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ASEAN Roundtable 2015 - ASEAN Community 2015: Expectations and Realities

ASEAN Roundtable 2015 discusses expectations and realities for regional cooperation

The ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute organised the ASEAN Roundtable 2015 on 14 September 2015, in Singapore. 2015 marks the 30th convening of the ASEAN Roundtable.  The theme of the ASEAN Roundtable 2015 is "ASEAN Community 2015: Expectations and Realities", and the gathering was geared towards discussing the extent to which the ASEAN Community would have been achieved by end-2015. 

ASEAN integration is built on the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), and the day’s discussion revolved around the different aspirations involved in each of these, as well as ASEAN’s relations with its Dialogue Partners.

Mr V.P. Hirubalan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN (ASEAN Political and Security Community) gave the keynote presentation "ASEAN Community 2015: Expectations and Realities”.

Addressing the theme of this year’s Roundtable, the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Political Security Community – representing the Secretary-General of ASEAN – shared an update of ASEAN developments since the adoption of the ASEAN Charter in 2007. Following this update, past ASEAN Secretaries-General presented their perspectives on ASEAN’s community-building efforts over the years. A briefing on Malaysia’s ASEAN chairmanship provided an overview of the targets and activities for 2015 and beyond.

Panelists for Session 1: ASEAN Community-Building: Origins and Opportunities: (From left) Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN (Jan 2003-Dec 2007); Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore (Chairperson); Tan Sri Dato Ajit Singh, Secretary-General of ASEAN (Jan 1993-Dec 1997); and Ms Moe Thuzar, Coordinator, ASEAN Roundtable 2015 representing Mr Rodolfo C. Severino, Secretary-General of ASEAN (Jan 1998-Dec 2002).

The Roundtable’s second session dealt with expectations for the ASEAN Community post-2015, in the political-security, economic and socio-cultural areas.  The third session examined the role of ASEAN’s external partnerships in regional integration. Panellists at this session were members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN, and Ambassadors to ASEAN from ASEAN Dialogue Partner countries such as Australia, China, and the United States.

Key messages emanating from the Roundtable discussions include:

  • ASEAN Community 2015 is not the end of the journey but a beginning; the commitment for regional integration, especially regional economic integration, sends a strong signal that the ASEAN member states stand to gain much from integration.
  • However, ASEAN needs to do more in communicating the gains or benefits of regional integration to wider communities and audiences in ASEAN member states, as well as in ASEAN’s Dialogue Partner countries. Currently, there is a gap in information and communication in and across countries and sectors. 
  • ASEAN processes are based on "functional integration" which emphasises community-building along common interests. Effective communication is thus important to identify these common interests and benefits for regional cooperation and its "demonstration effects".
  • Effective communication is also important in increasing and deepening awareness of ASEAN, especially in engaging with people in the different ASEAN member states and in the consultative processes with civil society.
  • These communication (and coordination) challenges add to the complexities of strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat and the evolving role of the ASEAN Secretary-General.
  • ASEAN’s continued relevance – especially with its external partners - is premised on maintaining the grouping’s cohesion, credibility and centrality in regional processes.