On September 26th, the School of Diplomacy hosted delegates from the Philippines to ASEAN.
Many consider ASEAN to be the most successful regional organization in the developed world. Not only has ASEAN remained a policy powerhouse since its formation in 1967, it played a vital role in regional stability, bridging the divide between communist and non-communist states. According to delegation speakers, ASEAN fulfilled a need to integrate nations in the region and continues to integrate world powers in dialogue.
This important function of ASEAN is still relevant in the modern geopolitical climate. “We have every reason in the world to fight each other,” said Elizabeth Buensuceso, pointing to the diversity and history of the region.
Buensuceso likened the organization to the “movement of an octopus,” where each different state must move together in coordination and consensus in order to progress.
Recently ASEAN has sought to grow vertically by strengthening its institutions and horizontally by integrating communities. The organization has focused its priorities on creating a peaceful, stable and resilient community and has taken on issues as wide ranging as civil service and biodiversity.
Security has also been high on the list of priorities for ASEAN. As non-traditional security issues arise, the organization is striving to adjust with urgency. Inclusion has been an important component of ASEAN’s strategy. The organization has placed a priority on integrating women in the security and reconciliation process, and has been proactive in reaching out to marginalized communities.
Another issue ASEAN prioritizes is human rights. The organization boasts its own human rights agreement known as the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. The Declaration outlines the rights and freedoms of individuals and how ASEAN member states will cooperate to ensure protection of human rights of all Southeast Asian people. This agreement signifies the strong common interest in and commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights that ASEAN members share.
Though ASEAN has been criticized at times for its consensus-based, non-interference approach, it has been this very aspect of the organization that has kept member states at the table. This distinct quality of ASEAN is how the organization has avoided many issues faced by the EU such as the recent Brexit vote.
Looking to the future, ASEAN member states have in place their Vision 2020 which will forge stronger economic integration within ASEAN. This vision emphasis sustainable and equitable growth as well as enhancing national and regional resilience. While the countries of ASEAN compete with one another, this vision will also promote cohesion through increased integration. A highly competitive ASEAN will be created with free flow of goods, services, and investments, along with freeier flow of capital, reduced poverty, and socio-economic disparities. ASEAN Vision 2020 will create a prosperous, and peaceful Southeast Asia.
In anticipation of its 2017 chairmanship of ASEAN, the Philippines has adopted the slogan “partnering for change, engaging the world.” The country hopes to build upon the unique qualities of ASEAN to extend the organization’s reach beyond heads of states to create meaningful change for common people.
Emily Fox is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, where she is specializing in Foreign Policy Analysis and International Security.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @emilyefox
Kevin Princic is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations. He is a second year graduate student at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Union where he studied Japanese and International Relations. At Seton Hall he is specializing in Global Negotiation and Conflict Management and Foreign Policy Analysis. His region of interest is East Asia.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @K_Princic
Follow the Journal on Twitter: @JournalofDiplo