A Working Conference under the theme of “ASEAN-United Kingdom Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture” was held on 18-19 February 2020. It brought together experts from ASEAN Member States and Southeast Asian experts from the United Kingdom to exchange ideas on creating strategic partnership avenues between ASEAN and the United Kingdom with acknowledgement towards the rapidly changing regional architecture. The Conference was held at the recently inaugurated building of the ASEAN Secretariat, Jalan Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta, Indonesia. The two-day event covered presentations and discussions on various topics and was concluded by a site trip around the new and Heritage buildings of the ASEAN Secretariat. The panelists consisted of researchers from the ASEAN Member States, with the exception of representatives from Myanmar and the Philippines who were unable to attend, and the United Kingdom. The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, Deputy Secretary-General of Community and Corporate Affairs, and ASEAN entities also attended the event.
Prior to the Working Conference, a welcoming dinner was hosted on Monday, 17 February 2020, at the 1O1 Hotel Darmawangsa, at 19.00. The following day, Tuesday, 18 February 2020, participants arrived at 08.30 to register before the Conference commenced at 09.00. The Working Conference was officiated with opening remarks from the Executive Director of the ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, and the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community & Corporate Affairs. The opening was followed by a photo session.
The first session took place after a brief coffee break. Discussions took place under the theme, “ASEAN in the Changing Geostrategic Theatre”. The presenting panelists were from Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, and United Kingdom. The discussion evolved around the institutional agility and internal cohesion of ASEAN’s Centrality, historical references of ASEAN and its present, and further extended to discuss Brexit, Britain, and the World. The first session was concluded with a Question & Answer session.
The second session reconvened after a brief coffee break, at 11.00. The discussions evolved around “ASEAN External Relations” highlighting proposed narratives of researchers from the United Kingdom and Singapore. The session looked into the impacts of Britain’s historical role in the Southeast Asian region, Brexit, United Kingdom’s engagement to ASEAN, and response to the changing regional politics. This session also delved into talks of the ways forward for both ASEAN and the United Kingdom post-Brexit. It proposed focusing on engaging the ASEAN Chairmanship, in effort of establishing a meaningful tie with the region. The session was also followed by a Question & Answer session, and a lunch break.
The third session highlghted the role that the ASEAN entities play in strengthening the ASEAN Communities. The theme of the discussion was an “Introductory Presentation by ASEAN Secretariat and Associated Entities” which brought the views of the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Institute of Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), ASEAN Foundation, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). This session looked into the functions of the Secretariat, how Community building in the region is promoted through peace, stability, and understanding, as well as through the strengthening of the role of the youth.
Due to time constraint, the fourth session was held in conjunction with the fifth. The fourth session highlighted the views of researchers from Thailand, Cambodia, United Kingdom, on “ASEAN and Its People-Centeredness: Still Relevant?”. Participants looked at the challanges and ways forward of the people-centered ASEAN, questioned what bring people-centered and people-oriented means for the community-building effort of ASEAN, how the digital ambition of ASEAN looks like and what opportunities this leaves for the United Kingdom. Further, the panelists also looked into how the people-centered and people-oriented goal of ASEAN would play into the rapidly evolving regional security architecture. This lead to the fifth session under the theme of “ASEAN Regionalism”. Panelists from Vietnam, Malaysia and Lao PDR looked at sectors which provided greater opportunities for a stronger colaboration, namely in education, trade, and security. The Q&A for the fourth and fifth sessions were accommodated in conjuction. All five sessions of the Working Conference were moderated by the ASEAN Studies Centre. The Conference ended at 17.45 afterwhich the participants returned to 101 Hotel Darmawangsa.
Registration for the second day opened at 09.30 at the Video Conference Room, North Tower, ASEAN Secretariat. The session commenced at 10.00 to wrap-up the discussion from the previous day. Participants brainstormed possible outputs of the Working Conference, agreed on solidifying the Network of ASEAN-UK Think Tanks (NAUT) and looked into the possibilities of mainstreaming ASEAN studies in the UK. The discussion was held for two hours and was followed by a photo session. Participants were directed to the Lobby of the ASEAN Secretariat to have a photo session in front of ASEAN emblem, before enjoying the provided lunch. After lunch, participants were facilitated a site visit of public spaces within the new and Heritage ASEAN Secretariat building, by the ASEAN Secretariat. Participants visited the sky bridge connecting the North and South towers of the Secretariat, the Art Gallery, the Nusantara Hall, Library, the recently renovated Gift Shop, and the ASEAN Hall within the premise of the ASEAN Heritage Building. The visit to the ASEAN Heritage Building marked the end of the last day of “Working Conference on ASEAN-UK Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture”.