Challenges faced by 50-year-old Asean
The Initiatives for International Dialogue together with its allied networks—the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia, and the broad civil society movement in the region—urgently calls on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to put front and center issues on peace and human security that continue to challenge regional stability and affect the lives of the most vulnerable peoples in the region.
We view Asean’s 50th anniversary—marked last Aug. 8—as an opportunity to once again remind governments of their paramount duties and obligations to their peoples. We believe that recent efforts by member states toward regional cooperation must seek to pursue and explore initiatives that will institutionalize mechanisms for sustainable peace, social justice and development, and a transparent and fully consultative civil society participation in the regional mechanism with the interest of the people at its core.
We believe that serious challenges to peace and human security issues are embedded in the inability and inaction of most governments to address the roots of internal armed conflicts arising from assertions of the right to self-determination, ethnic struggles for autonomy, political unrest, violent radicalism and the rise of terrorism, disputes over cross-border territorial and maritime issues, militarization and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, among others. In resolving these conflicts, we reaffirm that the primacy of democratic processes over military or strong-arm solutions must prevail. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable and marginalized peoples of the region continue to bear the brunt and suffer the scourge of all these conflicts.
More concretely, we urge Asean to ensure utmost support to formal and informal peace processes in the region particularly in the Philippines, Myanmar and south Thailand. Asean member governments must strengthen their preventive diplomacy to address comprehensive peace and human security issues and social impacts of recurring conflicts by establishing partnerships especially with civil society movements and communities that are directly affected. This is so it can demonstrate its commitment to a comprehensive security agenda as stated in the Asean political-security blueprint.
We salute the peoples of Asean in their persistent and valiant assertions, struggles and engagements to achieve peace, justice, democracy and self-determination. We particularly note and remember that this year’s 50th anniversary is also the 29th anniversary of the Burmese student-led uprising against military rule under Gen. Ne Win. This revolt, popularly known as “8-8-88,” was quickly and brutally suppressed. But the fight continues and we will continue to celebrate this struggle that sparked and inspired the resistance to authoritarian rule in Myanmar and around the region.
With this year’s summit also highlighting disputes in the West Philippine Sea, we urge that these should be resolved
by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” is the theme commemorating Asean’s five decades of existence. As it has consistently proven since its inception, Asean has a remarkable acumen in crafting catchy slogans every year. The problem, however, lies in its failure to transform those catchphrases into reality and breathe sincerity to these commitments.
Asean must now realize that an inclusive and sustainable regional peace and security cannot be possibly achieved if it remains detached and indifferent from the realities on the ground. The regional bloc’s vision of a people-centered and peaceful Asean will remain illusory without putting the genuine peace and security of the peoples of the region at the forefront of the Asean vision.
GUS MICLAT, executive director, Initiatives for International Dialogue
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