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Why Care About Asean?

By: Cielito F. Habito, PhD
Does the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean make a difference in the lives of Filipinos, and of citizens in the other nine member-states? Will our chairing and hosting of this 10-nation grouping this year, on its 50th founding anniversary, be of any real consequence to us? Or is it merely a frivolous exercise costing us valuable taxpayer money? My answers would be yes, yes, and no, respectively, and let me explain why.
Twenty years ago, at its 30th anniversary in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Asean leaders adopted Asean Vision 2020. It saw Asean, by three years from now, as being “a concert of Southeast Asian Nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.” The group’s leaders further refined that vision in 2003 in Bali, Indonesia, as the attainment of an Asean Community built on three pillars: the Asean Political-Security Community, Asean Socio-Cultural Community, and Asean Economic Community. In 2008 in Cebu, it was agreed to advance the attainment of that goal by five years, to the end of 2105. The grouping has since defined a renewed Asean Community 2025 Blueprint under the three pillars, now the guidepost for the 10 nations’ collective work.
Asean has come a long way since its inception in 1967, even as it has much more to do in pursuit of its lofty dreams. Ambassador Rodolfo Severino, at the end of his term in 2002 as Asean secretary general, lamented the group’s sluggish pace. Lack of political will has been blamed for this, traced in turn to absence of a mechanism to enforce discipline in fulfilling agreed commitments, whether policy reforms, or specific initiatives or projects. No strong dispute settlement mechanism is in place for instances when certain members may feel aggrieved by actions, or lack of them, by (an)other member(s). In true Asian fashion, members would rather smile and politely look the other way when other members do not live up to certain commitments.
Read the full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/102409/why-care-about-asean