Over the past few days, around 1500 participants from 45 countries, including many heads of state, will have attended the Asia-Pacific Summit in Nepal. Organized by the South Korea-based Universal Peace Federation and supported by the Nepal government, the summit touched on many topics, from climate change to fake news.
The official theme of the summit was “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values”. With the event attended by many small nations in the region, these topics were of crucial importance. Especially at a time when globalization can be seen as negative, as much larger nations (such as India and China) with much larger labor forces are often blamed for unemployment at home. The purpose of this event was to remind detractors that through increasing ties and connections with one another, in a fair and balanced way, all can prosper. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sharma Oli expressed his desire to continue developing friendly ties with neighboring countries on the basis of “equality and justice”.
While the rhetoric may have become a little utopic at times, the summit did address some very real issues facing not only the region, but the world as a whole. Former Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda said that the biggest challenges of the time are the threats of terrorism and climate change, both which pose “a threat to humanity irrespective of national border, religion and gender.” In his official statement addressing the summit, PM Oli spoke extensively on the danger climate change presents to the global community, especially to mountainous and small island countries. He warned that global warming is no longer just a challenge to development, but rather it has become a “challenge to survival, an existential threat to humanity”. He went on to explain that the mountains and forests in Nepal are of great importance to the region’s weather patterns. With Nepal dedicating a significant portion of its landmass to containing global temperature rise, PM Oli called for them to be seen as “global assets” and encouraged other countries to follow suit.
Another issue addressed at the summit was the rise in fake news. As social media becomes more and more popular around the world, it has become even easier for false or misleading information to spread rapidly, masquerading as fact or the truth. Washington Times president Thomas P. McDevitt said that social media’s influence has grown dramatically recently. With no mechanism in place to verify news and information that gets published on social media, McDevitt warns that this has led to a growing credibility issue. Various heads of media organizations and top-notch journalists in attendance voiced their opinions on the media’s evolving role in the context of the world’s challenges. Many spoke on the need to practice self-regulation, while preserving freedom of expression. Masahiro Kuroki, president of Japanese newspaper Sekai, said that the media needs to work responsibility more than ever before, as fake news presents a plethora of challenges.
Prime Minister Oli finished his address by stating that Nepal’s successful peace process within its own country. While he recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach cannot work since all countries and their particular circumstances are different, he believes that the Nepal example can serve as inspiration to the many nations struggling with their own armed conflicts, and that a transition to peaceful democracy is possible.
On Monday the summit ended, and the participants returned to their respective nations. Moving forward, it remains to be seen just how much impact the summit will have, as most of the international media attention was focused on the G20 meeting. However, the topics discussed at the Asia-Pacific summit were of global importance, and reach far beyond just the region.