I WOULD like to correct myself by saying that the Blueprint braces (instead of lays) the foundation for international relations particularly ASEAN’s strong relations with its Dialogue Partners.
These dialogue partners have been collaborating with ASEAN for decades now so the foundations have been laid already. Of course, like all relationships characterized by changing dynamics, international relations continue to evolve through time.
Moreover, the use of “democracy”, according to scholars, captures the emerging dynamics of norm-sharing and shaping that is happening in the region. Human rights are another welcome development.
Scholars say this demonstrates that ASEAN elites have come a long way from their strident opposition in the 1990s (during the heydays of the ‘Asian values’ debate) to notions of individual and human rights.
The presence of Non-Traditional Security (NTS) challenges confronting ASEAN is another area where the Blueprint can be utilized effectively and on a timely manner. The recent haze from Indonesia that caused ill health on many Filipinos was a regional concern crossing transnational borders. What mechanisms should have been activated?
According to Dr. Mely Caballero-Anthony’s Working Paper No. 7 on Non-Traditional Security Challenges, Regional Governance, and the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the recurring haze problem has demanded a high price on human security, as well as caused significant costs to health systems, economic productivity, and the economy in general. Indeed!
Need we add more?
She likewise revisited the threat of infectious disease in Asia – the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) experience, demonstrating that in an era of globalisation and regionalisation, infectious diseases have the capacity to adversely affect both the direct security and well-being of all members of society including facets of the economy.
She likewise directed our attention to environmental degradation. In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) and Typhoon Parma (Pepeng) caused deaths in the Philippines, damaged hundreds of houses and infrastructure, and affected the lives of more than 7.4 million people. Typhoon Ketsana also left a trail of death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao PDR, killing more than 50 people in Vietnam and Cambodia and displacing nearly 200,000 people overall. It was apparent that with Typhoon Ketsana, ASEAN member-states were affected. It was a regional concern.
Another prominent threat is transnational crime, which exacts a similarly high cost on states, peoples, and communities across Southeast Asia, she further explained. NTS can also come in the form of illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking networks, money laundering, piracy, arms smuggling, cybercrimes, and the growing visibility of the terrorist threats. Indeed, the impact of NTS is regional and cannot be confined to individual member-states alone.
In the same working paper, the following factors could hinder the goals of the Blueprint:
i) Weak state response/s to external factors. ASEAN should be able to push the emerging new norm of regionalism. This time, it should be multi-dimensional in approach.
ii) Absence or lack of political will of state governments to put in place systems and resources to translate these regional plans into actionable deeds – the Blueprint’s goals are lofty in paper; there’s no doubt about it but it remains only in paper until we see them fleshed out.
iii) Integration of non-state actors, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), international organisations, and other external actors.
Scholars say that what’s interesting about the new regionalism is the increased participation and inclusion of non-state actors in the regional processes and how they play a growing role in the public or regulatory functions. NGOs are acknowledged to be adept at consensus-building and dialogue. Involving them ensures that decisions are made at the lowest level while channelling human and financial resources effectively.
It will be noted however, that civil society was not given a formal role within the framework of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) operations.
iv) Bring the State back in. States are the main actors that facilitate the fruition of regional commitments. After all, there is no ASEAN without the participating member-states. Thus, there is a need to bring the member-states back in with their renewed fervour and active role to push the regional commitments forward.
Food for Thought:
The APSC can be seen as not only charting the future direction of ASEAN’s security cooperation, but also signifying a shift towards a more normative regional framework. – Mely Caballero-Anthony
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