to grow and expand and thus add to the scope and complexity of bilateral development aid and by extension, the international aid architecture.

Our increasing presence also represents a competition and challenge to Western donors who will be askance or wary, and even doubtful of the capability of Asian countries to offer “proper” (quote and unquote) development aid and a genuine alternative to theirs.

It is important, however, to recognise that the provision of development aid has to take into account the diversity of the recipient countries.  And I believe that donor countries hailing from the same continent as the recipient countries or sharing the same cultural proximity and civilisational legacy would be more sensitive and responsive to the issue of “context-specificity.”

In other words, the background and actual conditions of the recipient country i.e. by looking at it from its own national  perspective, and not based on the donor country’s desire I believe will give the development dividend we seek. This is an approach which cannot and should not be overlooked in any development aid programmes.

Sharing one’s developmental experience is a good thing, which is practised by Malaysia as long as it is not too imposing on the recipient countries.  There is no such thing as one size fits all solution. Each country has its own peculiarities and circumstances.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I think the organisers would agree that that time has come for you to consider new methods, initiatives and mechanisms to ensure better implementation of bilateral and – even – multilateral aids to produce better outcomes.

This was the reason why in 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia, in my speech I outlined the importance of introducing initiatives which will make the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) relevant and capable of coming to terms with the contemporary world changing landscape and thus strengthening the principle of South-South “collective self-reliance.”

Some of my proposals were the establishment of greater collaboration and corporation of the Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries (ECDC), the Group of 15, the Asian-African Summit and the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).

I believe these will promote South-South cooperation to a higher level as well as to contribute towards a more equitable and balanced international aid architecture. In fact, these two aspirations is very much inter-twined and integral part of each other.

In this context we must work closely with and through the United Nations to ensure that the international aid architecture whether governmental or non-governmental is centred not only in the North. But it truly reflects the needs and conditions of the recipient countries. At all times we must avoid the agenda or oft-times blinkered perspectives of the donor countries however well-intentioned they may be.

As Foreign Minister, I was also keen to link trade and investment with development aid. Just as collective South-South reliance and a just and fairer global order cannot be separated, likewise the economy and development aid are two sides of the same coin. This is especially pertinent when we are talking about a country which is not only a trading partner but also a donor recipient.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that reforms of the international financial and economic system go hand in hand with reforms of the international aid architecture. This has been my firm conviction as Foreign Minister and it remains until today. I had persistently argued that it is never enough for a recipient country to receive aid but it must also be assisted in integrating into the global economy.

In other words, aid granted must not only focus on its strategic aim but must be the enabler for economic growth of that recipient country, in laying the foundation for human capital and infrastructural development. The international aid must not be perceived as a sympathy hand out but more as a mean to alleviate the hardships and under-development of the recipient country.

The end result of International aid should be to create a level playing field for recipient countries to overcome obstacles, that is natural or institutional to allow them to progress socio-economically. We must regard international aid on the principle of “prosper thy neighbour” principle where both sides obtain mutual here fit.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) best epitomises the Government of Malaysia’s determination and commitment on behalf of the then Mahathir administration to the Government and People of Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan in 2002 in conjunction with the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to that beleaguered country.

Since its inception in the early 1980s, the MTCP has provided development aid in the form of technical training programmes to public officials, to our friends and partners, from the South-South countries. These training programmes encompass various skills and expertiss relevant to public administration and public policy.

The scope of this programme was very broad, covering agriculture, information and communications technology through to macro-economics, public finance, budgeting and fiscal policy, encompassing also strategic and international affairs.

Let me take this opportunity congratulate the International Institute of Public Policy and Management (INPUMA), University of Malaya for its continuing undertaking to be implementing agency under the MTCP.

I recognise there is some budgetary constraints due to government’s policy to reduce the deficit and create a balanced budget, I hope INPUMA and other implementing agencies of the MTCP will continue to organise and conduct training programmes to meet the needs and requirements of participating countries.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I had tried in this short space of time to share my thoughts and reflections with you on the question of development aid. It has indeed been a tremendous pleasure for me to serve as Malaysia’s Foreign Minister and can say with satisfaction in seeing the many South-South cooperation initiatives come to fruition. My interest remains deep and abiding.

Thank you.