The two-day meeting of the Standing Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) in Thimphu concluded on September 1 collectively adopting 10 resolutions.
The 10 resolutions cover a wide range of issues of mutual interest such as culture, information technology, health equity, migrant workers, corruption, woman parliamentarians, inter-faith dialogue, and smuggling of cultural objects, drug trafficking, and humanitarian aid to the Asian countries going through a humanitarian crisis.
The adoption of the resolutions followed two days of vigorous deliberation among more than 100 parliamentarians from 21 countries, including 12 parliamentarians from Bhutan.
The 10 resolutions of the Standing Committee was submitted to the Executive Council of the APA and further on to the 10th Plenary for the final adoption.
The keynote address at the opening and the guest of honour, Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay said that Bhutan was a privileged to welcome and host the biggest gathering of parliamentarians to discuss social and cultural issues.
He highlighted the importance of cultural discourse by the parliamentarians in the context of crucial roles parliamentarians played in the society. However, he pointed out how grand ambitions that such conferences came up with in the region were often forgotten afterwards, often due to bilateral differences.
Over the two days, the delegates had deliberate on the nine resolutions, including one on Measures to Promote Cultural Diversity and Protect Cultural Heritage in Asia, Asian Integration through Information and Communication Technology, Asian Parliamentarians Against Corruption, APA Women Parliamentarians, and Promoting Inter-Faith Dialogue, and Harmony, among World Religions.
The meeting began with the election of the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, and Rapporteur of the Standing Committee Meeting. Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo was elected as the Chairperson, General Nipat Thonglek from Thailand as the Vice Chair, and Yara Suos from Cambodia as the Rapporteur.
Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo said Bhutan’s concept of culture, as underlined by Gross National Happiness, is neither monolithic nor singular. Therefore, it was fitting that Bhutan hosted this parliamentary discourse.
The meeting provided a platform for parliamentarians representing more than 60 percent of the world’s population to discuss and exchange ideas, perspectives and experiences to seek possible solutions and strategic approaches to address the regional and international challenges said the President of APA, Dr Nguon Nhel.
The Secretary General of the APA, Dr Mohammad Reza Majidi, said the Asian countries are well- positioned to progress if parliamentary diplomacy was fully exploit in all its dimensions and manifestations.
All the delegations commended the successful conduct and outcome of the meeting and expressed their hope for far-reaching positive implications. The delegates were highly appreciative of the exemplary leadership of His Majesty the King that has set new standards for the world.
Chairperson of the National Council, Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga, said that building friendship and partnership among the Asian countries was crucial for no country could walk into the future in isolation. “The meeting was the beginning of many such multilateral parliamentary meetings and interactions,” he added.
Likewise, the Chairperson shared a story about the high level of support Bhutan enjoyed during its admission bid to the United Nations in 1971. He mentioned a number of Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Syria that supported Bhutan’s membership to the UN on account of its natural beauty, rich culture and traditions.
He thanked the countries represented in the meeting for making statements in favour of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations in 1971. “These countries were not referring to Bhutan as an economic power but as a country rich in culture and traditions,” he said, “The very subject we have been discussing in this meeting.”
The newly elected Chair of the Standing Committee, Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo, said that the meeting was truly a meeting of minds. “This is going to benefit the 4.4 billion people in all the Asian countries and beyond,” he said.
Delegates from as far as Bahrain, Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait attend the APA meeting. The areas of interest and activity of the APA’s Standing Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs include cultural diversity, preventing trafficking of cultural objects, and promoting friendship and cooperation.
The APA was born in 2006 out of the Association of Asian Parliamentary for Peace. It was established in 1999. The APA comprises 42 Member Parliaments and 170 members. Bhutan’s parliament has two seats in the APA.