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ASEAN Community-Building: A Round-up of 2014, Moving into 2015
Moe Thuzar* for ASC-ebrief 2/2015
ASEAN will announce its integrated Community on 31 December 2015. This announcement is the culmination of regional integration efforts following the ASEAN Vision 2020 statement made in 1997. The ASEAN Community links the different aspirations in the political, economic and social spheres, which ASEAN has named the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Community-building objectives are centred on the people, their peace and prosperity.
2014 was an important year for ASEAN as members moved closer to the 2015 goals of community-building. ASEAN’s efforts to maintain regional peace and stability were tested, mostly over tensions in the South China Sea. There were some anxieties over Myanmar’s debut as ASEAN Chair for the first time since becoming an ASEAN member. But Myanmar managed to steer the regional-level discussions towards consensus agreements on important issues such as the South China Sea, and in engaging major powers on topics of shared concern such as climate change. On 27 March 2014, a Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro was signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This breakthrough development for peace and reconciliation involved the contributions of ASEAN members such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.
ASEAN integration efforts have become more visible in the economic sphere. In 2014, the implementation rate of AEC Blueprint measures increased to 81.7%. In October 2014, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand started work on a pilot ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS). The ACTS is aimed at facilitating the movement of transit goods by road within ASEAN. The 15 priority projects of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity aim at better communication routes, and greater ease in moving goods, services and people across borders, to boost closer people-to-people connections. There is renewed optimism for ASEAN Single Aviation Market, with Indonesia’s acceptance of the protocols to the Multilateral Agreement on Air Services (MAAS) in November 2014. To welcome more visitors to ASEAN, from within and outside the region, the ASEAN National Tourism Organisations have developed a vision statement for developing ASEAN as a quality tourism destination by 2025, following a report in the Bangkok Post in December 2014 that visitor arrivals in ASEAN had slid 9.1% to 7.3 million visitors in 2014.
For ASEAN countries, 2014 was a year characterised by several disasters, including the Air Asia crash in the Java Sea, the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft over Ukraine, and the disappearance of another Malaysia Airlines plane en route to Beijing. A powerful Typhoon Hagupit (locally known as Ruby) swept through central Philippines in December 2014, displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes, injuring hundreds, and killing at least 19. The worst flooding in 30 years devastated many parts of northern Malaysia, affecting livelihoods of thousands of people in some of the country’s most impoverished areas. ASEAN members were among the first responders to assist in relief and recovery efforts, and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) has established its ability as the focal coordinating point for these efforts. Malaysia, the ASEAN Chair for 2015, has now added disaster relief initiatives to its list of ASEAN priorities for 2015, with an aim to assist other ASEAN members affected by disasters, especially flooding which is the most common recurring natural disaster in ASEAN.
At the dawn of 2015, people in ASEAN member states are still largely unaware of the benefits of being part of the ASEAN Community. ASEAN is responding to this challenge by working on the ASEAN Communication Master Plan (ACMP), which was launched at the 25th ASEAN Summit in November 2014. The ACMP takes an integrated approach to discuss and share information on the expected benefits and outcomes of ASEAN integration with wider audiences, and through various communication platforms including social media. This will appeal to the passion and interest of the younger generation.
Despite the challenges faced for regional integration, ASEAN’s work in 2014 demonstrates the accomplishments of its “quiet diplomacy” approach in acting on regional commitments. While the visible focus for 2015 remains on engendering the fundamentals of regional economic integration in each national system and psyche, it will also give a renewed perspective to collective action and shared initiatives in making regional collaboration work.
*Moe Thuzar is Lead Researcher (socio-cultural) at the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS.
ASEAN Secretariat, 2014. ASEAN Annual Report 2013-2014.
Bangkok Post (online), 16 January 2015. “December surge helps tourist arrivals end 2014 down only 6.7%”
Cristina Silva for International Business Times, 11 December 2014. “Philippines Typhoon Hagupit Update 2014: Thousands Stranded In Evacuation Centers
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman quoted in article “Malaysia to start disaster relief exercise initiatives at Asean level” in the Borneo Post online edition of 15 January 2015.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Lombok, Indonesia, 15 to 17 January 2011
ASEAN-ROK Relations: Their Past and Their Future
Paper presented by Rodolfo C. Severino, Head, ASEAN Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, at the 14th ASEAN Forum - Seoul, South Korea. Organized by the Korean Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the ASEAN Secretariat...
Australia and ASEAN: 35 Years On
Speech delivered by HE Ms Gillian Bird, Deputy Secretary, Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ambassador for ASEAN at the ASEAN Ambassadors Seminar Series, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
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ASEAN's Legal Framework: Lost Its Stripes or Back with A Roar
For a long while now, we have all heard criticisms of ASEAN being a paper tiger or even a toothless tiger. The "ASEAN way" of building consensus and our policy of non-interference in each other's internal affairs are regularly ridiculed as being ineffective. We are chided for not having a strong legal and decision-making framework...
ASEAN Centrality in Regional Integration
Special Lecture delivered by Ambassador K Kesavapany, Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore at the Siam City Hotel, Bangkok. The Lecture was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand
United States-ASEAN Relations
Speech delivered by HE Mr Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States and Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs at the ASEAN Ambassadors Seminar Series, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Speech delivered by HE Madam Xue Hanqin, Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN at the ASEAN Ambassasors Seminar Series, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
ASEAN: An Indispensable Partner of Japan
Speech delivered by HE Yoshinori Katori, Japan's Ambassador for ASEAN at the ASEAN Ambassadors Seminar Series, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Regional Economic Integration and Cultural Change
Address delivered by Rodolfo C. Severino, Head, ASEAN Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, at the International Cultural Forum organised by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam.
Taking Stock From The Straits Times
It has been a trying year for Singapore's chairmanship of Asean. Last year, the republic had to cope with two crises related to yanmar - the country's bloody political crackdown in september and the aid controversy following Cyclone Nargis...
ASEAN Studies Centre launched to build stronger ties in region
ASEAN Foreign Ministers Discuss ASEAN Charter
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ON MONDAY, May 19, Singapore will host a special Asean foreign ministers' meeting to discuss the situation in Myanmar following the devastation that Cyclone Nargis wrought earlier this month. Foreign Minister George Yeo had written to Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win to convey Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's proposal for the special meeting...
ASEAN-China Relations: Past, Present and Future by Rodolfo C. Severino
I was asked some years ago what I thought China's most significant achievement was in its relations with ASEAN. I replied that it was this: China has managed no longer to be viewed as a threat by the ASEAN member-countries....
Is ASEAN Good For The Business Community? Talk by Professor Tommy Koh
ASEAN and Its Relations with Japan. Talk by Rodolfo C. Severino