By Pip Hinman
KUALA LUMPUR — "In search of a just world order" was the title and theme of a three-day international conference held here from November 18. Sponsored by the non-government organisation the Jamahir Society for Culture and Philosophy, the conference brought together groups from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss the political and economic costs of the so-called new world order.
In his opening address, Dr Hans Koechler, vice-chair of the Jamahir Society, noted that the West's superior military, political and economic force since the collapse of the Soviet Union necessitated a new multi-polar international system. "Only such a system can guarantee the 'checks and balances' that are vital for a just international order", he said.
Koechler said that progressives worldwide "need to challenge the new geopolitical trend of recolonisation of the Third World under the auspices of the US-inspired 'new world order' — whether in the Muslim and Arab regions in Latin America, the Caribbean or Asia and the Pacific". Democratic movements, he said, must challenge the West's claim that it is the victor of the Cold War. "The collapse of the Soviet bloc since 1989 is absolutely no proof of the superiority or correctness of the Western model of democracy."
Koechler pointed to imperialism's ability to push its ideology in order to safeguard its system of international law. Pointing to the United Nations' abuse of specific provisions ("a striking example of this new trend"), he said that "the Third World is becoming a victim of a concomitant policy of 'double standards' exercised by the US and her proxies in the Security Council to the detriment of the peoples of Palestine, Bosnia, Iraq and Haiti". He pointed to Islam as the new "enemy" stereotype which has been created to suit imperialism's interference in the Middle East.
The use of sanctions for genocidal policies against the people of Iraq, Libya, Cuba and until recently Haiti, he said, was a clear sign of the rapid deterioration of the United Nations Organisation.
Among conference participants were representatives from a variety of backgrounds, including the Asian Students Association; Bayan International, Philippines; Chamber of Commerce, India; the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, India; Democratic Socialist Party, Australia; Green Left Weekly, Australia; Green Party, Japan; Greens (WA), Australia; Left Connection, Sydney; Malaysian Youth Council; Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia; New Dawn International News Service, Australia; Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, Fiji; Third World Network, Malaysia; the Workers' Party, Bangladesh.
The conference was divided into four sub-themes: In Quest of a Peoples-based Democracy, The Myth Behind Economic Globalisation, Towards an End to the Imperialist World Order, and Stop Ecological Suicide. Many of the papers presented included critiques of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which had recently finished in Bogor, Indonesia, and discussed building anti-imperialist solidarity among nations of the Third World and progressive movements in the North.
On the third anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, a representative from the newly formed Student Solidarity for Democracy in Indonesia (SSDI) related how his organisation was campaigning to force the Indonesian government to hold a referendum on East Timorese independence under UN auspices and international supervision, to allow human rights organisations and media access to East Timor and to hold a free and democratic trial for all East Timorese political prisoners and cease committing atrocities against those championing self-determination for East Timor.
Of special note was a solidarity message from the Libyan Revolutionary Committees Movement, which read in part: "Many millions of people are suffering from the so-called 'new world order'. Such order is constructed and conducted by the policy of starvation, the policy of deprivation and the policy of oppression ... The economic sanctions [against Libya] have been declared invalid and illegal ... [Libya] has done what it could within the legal frame of international law. It has advanced a number of proposals but they have been rejected and ignored — one thing that we are not prepared to do is to forfeit our sovereignty or give up political choice."