In 2017, the Philippines will assume the Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This will be a momentous year for the 10-country bloc. It marks the 50th anniversary of the Bangkok Declaration, which is the founding document of ASEAN. The Association received a major overhaul with the 2007 ASEAN Charter, and has worked ever since towards closer cooperation in its three main pillars – the ASEAN Economic Community, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. In these efforts, ASEAN leaders have strived to maintain the “ASEAN Way” of regional integration based on consultation and consensus and create an open regional architecture which engages strategic partners to the fullest extent.
To present and reflect on the priorities, challenges, and opportunities of ASEAN’s 2017 agenda, the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in the Netherlands, as Chair of the ASEAN Committee in The Hague, and The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted a Chatham House discussion on December 1, 2016. Participants included representatives from the diplomatic community, think tank experts, scholars, and the private sector. The event was moderated by H.E. Ambassador Jaime Victor B. Ledda and featured as keynote speaker Mr. Zaldy Patron, Executive Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Patron elaborated on the Philippines’ aspirations and work plan under the motto “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”, covering a wide range of themes such as deeper economic cooperation, maritime security, coordination in multilateral fora, citizens’ welfare, and the rights of migrant workers, stressing the cross-cutting need for resiliency and a people-oriented-rules based approach.
Before opening the floor for general discussion, Dr. Joris Larik, Senior Research at The Hague Institute, Assistant Professor at Leiden University, and co-author of “ASEAN’s External Agreements: Law, Practice and the Quest for Collective Action”, provided a comment on Mr. Patron’s presentation. Putting the future development of ASEAN in the larger context of comparative regionalism and the geopolitical situation, he noted the lack of trust and rise of pressures the European Union has been experiencing in 2016, the imperative of demonstrating and communicating the added value of regional organizations to their citizens, and the challenge for both ASEAN and the EU to be global players in an increasingly multipolar world.
The forum continues The Hague Institute’s work on Southeast Asia and its wider regional architecture, following earlier events, publications, and interviews on “ASEAN in Global Governance”, the South China Sea Dispute, and the United States’ “pivot to Asia”.