Policy Briefing: ‘ASEAN: A connecting region?’
By Louise Mao, Asia Society Australia
SYDNEY, 15 October 2015. Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, gave an extensive briefing on the present and future of ASEAN. He emphasised the uniqueness of the regional forum, explored current challenges and presented prospects for the future.
Despite regional differences in religion, language, race, history and culture, ASEAN’s “unity in diversity” concept has succeeded in securing a peaceful environment in the region for the past 50 years. This has fostered a continued long-term economic growth and development in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, ASEAN has acted as a platform for the great-powers engagement and its contribution to creating a positive regional chemistry in the wider Asian region needs to be recognised.
ASEAN’s recent setbacks have been caused partly by domestic instability and weak leadership in many of its anchor countries. Furthermore, the extension of the U.S.-China rivalry into Southeast Asia has aligned countries into superpower blocs, complicating regional solidarity and making it difficult to achieve consensus among members.
However, Professor Mahbubani remained upbeat about ASEAN’s future. ASEAN’s flexible structure ensures that it will be adaptable to change and its past successes have engendered support and goodwill from those both inside and outside of the organisation. Supporting the prosperity of Southeast Asia through ASEAN is also of national interest to bigger states and middle powers, including Australia.