Agenda for the Post-2015 ASEAN
Governance, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Global Engagement
Thursday, 14 August 2014; News by Chheang Vannarith
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – ASEAN turned 47 on August 8. Time is running out for ASEAN to realize its community by December next year. Till date, about eighty percent of the blueprints have been implemented, although some areas have lots of room for improvement. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) blueprint has received more attention and is better implemented than the ASEAN Political Security and Socio-Cultural Community ones.
The main issues ASEAN is facing are people’s awareness and participation, widening development gap, slow implementation of policy, environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources.
The majority of ASEAN people do not feel a sense of belonging to ASEAN. The poor people in the region are left behind or excluded from benefits of regional integration process. Some are even confronted with more challenges stemming from regional integration.
The development gap between member states remains wide. For instance, the average per capita income in Cambodia is about 20 times less than that of Singapore. Rural-urban divide within the country and region generate domestic migration and social tensions.
The Bali Concord III Plan of Action (2013-2017), adopted in Phnom Penh in 2012, provides certain policy guidelines for ASEAN to implement in the post-2015 period. The political security cooperation includes the principle norms, ensuring peace, security and stability in the region; democratic and rules-cum-rights based political development.
Economic cooperation reasserts the importance of economic integration and further links ASEAN economies with the global supply chain and production network, enhance macroeconomic coordination and financial cooperation, and promote higher level of economic dynamism, sustained prosperity, and inclusive growth.
Socio-cultural cooperation emphasizes on disaster management, sustainable development, environment, climate change, health, science, technology, education, human resources, cultures, and the quality of life.
However, the Bali Concord III does not provide concrete measures to strengthen the institutions and capacity of the ASEAN and the Member States in implementing the action plans.
The agenda for the post-2015 ASEAN therefore should focus on four elements: good governance, inclusiveness, innovation, and global engagement.
Governance is the foundation of development and regional integration. It defines and enforces the rules for political behavior. It involves the formulation and observance of rules and norms to ensure effective regulation and identifies those rules that are conductive for development and regional integration.
There are three elements of governance: participation of different stakeholders especially the local community; predictability with a legal framework and effective regulation; and transparency and clarity with the rules and availability of information.
Inclusiveness is the key to building a socially responsible and people-centered ASEAN. No one should be left behind in the ASEAN community building process. Everyone should benefit from the process regardless of gender and ethnicity.
Inclusive growth should be the ultimate goal of development. Without this, Southeast Asia will face more complicated multiple social and political tensions and conflicts deriving from widening development gap and socio-political exclusion.
Technological innovation can make a big difference in addressing developmental challenges such as hunger and poverty, environmental degradation, food security and safety, access to drinking water and energy, and treatment of diseases.
Institutional innovation for an inclusive growth and regional integration and community building need more attention. ASEAN must keep innovating to be competitive and ready to overcome challenges. ASEAN must develop institutional frameworks for innovation policy. It needs to invest more in education reforms, skills development, information technology, and human capital advancement.
Global engagement is a long-term vision. ASEAN needs to strengthen its role and image on the global stage. To do that, the ten member states have to be transformed into a single unit or actor based on a single identity. ASEAN needs to strengthen its capacity to work in partnership with the global community in collectively addressing global issues and challenges.
ASEAN’s unity and centrality in shaping regional order is a matter of survival for the future of ASEAN. The communiqué of the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on August 8, 2014 stresses: “Recognizing the rapidly changing regional strategic landscape, we underscore the importance of strengthening ASEAN’s unity and regional interests in order to preserve ASEAN’s centrality in the regional architecture.”
A multipolar world is in the making. The world will be taken care of by many actors. ASEAN will be one the global actors in shaping a new global order.