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ASEAN: Dialogues and Sovereignty

ASEAN: Dialogues and Sovereignty

The lecture series, Transcending Regional Boundaries Across Virtual Realities, ended with the lecture on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The lecture was presented by Ms. Des Braceros. Currently, she is a lecturer in the Department of International Studies at Ateneo de Davao University. Her research interests focus on non-traditional security issues, Japanese Studies, and global governance.

To begin her presentation, Ms. Braceros posed the question, “what makes ASEAN so interesting?” ASEAN is promoting a new brand of regionalism, which is very different from the European Union. Through the constructivist lens, she explained that ASEAN was established based on shared norms, beliefs, and cultures. Moreover, she discussed ASEAN’s origin story and how it progressed over time from SEATO to MAPHILINDO. She also touched on the 1967 Bangkok Declaration that provided a foundation to build ASEAN, which included economic growth, social progress, and cultural development. This paved the way to transition to ASEAN’s mechanisms to achieve these goals. She talked about the shared diplomacy of ASEAN Member States, which is grounded on informal dialogues and respect for one another’s sovereignty. ASEAN gives utmost importance to their summits, bilateral consultative mechanisms, and legal instruments because these are means to engage one another and strengthen ties.

In the open forum, Ms. Braceros was able to discuss further ASEAN’s role to address the Myanmar coup. ASEAN chooses not to impose sanctions on Myanmar, but would rather exhaust all possible options to engage Myanmar in a manner that does not step on their sovereignty. This includes mobilizing civil society in the country and how ASEAN can support them. In the same line of thinking, ASEAN’s hedging between China and the United States will also prove as a challenge the region must address. However, ASEAN will not take sides. This resulted in many
criticisms by scholars and policy analysts, posing a challenge to ASEAN’s unique brand of regionalism. ASEAN wants to engage with the entire community through dialogue and not favor one over the other.

She also brought up Biden’s presidency and its implications on ASEAN relations. The region may experience several engagements, especially on human rights issues. The Myanmar dispute might be an added notch on Biden’s belt as he engages with ASEAN. Moreover, when it comes to disaster response in the region, ASEAN has made it clear that there needs to be a faster response. There should be more engagement and budget, but the problem lies in the slow implementation of policy. To address this, it is important to also engage civil society and
non-governmental organizations to compensate for the slow response of the state.

With this, ASEAN continues to emphasize its high regard for dialogue and respect for one another’s sovereignty. Thus, ASEAN’s approach to addressing the West Philippine/South China Sea dispute, Myanmar’s coup, and the COVID-19 pandemic will still emerge in the future. --Kriz Heart R. Agillon and Carriza Juliene G. Arambulo

You may watch the recorded lecture below:


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