Questioning ASEAN’s Legitimacy from Its Charter


Dio Herdiawan Tobing, Intern Staff at ASEAN Studies Center UGM 

Not to be surprised anymore that each of ASEAN member states are given veto power to reject Draft Communique which threatens their national sovereignty. Non-interference policy and consensus-based in decision-making process are the ASEAN Way which reflects full appreciation towards its member-states sovereignty. However, if ASEAN is seen to be threatening its member’s sovereignty, why bother to have ASEAN? Why bother to have complex integration? This article aims to question ASEAN member-states’ commitment in having a complex integration within Southeast Asian region through the establishment of a greater governance ruling the region.

In order to do so, let us present article 2 (2e) of the Charter, which states that,[1] “ASEAN and its Member States shall act in accordance with the following Principles of these principles…non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states” This provision of the charter strongly declares that ASEAN and its member states shall not interfere in domestic affairs of its member states. It is true that ASEAN member states shall respect each of member states’ sovereignty and ASEAN too, however, in this case ASEAN remains to hold responsibility as Southeast Asian Nations’ primary regional organization. Even there have been many claims that ASEAN has brought itself to be people-centric by upholding human rights values and establishing the AICHR. Therefore, it leads ASEAN to be a legitimate regional organization within the region, but here reflected the progress is hampered by the non-interference policy upon the progress to improve human rights development. For instance, if AICHR does not do something significant towards the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, there is a little chance for this commission to maintain its legitimacy.[2] The question raised here would be, where is ASEAN member-states’ seriousness in building a regional governance?

True that ASEAN member-states should not interfere against each other’s domestic affairs however, ASEAN, to maintain its legitimacy as a primary regional organization, should be granted an extended right to assist its member states in handling their domestic problems, even if they are “quote, unquote” unable to bring domestic stability within their region. A proposal to respond against the question towards ASEAN member states’ commitment in building ASEAN would be that article 2 (e) of the charter shall be revised to, “ASEAN Member States shall act in accordance with the following Principles…non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states.” By removing ASEAN from the article it increases opportunity for the organization to be more legitimate in handling problems and issues faced by each of member states. And when its member states are failing to respond towards domestic issue. If a member state’s problem that could spread massively towards Southeast Asian region can be prevented by increasing ASEAN’s legitimacy, why not doing so? Thus, to conclude in order for ASEAN to maintain its legitimacy, its member states should commit on extending ASEAN’s role in assisting its member states’ development for the benefits of regional integration.

  1. ASEAN,. The ASEAN Charter. Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2007. Print.
  2. Arendshorst, John. ‘The Dilemma Of Non-Interference: Myanmar, Human Rights, And The ASEAN Charter’. Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights1 (2009): 120. Print.