Jakarta, IO – Indonesia currently holds the prestigious position of leading ASEAN, a pivotal role that shapes the course of Southeast Asia’s diplomatic relations. The 42nd ASEAN Summit, hosted in Labuan Bajo from May 10th to 11th, 2023, garnered significant international attention, due to the high expectations placed on ASEAN in addressing contemporary crises and navigating complex challenges. To ensure Indonesia’s successful and illustrious tenure as the Chair of ASEAN, it is imperative to grasp the imminent challenges and devise effective strategies.
It is imperative to recognize that ASEAN is currently experiencing a dual crisis.. First, there appears to be growing instability in the global landscape, characterized by escalating tensions between major powers, most notably the United States and the People’s Republic of China. ASEAN, historically serving as the primary forum for dialogue among these influential regional players, is facing a crisis of legitimacy, as these major powers explore alternative avenues for cooperation. Second, ASEAN’s legitimacy is waning, in view of its sluggish response to regional crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. The construction of more adaptable regional frameworks depends heavily on Indonesia’s leadership, highlighting the significance of its ASEAN chairmanship.
Indonesia, as the host, has chosen “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth” as the tagline for its chairmanship this year. This theme will culminate in a series of summits scheduled for September 5th to 7th, 2023, where not only the leaders of the 10 member states but also major powers such as China, Japan, Korea, Australia, and India will convene. This assembly reflects Indonesia’s commitment to bolstering ASEAN’s role as a central hub for regional growth and diplomacy, emphasizing its determination to address the pressing challenges of our time. Throughout history, Indonesia’s leadership has significantly influenced the design and direction of ASEAN governance, in tackling the challenges of its time. There are four pressing issues that Indonesia should prioritize in ASEAN discussions:
1. The Challenge of ASEAN’s Delegitimization in Responding to Global Crises: ASEAN needs to address its diminishing legitimacy in responding to global crises effectively. As the world witnesses increasingly complex challenges, such as climate change, cyber threats, and pandemics, the urgency for ASEAN to adapt and prove its worth intensifies. The organization must reevaluate its role and relevance in the face of evolving international norms and expectations. Furthermore, it should engage in proactive diplomacy, not just reactive responses, to demonstrate its capacity to navigate the turbulent waters of contemporary global affairs. The world is looking to ASEAN, and Indonesia’s leadership can be instrumental in revitalizing its role as a cornerstone of regional stability and cooperation.
2. The Importance of Empowering ASEAN as a Driver of Sustainable and Equitable Economic Growth: ASEAN must harness its potential as an engine for sustainable and equitable economic growth in the region. The diverse economies within ASEAN can find synergies through enhanced economic cooperation, fostering innovation and creating opportunities for businesses of all sizes. This collaborative approach not only contributes to the prosperity of member states but also enables ASEAN to better withstand global economic uncertainties. Indonesia, with its vast economic potential, can lead the way by championing initiatives that prioritize job creation, environmental sustainability and inclusive growth, ensuring that the benefits of economic progress reach all segments of society.
3. Demonstrating the Relevance of ASEAN’s Principles in Today’s International Norms: ASEAN must demonstrate that its fundamental principles remain pertinent in the context of evolving international norms. Adapting to contemporary challenges while upholding its core values is crucial. In the context of the Myanmar crisis, ASEAN faces the challenge of applying its non-interference principle while addressing a dire humanitarian situation. Indonesia, in its leadership role, can advocate for a nuanced approach that combines respect for sovereignty with a commitment to human rights and democracy. This would showcase ASEAN’s adaptability in upholding its principles while responding effectively to crises.
4. The Urgency for ASEAN to Modernize Regional Organizational Institutions: It is imperative for ASEAN to modernize its regional organizational institutions with responsive and participatory mechanisms and principles. This modernization effort should involve streamlining decision-making processes to allow for quicker responses to emerging crises and challenges. Additionally, greater transparency and inclusivity in policymaking and implementation can foster trust and cooperation among member states.
Indonesia, as the chair of ASEAN, can champion these reforms by promoting initiatives that ensure the Secretariat plays a more active and efficient role in facilitating regional cooperation. Furthermore, Indonesia can advocate for the establishment of specialized task forces and rapid response teams to address pressing issues, such as natural disasters or health crises, in a timely and effective manner.
By modernizing its institutional framework, ASEAN can demonstrate its commitment to adaptability and relevance in an ever-changing world. This proactive approach will not only enhance the organization’s effectiveness but also reaffirm its importance in maintaining regional peace and stability. Indonesia’s leadership can catalyze these vital reforms and ensure that ASEAN remains at the forefront of regional cooperation.
These policy recommendations serve as an imperative call for ASEAN to reevaluate its regionalism principles in response to contemporary challenges. Additionally, ASEAN must engage in practical endeavors that directly impact the interests and safety of Southeast Asian communities. These include responding to pandemics, combating forest fires, addressing human trafficking, ensuring maritime security, and more. Addressing these four issues can guide ASEAN out of the legitimacy and effectiveness crises it currently faces.