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M. Robredo: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today, we come together in this great hall to recommit ourselves to values and ideals that bind us as one global community: the preservation of peace, the protection of human rights, and the relentless pursuit of justice, freedom, and democracy among our nations.

Seventy years ago, when war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines became the first Asian country to send contingent forces to aid South Korea. On September 2, 1950, then Philippine President Elpidio Quirino led the send-off ceremony for Filipino troops in the City of Manila. With pride in his heart, he addressed the brave young men who were ready to give up their lives and fight for a country most of them had not heard of before. He said, and I quote, "Many of you have fought on our own soil to secure our freedom. You now go forth to a foreign land to fight for the preservation of that freedom."

The Philippines deployed a total of five battalion combat teams to Korea from 1950 to 1955. Fighting side-by-side with 15 other nations, 7,420 Filipino soldiers conquered the rough terrain, surviving harsh weather conditions. Right then and there, on the battlefield, a lasting brotherhood was formed between the Filipino and Korean nations — a connection forged by blood, a shared commitment to freedom, and a friendship that has lasted throughout the uncertainties and shifting loyalties of our world.

In the same spirit, we are called today to step up and lend a hand in our collective pursuit of peace, security, and human development. Today we experience a more interconnected and globalized world where new forms of risks are shaping the lives of many populations, transcending national borders and cultures.

For instance, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is a serious crisis we have to face head on. It entails urgent cooperation and coordination among our leaders and the international community. It requires us to act swiftly to minimize its impact, most especially on our most vulnerable sectors. During these extraordinary times, we are called to embrace our collective responsibility of safeguarding the well-being of our peoples and direct our efforts to concrete and immediate action.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the problems we face today are vast and complex. And they require effective and long-term solutions. If we are to succeed in creating stronger democratic institutions and instilling peace in our communities, then we must find new avenues to empower the ordinary man on the street. We must learn to listen and give each one a seat at the decision-making table. Power sharing is at the very heart of effective governance. Today’s gathering is an important step in rebuilding a new brand of leadership and democracy for the world.

Recently, we have seen how dictators and authoritarians have slowly crept back into positions of power. Riding on the global wave of populism and extreme nationalism, they continue to thrive and expand their influence by sowing seeds of distrust and deepening social divisions. This has to end. Now.

Instead of building walls, let us build bridges of understanding. Instead of focusing on our differences, let us harness the power of nation building. Instead of deepening the wounds of the past, let us turn to reconciliation and healing. Today, we dream together of a better and more peaceful world: a world that cradles those who are brave enough to stand up against abuse and corruption; a world that does not tolerate exclusion and discrimination based on one’s race, color, belief, and gender; a world that does not stifle the voice of truth and dissent.

This is the brand of leadership we want to sustain in the coming years. This is the legacy we want to build and pass on to the next generation. Together, let us work hand-in-hand for democracy to flourish in our lands.

During his inaugural address in 1946, another Filipino president, Manuel Roxas, reminded us about the growing need for constant dialogue and collaboration among different nations. Addressing a country recovering from the horrors of the Second World War, he said, and I quote, “As we go forward in our full faith to work out the destiny of our land and of our people, we must cling fast to one another, and to our friends across the seas; we must maintain in both our hearts and minds a gentleness of understanding as well as firmness of purpose.”

Today the call remains the same. As we welcome a new decade, we march forward and muster collective courage to speak up against the abuses of our time. This is not the time for silent dissent and inaction. This is not the time for hate and division. This is the time for allowing our peoples to speak truth to power. This is the time to be one united legion.

We need to rise up, face our challenges, and usher in a new era for security, peace building, and the preservation and promotion of human rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen, peace can be achieved only if we care about the whole of humanity, not just those who live within our borders; if we can pursue wealth for all nations, without leaving behind those who languish in poverty; if we can harness mankind’s massive ability to create a world with amazing new technology without destroying what makes us humans in the process.

We need a better, kinder world—one where the values of equality and liberty are spread throughout the world, and where freedom and democracy thrive. In a time when many of our institutions are under attack, when corruption and abuse of power are being normalized and anger continues to tear our social fabric, we need leaders who will lead by drawing power from the people’s mandate and echo their hopes, fears, and dreams.

For the longest time, many of those who have been excluded in our quest for economic growth and prosperity continue to struggle in the peripheries. Let us not forget them as we dream of bigger things for the future. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that no one will be left behind in our quest for genuine and inclusive development.

Seventy years ago, thousands of lives were offered on this sacred ground in the name of freedom and democracy. Today, we recommit and consecrate our lives in protecting these precious ideals. As we journey together towards a more united and prosperous world, may we not falter in our efforts, and may we not fail in our endeavors. Let us take bigger strides not only for our nations, but for the whole of humankind.

This is the best way to honor the pain and sacrifices made by those who have gone before us. This is the best time to show the world what democracy truly means. 

Thank you very much. And as we say in Filipino: “Mabuhay po kayong lahat!”



To go to the World Summit 2020 Schedule page, click here.