중동 국가와 경제위기 극복을 위한 필수적 교류 보장 등 한국 정부 노력 소개
"'동북아 방역·보건 협력체' 구상, 한반도 평화프로세스도 새 기운을 불어넣을 것"
[아시아경제 임철영 기자] 강경화 외교부 장관이 국제전략문제연구소(IISS)의 초청으로 5일(현지시각) 바레인에서 열린 마나마 대화 제1세션 ‘코로나 팬데믹 글로벌 거버넌스’에 참석해 신종 코로나바이러스감염증(코로나19) 이후 국제협력의 중요성과 협력 방안, 그리고 그간 한국 정부의 노력에 대해 연설했다.
강 장관은 연설을 통해 "코로나19가 다자주의의 위기를 드러냄과 동시에 국제연대와 협력의 중요성을 일깨워주었다"고 진단하면서 "상호 협력으로 코로나19 및 새로운 보건위기에 대응해 나가야 한다"고 말했다.
그러면서 그는 보건위기 대응 능력 강화를 위한 백신의 공평한 접근 보장 및 인도적 지원, 세계보건기구(WHO)를 중심으로 한 글로벌 보건 거버넌스 강화 노력, 경제위기 극복을 위한 필수적 교류 보장 필요성 등이 필요하다고 강조했다.
코로나19 극복을 위한 한국의 노력에 대해서도 언급했다. 강 장관은 특히 중동 국가들과 중동 지역 인프라·건설사업 등에 참여하고 있는 한국 기업의 차질 없는 사업 진행을 위해 아랍에미리트(UAE)와 기업인 신속입국 제도를 마련하고 여타 중동 국가들과 필수 인력의 예외적 입국을 협의하는 등 긴밀한 협력을 계속해왔다고 소개했다.
또한 강 장관은 미래 보건위기 대응을 위한 지역협력의 일환으로 우리의 ‘동북아 방역·보건 협력체’ 구상을 설명하는 한편 이 구상이 한반도 평화프로세스에 새로운 기운을 불어넣을 것으로 기대한다고 밝혔다.
아울러 강 장관은 한국 정부가 코로나19 팬데믹(세계적 대유행) 뿐만 아니라 기후변화, 테러리즘, 사이버안보 등 다양한 이슈를 해결하기 위해서도 국제사회와 지속 협력해나갈 것이라고 전했다. 이에 참석자들은 한국이 투명성과 개방성을 유지하는 가운데 코로나19 상황을 지혜롭게 극복해 나가고 있으며 국가 간 필수적인 교류를 보장하는 등 코로나19 상황에서 국제협력 증진을 위해 노력하고 있다고 평가했다.
강 장관은 연설 후 질의응답을 통해서도 "코로나19 극복을 위해서는 고도의 기술도 중요하지만 가장 근본적인 것은 신뢰"라면서 "과학적이고 정확한 정보 공유 등 팬데믹 극복을 위한 국가간 협력이 중요하다"고 재차 강조했다.
한편 이번 마나마 대화는 중동 및 세계 각지의 고위관료, 학계·전문가들을 온·오프라인으로 초청해 개최됐다. 이번 강 장관의 연설은 코로나19로 초래된 다자주의 질서의 위기 속에서 협력과 연대의 중요성을 강조하고 한국의 국제적 기여 의지를 중동을 포함한 국제사회에 알리는 계기가 됐다는 평가다.
<강경화 외교부 장관 '마나마 대화' 연설문>
Y.E. Minister Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al-Zayani,
Dr. John Chipman, Excellencies,
It is a great honor to join you for this year’s Manama Dialogue. I would like to thank the IISS and the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain for the invitation. I am delighted to be the first Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea to engage in this prestigious forum, but certainly not the last, I hope.
A growing web of ties have been forged between Korea and the countries of the Middle East over the past decades. I am confident that the trajectory will accelerate in future years.
We are at a time of profound change, unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic but also by political transformations across the globe. In the Middle East in particular, tectonic shifts are taking place: The Abraham Accords is starting to reshape the political and security landscape, and economies are innovating to prepare for the post-oil era. Around the world, including in Northeast Asia, the strategic competition among the global powers is getting broader and deeper.
Change harbors both risks and opportunities. The times call for proactive diplomacy to manage the risks and make the most of the opportunities for peace and prosperity.
The immediate challenge we face is the Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc across the globe. With the recent news that vaccines are on their way, the end of the tunnel seems within reach. But getting there will require much more global solidarity than the international community has been able to muster so far.
Global governance was at a low point when Covid-19 struck, with trust in multilateralism and the rules-based international order already greatly eroded. In the early weeks of the pandemic, discord and tension among member states hampered the WHO, at a time when it needed more support to forge a united front against the fast spreading virus.
The situation lingers, but the call for global solidarity and cooperation has strengthened over the passing months, as expressed by world leaders including President Moon Jae-in of Korea at global fora such as the WHA, G20, APEC and others. Indeed, to end the pandemic and prepare for the post-Covid-19 era, we need to infuse new energy into global governance with focused multilateral action. The Republic of Korea is a staunch supporter of multilateralism at global and regional levels, and is ready to actively contribute to the endeavors.
Korea was one of the first to be hit by Covid-19 at one point in February. We had the second highest number of confirmed cases in the world. We are now at 95th according to WHO with the total number of cases at 36,915 and deaths at 540 as of today. We have managed to keep the virus at bay while keeping society open and preserving the people’s freedom of movement, with social distancing and movement restriction measures phased in and out as proportional to the risk of the spread. We have also kept our borders as open as possible for international travel.
We are all too aware that for us to feel fully safe again, the whole world has to be safe. The virus knows no borders. Even in countries that banned entry of foreigners, the virus has found its way in and spread. And border closures have had stifling sometimes devastating effects on societies and economies. The digital tools and on-line interactions have made up for some of the loss, but hardly enough.
Covid-19 is a humble reminder of our interconnectedness as well as our shared vulnerability, and thus the critical importance of global solidarity and international cooperation.
I believe concerted action in the following areas is key to end Covid-19 and to strengthen countries and the global community to be resilient, inclusive and better prepared for future crisis.
First, countries should spare no effort in supporting each other, near and far, in strengthening emergency health capabilities, including securing equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
In this regard, it is encouraging that the world has been pulling together to develop and achieve equitable and adequate distribution of vaccines through the COVAX Facility and AMC - led by WHO, Gavi and CEPI. Korea is an active supporter and participant in these endeavors.
In addition, through our “ODA Korea: Building TRUST” initiative, we have also provided test kits and face masks to more than 120 countries. We are also supporting many governments to strengthen their public health systems, including our partners in the Middle East.
Secondly, we need to intensify efforts to strengthen the global health architecture centered around the WHO, and place the safety and dignity of human beings at the heart of global governance for the post-Covid-19 era.
We strongly support the WHO’s role in generating technical and scientific expertise and assisting member states as well as efforts to make the WHO stronger and more effective in tackling current and future public health challenges.
For this purpose, Korea and other like-minded governments have established a friends group in Geneva. A key area of work in this regard is to upgrade the International Health Regulations (IHR) with stronger compliance tools.
We have also launched “friends groups” at UN HQ in NY and UNESCO in Paris to build to mainstream pandemic-related concerns across the work of the UN.
Thirdly, as we scramble to sustain and restore the dynamism of our economies with expansionary budget and stimulus packages, we need coordinated action to rebuild our economies, including by normalizing cross-border movement of people, starting with essential travel.
From the outset, so as to soften the shock, Korea has enforced only the minimum necessary restrictions on the cross-border movements of people and goods. We have also established “fast-track procedures” with many countries, including the United Arab Emirates, to streamline the arrival process and minimize quarantine upon entry for business people. With many other Middle East partners, we are implementing various methods for exceptional entries.
As a result, work has continued in the many infrastructure projects that Korean firms are taking part in in this region. These will be instrumental for the post-Covid economies in the region.
Lastly, we must better prepare for future pandemics by strengthening regional coordination.
In my part of the world, President Moon proposed at the UN General Assembly last September to launch a Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Disease Control and Public Health, inviting countries in our region including North Korea. We are wasting no time in getting this off the ground.
We believe this initiative can serve to solidify regional cooperation on public health, and bring North Korea into a regional mechanism aiming to safeguard the health and safety of our peoples. It will also generate positive energy for the Korean Peninsula peace process, i.e. my government’s endeavors to achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It will take many years before the full picture emerges on the multiple consequences of Covid-19. But the key lesson is obvious. We must all work together. From the onset of the pandemic, Korea has indeed been working closely together with many countries in this region: to bring home our nationals stranded overseas, to provide testing kits and masks, to share experience and knowledge about the virus, and to institutionalize the cooperation with MOUs.
Korea will continue the collaboration beyond the pandemic on a host of issues that connects us to this region. Finding common solutions to the challenges of climate change, transition to clean energy, terrorism, cyber security, AI and emerging technologies will bring us closer together.
In the changing global landscape, we also share the abiding mission of bringing lasting peace and realizing nuclear non-proliferation in our respective parts of the world, with deep historical roots and complex geopolitical dynamics.
My government is firmly committed to work towards these goals through dialogue and negotiations, and counts on the support of our partners in the region. You can count on us for the same. This aspiration, I hope, is wholly shared by the participants gathered for today’s dialogue.
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