ASEAN at 55 : Achievements and Challenges Ahead

ASEAN at 55 : Achievements and Challenges Ahead

วันที่นำเข้าข้อมูล 11 ส.ค. 2565

วันที่ปรับปรุงข้อมูล 11 ส.ค. 2565

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ASEAN at 55: Achievements and Challenges ahead

On 8 August 2022, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN celebrates its 55th anniversary. This is quite a significant milestone for ASEAN. Created amidst the tensions of the Cold War and instabilities in the region, it has come this far to successfully achieve the cooperation goals as described in ASEAN  motto of  “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”

Some say that it was unexpected for ASEAN, started as a loose association in 1967, to last nor become an ASEAN Community (in 2015), and transform itself into a rules-based regional organization with a Charter. But it did,  and has now  earned worldwide recognition  as one of the world’s dynamic regional grouping.

Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has made a number of achievements towards regional peace, stability, and prosperity by advancing its agenda to cover 3 main pillars; political-security, economic, and socio-cultural.

Politically ASEAN successfully maintained peace and security of the region through various frameworks and mechanisms. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia or TAC (1976), as a guideline of inter-state relations, have been developed, expanded and endorsed by over 40 contracting parties within and outside Southeast Asia. In addition, ASEAN also created ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994 which now comprises 27 participating countries including all major regional players. It serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and consultation to promote confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the region. In 2019, ASEAN, as a main stakeholder in the region, launched the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific as a response to the Indo-Pacific strategies introduced by the Quad, stating that what ASEAN wishes is not a confrontation but a constructive engagement in the area of Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean combined.

On the economic front, ASEAN has made an important milestone in regional economic integration since the conclusion of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Agreement in 1992. Internally,  ASEAN has continuously fostered economic cooperation in trade, services and investment, and moved towards a single market and production base to increase the region’s competitiveness. ASEAN has managed not only to integrate internally but also with the world economy. ASEAN has also developed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with several partners. The conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP driven by 10 ASEAN Member States and 5 Dialogue Partners namely China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand in 2020 has yielded a powerful impact to the world economy, especially in the post-COVID era when trade lanes seem to bounce back strongly with potential of new economic growth.

For over five decades, ASEAN has attached great importance to enhance people-centered Community, contributing to social progress by reducing poverty, enhancing ASEAN’s identity, and safeguarding human rights. The ASEAN Socio Cultural Community is all about realizing the full potential of ASEAN citizens. On such,  ASEAN has devotedly fostered functional cooperation in many areas among themselves and with its external counterparts from different continents not only  to promote a cultural agenda, but also   cooperation towards  protecting and preparing its citizens from natural disasters, pandemics,  effects of climate change,  while enhancing people-to-people connectivity.

Challenges ahead

Hence, the world we are living in today is full of fast-paced geopolitical, geo-economic and social changes taking place regionally and globally. The rising competition among major powers show no sign of diminishing anytime soon but divide the world more deeply. The Climate Change, pandemic as COVID-19, and transnational crimes which actually require international cooperation, at some point, impose big challenges to the world and create an erosion of trust and appreciation in regionalism and multilateralism. Life-changing technologies, by some, is referred as a blessing tool for business and communication, but somehow cause less of people-to-people contact, human efforts, more dependencies and social divide for those are able and unable to afford them.

Building on past achievements during the five decades, ASEAN must take challenges as opportunities to consolidate among themselves and become a more inclusive and resilient community. In addition, ASEAN with its partners including the EU should continue our path and direction to bring up fruitful outcomes from mutually beneficial cooperation and gear toward the goal of enhancing cooperation across the region.

As ASEAN centrality and unity are two critical elements that will enable ASEAN to be counted and effective in the world arena, it is crucial than ever that ASEAN should continue to preserve its centrality, maintain in the driving seat in enhancing regional and multilateralism, and keep injecting consistent dynamics to the region.

ASEAN has gone through the test of time. It has experienced ups and downs, yet it has managed to go stronger and continues to undertake a path based on engagements and dialogues amongst stakeholders. Through various ASEAN-led platforms that ASEAN has such as Plus One mechanism with 11 Dialogue Partners including the EU, ASEAN Plus Three, the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, I strongly believe that the cooperation within and with our external partners could be pursued efficiently in the years ahead with the ultimate goal to bring peace, prosperity, and inclusiveness to the region and the world.