THE ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC) is one of three pillars of the ASEAN Community. The two others are the ASEAN Economic Community or AEC and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community or ASCC. The 3 pillars form part of the ASEAN Charter which entered into force on Dec. 15, 2008 in Jakarta.
In a nutshell, the APSC Blueprint 2025 provides among others, the “aim to ensure that the peoples and Member-States of the ASEAN live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment” and “promote a people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN in which all sectors of society, regardless of gender, race, religion, language, or social and cultural background, are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building.”
The APSC Blueprint 2025 derives guidance from the ASEAN Charter, including other key ASEAN instruments and documents that stipulate the principles and frameworks for ASEAN political and security cooperation and their implementation.
Using the Blueprint’s provisions, the ASEAN citizen, like you and me, can appreciate the commitment of ASEAN to embrace, if not embed, a “rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred community” as opposed to the “state-oriented” mind-set that leaders of ASEAN member-states had been dogmatic about since the Bangkok Declaration of 1967. Of course, this is still anchored on the values of tolerance and moderation. ASEAN as a regional bloc does not encourage confrontation – it has always been guided by “Musyawarah Mufakat” which is the core of the “ASEAN WAY”.
The Blueprint lays the foundation for international relations – ASEAN being an active member of the international community particularly its strong relations with Dialogue Partners, and strengthening democracy, good governance, the rule of law, promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as combat corruption. We must remember that not all ASEAN member-states are democratic so the use of “democracy” is interpreted by many scholars as a big step towards moving forward. Human rights is also a welcome development since this concept is something new to ASEAN, and in fact, could not be found in the Bangkok Declaration of 1967.
How can the promotion and protection of human rights be instituted? The Blueprint provides many ways such as strengthening domestic legislation and institutions; promoting human rights education; ratification or acceding to core international human rights instruments and ensuring their effective implementation; enhancing engagement with the UN and relevant human rights mechanisms that ASEAN Member-States are parties of; promoting the mainstreaming of human rights across all three pillars of the ASEAN Community, through consultation among relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies; encouraging coordination and consultation among relevant ASEAN organs and bodies to enhance the implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, the Ha Noi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children, the Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community; and cooperating closely with relevant bodies to expedite the Implementation of the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, among others. All these measures can promote consciousness that ASEAN is serious about human rights.
Moving forward, instilling the culture of integrity and anti-corruption, and mainstreaming the said principles into the policies and practices of the ASEAN Community maybe challenging considering that corruption has become endemic in many bureaucracies.
Peace, the respect for diversity, tolerance, and understanding of faith, religion, and culture, is a continuing programme. This is not new in ASEAN considering that the region is host to diverse ethnicities, peoples, religions, and cultures. In Mindanao alone where diversity is prevalent, continuing peace education is taught in schools. So the APSC Blueprint taking this up only reinforces the need to sustain the programme. ASEAN can actively support the academe in Mindanao, as well as the rest of the country. Moreover, ASEAN should continue to engage civil society organizations and the youth in this advocacy. Both are very effective spokespersons.
A peaceful, secure, and stable region is the goal of ASEAN. This is achieved through the adoption of a comprehensive approach – which should be clear, doable, and fast – with a sense of urgency, to deal with existing and emerging challenges; resolving differences and disputes by peaceful means – like I said, ASEAN is non-confrontational; and keeping our region free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Our maritime security should also be enhanced through regional cooperation considering the threat of hegemonic China.
Erratum: In the first paragraph of my previous column on “Statelessness and Human Trafficking in ASEAN member-states”, I would like to acknowledge https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2017/, for my data.
For comments, you may reach the writer at [email protected]./PN