Sunday, December 3, 2023 | 23:56 WIB

The meaning behind ASEAN Chairmanship and the frailty of public communication

Jakarta, IO – The year 2023 proudly marks Indonesia’s fifth ASEAN Chairmanship, themed “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”. Indonesia aims for ASEAN to remain essential and relevant to the ASEAN community and the world. 

The 2023 ASEAN Summit is to be held on May 9-11, 2023, in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara. 

The ASEAN Chairmanship is expected to deliver many benefits, and to be in Indonesia’s national interest, as the country is in need of stable economic markets in the region and leadership in various sectors, such as financial, banking, retail, energy and security-diplomacy sectors. 

The Four Meanings of the 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship 

Four meanings lie behind Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship. First, it shows Indonesia as the region’s largest country in economic size and population. Indonesia hopes to increase its influence in the ASEAN region and pave the way for strengthening Indonesia’s bargaining position in ASEAN’s cooperation and regional decision-making. 

Second, it brings opportunities to promote Indonesia’s national interests. The ASEAN Chairmanship will open opportunities for Indonesia to promote its national interests, such as fostering economic, security and diplomacy partnerships. 

Third, it creates an opportunity to influence regional policies. In addition to promoting its national interest, Indonesia can also influence ASEAN’s broader regional policies. The ASEAN Chairmanship offers Indonesia an opportunity to speak with a stronger voice on current issues, such as de-dollarization, regional payment systems and matters related to ASEAN’s regional security and stability. 

Fourth, it improves Indonesia’s international reputation. The ASEAN chairmanship allows Indonesia to enhance its international image in the regional and global spheres. Indonesia has the advantage of demonstrating its leadership at the international level and showing its commitment to regional peace, security and stability.

Lack of Promotion and Elitism in the Implementation of the ASEAN Chairmanship 

Overall, Indonesia’s 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship bears a profound meaning to Indonesia to bolster its regional leadership position, particularly in economic recovery, regional finance and payment systems, promoting national interests, influencing regional policies and enhancing the international image. 

Despite the urgent and prominent agenda of the ASEAN Chairmanship, it was barely promoted to the public. 

Compared to the G20 Chairmanship, the promotion of the ASEAN Chairmanship’s implementation and agenda relevance was lacking, and seemed to show elitism and technocracy. 

Hence, the ASEAN Chairmanship is interpreted as a mere celebration. It does not reflect a strong urge to help the Indonesian people escape from economic burdens and promote economic recovery. 

To shy away from the impression that the ASEAN Chairmanship is the agenda of the elites, especially those in the financial sector and energy moguls, the ASEAN Chairmanship must include the agenda of the people and small business actors. 

None of Indonesia’s 16 Priority Agenda in the 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship is related to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the expansion of the Indonesian MSMEs export market in the ASEAN region or facilitation for business actors in expanding businesses in the ASEAN region. 

The followings are priority economic deliverables (PED) set by Indonesia in the 2023 Asean Chairmanship:

Recovery and rebuilding

• The ASEAN services facilitation framework, 

• Fostering recovery and ensuring economic and financial stability and resilience, 

• ASEAN leaders’ declaration on strengthening food security, 

• The signing of the 2nd protocol amending the agreement to establish an ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area, 

• Establishing the RCEP Support Unit at the ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta, Indonesia, 

• ASEAN Framework for industrial project-based initiatives (cross-pillar initiatives), 

Digital economy issues: 

• Full implementation of e-Form D through the ASEAN Single Window, 

• Advancing payment connectivity and promoting digital financial literacy and inclusion to support inclusive economic growth, 

• Statement of leaders to develop the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA), 

• Regulatory Pilot Space (RPS) to facilitate cross-border digital data flow to enable self-driving cars in ASEAN, 

• ASEAN framework on logistics for digital economy supply chains for rural areas (last-mile delivery), 

Read: Collaboration to increase productivity of natural rubber plantations

Sustainability issues: 

• ASEAN Standard Harmonization Roadmap to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 

• Developing an electric vehicle ecosystem, 

• Developing the ASEAN Blue Economy Framework (cross-pillar initiative), 

• Transitional financial framework to support sustainable finance and a green economy, 

• Declaration of sustainable energy security through interconnectivity and market integration. 


The 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship seemed to only cater to the top tier of Indonesian society, such as bankers, blue-green energy actors, and technology and big-data players. Meanwhile, the agenda of the small community, MSMEs, persons with disabilities and other marginalized people lacked relevance in the 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship.


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