27 Desember 2010

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RI’s leadership in ASEAN: A positive contribution

ASEAN’s existence can be divided into two succinct periods, from its establishment until 1992, and from 1992 to the present time. I will use a concept of technology forecasting to approach delineating the two periods. First is by employing the explorative approach and second the normative approach.
When we set up ASEAN in 1967, we took an exploratory approach to the association. We started from the newly established association’s capabilities to face the association’s challenges and tried to move forward to overcome them.
First was how to reconcile intra-regional strife. Second was how to manage strife and create a Southeast Asian regional order on the basis of the social and economic systems of each member country and the territorial status quo.
Both goals are to be achieved by way of a third goal, which is to speed up “the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region”. This goal was indeed more pronounced at the time than the goal to “promote regional peace and stability”.
Nonetheless, ASEAN’s founding fathers were confident that economic and societal development, on the one hand, and peace and stability on the other, were tightly linked.
This linkage was expressed time and again in their speeches and in the agreements they have signed since the association’s establishment.
Their fourth goal was “to ensure their stability and security from external interference in any form or manifestation” and to “preserve their national identities in accordance with the ideals and aspirations of their peoples”.
Hence, “all foreign bases are temporary and remain only with the expressed concurrence of the
countries concerned and are not intended to be used directly or indirectly to subvert the national independence and freedom” of the member states.
They faced these challenges in an explorative way, looking for ways to manage them for the sake of regional peace and stability based on the capabilities available at the time.
In the process ASEAN developed the principles on which to build and hold the region together; by seeking the lowest common denominator to move from one level of cooperation to the next in the exploratory way, the ASEAN way.
They built their cooperation while sanctifying their sovereignty and non-interference in their respective domestic affairs.
These principles were then sanctified into the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia nine years later in Bali in 1976. For about 25 years ASEAN held on to this sanctified approach in developing ASEAN cooperation, tenaciously holding on to the lowest common denominator approach and the ASEAN way.
Then globalization entered the stage. The European Community (EC) embarked on a program referred to as Europe 1992. Its aim was to achieve a single European market in 1992 to overcome the economic stagnation and unemployment of the early 1980s and improve the position of EC members in the globalization process.
ASEAN followed suit by establishing the ASEAN Free Trade Area to increase ASEAN’s competitive edge as a production base in the world market through the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers and thus attract more foreign direct investment.
It was to be fully operational on Jan. 1, 2003. The plan is to be achieved by way of the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme, to increase “the region’s competitive advantage as a production base geared for the world market”.
In Bali in 2003, ASEAN embarked on the next target, the ASEAN Community program consisting of three pillars: the ASEAN Security Community, later to become the ASEAN Political and Security Community; ASEAN Economic Community; and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, first set to be achieved by 2020, then moved forward to 2015.
To respond to global challenges ASEAN has changed from explorative to a normative approach with clear-cut target dates. This means that ASEAN will have to start developing its capabilities to achieve the ASEAN Community by 2015. Now ASEAN will have to seek for optimum common denominators to meet the target date.
This commitment of moving on to those definite dates should be translated institutionally into a commission, an ASEAN Commission. The ASEAN Secretariat has outlived itself.
Redesigning the functions of the secretary general of the ASEAN Secretariat into the ASEAN secretary general is merely a diplomatic maneuver for the world beyond ASEAN.
The ASEAN Secretariat, by its very nature as a secretariat, will not be capable of initiating and designing compulsory scorecards to achieve the various targets set by the ASEAN Community Blueprints.
As a secretariat it will have to wait for orders from member states, which will not be effective if
ASEAN really wants to achieve those targets.
Designing and necessitating ASEAN’s economic scorecard is not so much hampered by the classical Westphalian principles of sovereignty and non-interference because of the very nature of the economics to achieve a single market and production base.
Designing and necessitating a political and security scorecard is hampered by classical sovereignty and non-interference principles, which are reinforced in the ASEAN Charter, even though ASEAN’s new principles of human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law essentially challenge those Westphalian principles.
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono said at the London School of Economics and Political Science on March 31, 2009: “We in ASEAN can no longer afford to be allergic to democracy and human rights”.
These new principles will be Indonesia’s objective during its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2011. Surin Pitsuwan’s comment after a briefing to Indonesia’s Cabinet on Dec. 17, 2010, indicated how he believed that to “have dialogues with the Indonesian Cabinet ahead of time represents a true testimony of Indonesia’s unwavering commitment to ASEAN”.
At the closing session of the Hanoi Summit on Oct. 30, 2010, President Yudhoyono emphatically said that for “Indonesia, ASEAN has always been — and will remain — the cornerstone of our foreign policy. ASEAN is our family. Our home. Our neighborhood. Our future.
Indonesia shall continue to rise together with all our ASEAN brothers — as one. With its theme of “ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations”, Surin, as quoted in The Jakarta Post (Dec. 18, 2010), is convinced “that ASEAN will be having a higher profile on many issues”, under Indonesia’s leadership.
However, “having a higher profile on many issues” with an “unwavering commitment to ASEAN” without a stronger regional institution to produce and necessitate the implementation of the tasks it set for itself will only keep ASEAN’s progress dependent on strong national leadership not backed up by a strong regional institution to guarantee the sustainability of ASEAN commitments into 2015 and beyond.
Hopefully Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN will uplift the ASEAN Community into a global community of nations and simultaneously produce the conviction that such an ASEAN will indeed need a stronger regional institution to thrust and sustain the shift in ASEAN’s posture.

The writer is senior researcher at the Center for Political Studies, Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Opini The Jakarta Pos 27 Desember 2010