ASEAN hopes to expedite code of conduct on South China Sea

Above, foreign ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting retreat in Singapore. Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN. (Reuters)
Updated 07 February 2018
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ASEAN hopes to expedite code of conduct on South China Sea

SINGAPORE: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is hoping to expedite negotiations on a code of conduct with China for the disputed South China Sea but it isn’t realistic to expect an agreement within a year, Singapore’s defense minister said on Wednesday.
China and the 10-member ASEAN bloc adopted a negotiating framework on the code in August and have commenced talks on the code itself over the disputed and busy waterway largely controlled by China but also claimed by some ASEAN states.
“We hope it will be expedited but it’s a very, very complex issue,” Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters after a gathering of ASEAN defense chiefs.
“It’s a century’s old dispute. Expecting (the code) in one year is just unrealistic,” he said.
ASEAN and China have hailed the conclusion of the negotiating framework as a sign of progress.
However, the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding raised doubts about the effectiveness of the pact.
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN, some of whom have sparred for years over what they see as China’s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Tuesday some of his ASEAN colleagues had expressed concerns about ongoing activities by China in the disputed areas of the South China Sea, including land reclamations.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.
Singapore has taken over the role of chairing ASEAN for 2018 and hosted meetings of the group’s foreign and defense ministers this week.


Over 400 Afghan women aim to break male stranglehold on Parliament

Updated 18 October 2018
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Over 400 Afghan women aim to break male stranglehold on Parliament

  • Of 2,691 candidates vying for seats in Afghanistan's parliament, more than 400 are women
  • Their aims are to encourage a consensus among female members of Parliament and to end the reliance on factional leaders and strongmen with power and wealth

KABUL: For women in Afghanistan’s Parliament, what a difference a year makes.

Last December, the government proposed 12 candidates for ministerial positions; only one was female, and she failed to win enough votes.

Now hundreds of women aim to be agents of change by standing for Parliament in elections on Saturday.

More than 400 of the 2,691 candidates are women. Their aims are to encourage a consensus among female members of Parliament and to end the reliance on factional leaders and strongmen with power and wealth.

“The young and new candidates are a powerful tool to make Parliament exercise its rights as stipulated in the constitution,” said Zahra Nawabi, 28, a candidate from Kabul who has two master’s degrees.

“Our priority should be women, first and foremost addressing their health. Parliament should not become a source of shame for the nation.”

The practice of wealthy figures and men with power supporting their own choice of female nominees was a greater threat to Afghan democracy than the threatened attacks on the election process by Taliban insurgents, she said.

“The government needs to intervene to stop this, otherwise the next Parliament could be worse than the current one.”

Shinkay Karokhail, who was elected as an MP in 2005, was re-elected in 2010 and is standing again, admitted that female MPs had failed to form a powerful bloc in Parliament. Some of them regarded themselves “as extra-ordinary,” she said, and it was too early to say whether any of the new batch of candidates would be an improvement.