The 13th South China Sea International Conference: - Auslandsbüro Vietnam
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This year, the 13th South China Sea International Conference (SCSC): Looking back to a Brighter future was taken place on November 18th and 19th, 2021 in Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in hybrid format.
In 2 full days, in which Day 1 was looking back and Day 2 was towards a brighter future, 8 sessions were presented by 37 speakers, discussants providing participants and general public a comprehensive overview over the selected topics. Each session can be summarized as below:
DAY 1 – LOOKING BACK
Session 1: The South China Sea (SCS) in a shifting global landscape which looked back at development in the SCS over the past years to further understand why various stakeholders act the ways they do? Why the more interest there is on peace, stability and order in the sea, the greater erosion of trust there seems to be? Why common interests have not led to greater, more effective cooperation and lessen tensions?
Session 2: Thirty years after the Cold War: is another brewing and how to prevent one from breaking out into conflicts which looked back at the lesson learnt among both the major and minor powers of the last cold war to see what can be done to establish decent code of conduct among all, avoiding miscalculations and manage incidence so that conflicts could be avoided at all costs. The role of the major, middle powers, autonomy and alliances, multilateral organisations and strategic communications, etc. would be revisited.
Session 3: Cementing the legal order in the SCS: assessment of the past 5 years examined how legal order has been manifested in the SCS over the past 5 years. The discussion included an analysis on (i) where state practices have developed to either deviate from or endorse the constitutional role of UNCLOS and (ii) how how the legal order at sea would continue to evolve.
Session 4: Be fair to the fact: history and the SCS which revisited the history of the SCS with the view to exploring new research findings and clarifying certain facts, particularly during the turbulent times after the Second World War and during the Cold War. Looking back on the Treaty of San Francisco at its 70th anniversary, for example, could be useful to understand the SCS’s history at a critical moment.
DAY 2 – TOWARDS A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Session 5: ASEAN and the QUAD in the regional architecture which looked into the future of regional security architecture to analyze how ASEAN and the emerging QUAD would compete or complement one another. The discussion in this session was to find out how ASEAN could and should strengthen its centrality amid emerging issues affecting Southeast Asia’s security and stability, both due to traditional and non-traditional threats, as well as new emerging arrangements to deal with such threats.
Session 6: Disrupted supply chains: how to ensure resilient sea lanes amid Covid-19 which explored how factors such as infrastructures connectivity, port security cooperation, etc. might contribute to regional seaborn supply chain resilience, identify potential red flags in the management of maritime supply chain operations and discuss ways to enhance safety and stability of sea based logistical networks so as to ensure the Indo-Pacific Region remain on a path to steady and sustainable growth in the pandemic-troubled times.
Session 7: Promoting science diplomacy for common oceanic benefits which explored recent progress in science diplomacy and maritime cooperation, and the new opportunity brought out by rapid science and technology advancement to address environmental, humanity and economic development challenges as well as non-traditional maritime threats.
Session 8: Transparency through tracking technology which discussed how the new information could and should be wisely utilized to avoid misinformation and disinformation given the fact that the past few years saw rapid advancement and popularization of sophisticated tracking and remote sensing technologies, opening new frontiers in maritime domain and situational awareness, particularly in the SCS. The unprecedented level of transparency that technology brought clearly had huge impact on public understanding and opinion on accountability of involved stakeholders both at policy level and those operating “on the ground”.