Entries by aseansc




Despite progress made in recent years, women and children continue to face various forms of discrimination, violence, and inequalities across ASEAN member states. The current state of the world has become less safe and increasingly dangerous. Developments in Ukraine, the Palestinians, and within ASEAN member states itself, such as in Myanmar, tell us that the prolonged conflicts, wars, and violence have directly affected women and children as the most fragile members of the community. Promoting safe and empowered women and children is multifaceted and presses on the world’s growing concern, not excluding ASEAN. At its core, the issue stems from systemic gender disparities and vulnerabilities that persist in ASEAN countries, including limited access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and legal protections. Women and children often bear the brunt of poverty, lack of resources, and cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and discrimination. Hence, when conflict and natural disasters are added into the equation, it poses greater challenges to their safety and well-being, including child trafficking and displacement of women and children from their families.

In shaping the future of ASEAN beyond 2025, the ACWC has a crucial role to be at the forefront in driving closer regional cooperation among relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children, especially the disadvantaged, those living in vulnerable situations as well as, using rights and gender perspectives. Some notable developments have been made. The ACWC will institutionalize gender mainstreaming efforts across the ASEAN Community pillars through the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Steering Committee (AGMSC), together with the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW). They reaffirmed their commitment to utilize a whole-of-ASEAN approach in implementing the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework (AGMSF). They further supported Indonesia on the roll-out of the ASEAN Do-No-Harm Guide for Frontline Responders: Safeguarding the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Persons – launched on 11 January 2023 with support from the ASEAN-ACT.

The ACWC has also committed to continue to implement the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security (ASEAN RPA on WPS) with stronger advocacy and capacity-building efforts, especially in the security sector as well as ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Ending Violence against Women (ASEAN RPA on EVAW). However, there remains a looming gap between the progressive realm of policy-making at a regional level and its implementation at home. CSOs play a crucial role in advocating for the rights of women and children, providing essential services, and holding governments accountable for their commitments. Similarly, academia contributes through research, analysis, and evidence-based recommendations to inform policy development and program interventions. However, a tri-party collaboration remains seldom despite it being much needed. This seminar is held to map the many ways that ACWC, CSOs, and academia can become the strong arm for the promotion and protection of women and children in ASEAN as well as internationally.

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the effective strategies for raising community awareness regarding the importance of safeguarding the rights and well-being of women and children?
  2. What steps can be taken by the youths to empower and promote the protection of women and children in ASEAN in times of crisis?

General Terms and Conditions

  1. The participant is an active university student. A student identification card or other supporting document is needed to prove active status in the respected university. 
  2. Participants can be an individual or a group consisting of a maximum of 3 persons. 
  3. Participants are encouraged and expected to read the entirety of the guideline. 

List of Prizes:

  1. Grand Prize (1st Place) IDR 3,000,000
  2. Excellence Prize (2nd Place) IDR 2,000,000
  3. Merit Prize (3rd Place) IDR 1,000,000
  4. E-Certificate for Top 10 Selected

Policy Brief Guidelines

  1. The policy brief must be original work and has not been published in the other publication platforms.
  2. The policy brief must capture the role of youth in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children in ASEAN issues. You may use the theory, framework, and approach that you have learned.
  3. Use American English for your writing.
  4. Font: Times New Roman, font size: 12, line spacing: 1.25, spacing before: 0 pt, spacing after: 12 pt.
  5. Full policy brief length: 1,200 – 1,500 words. Excluding footnotes and references.
  6. The author notes that the policy brief can not be withdrawn at any condition once it is accepted by the committee.
  7. The policy brief must follow these structures to ensure clarity and effectiveness in communicating key points:
  • Title
    A clear and concise title that reflects the topic of the brief. Write your name below the title.
  • Executive Summary
    A brief overview of the policy issue, the key findings, and the main recommendations. It should provide a snapshot of the entire brief.
  • Introduction
    Explain its significance and relevance. Provide the necessary background information to help the reader understand the issue better. This section should include relevant statistics, historical context, and policy history.
  • Problem Statement
    Clearly articulate the problem or issue that the policy brief is addressing. This should be specific, concise, and backed up by evidence.
  • Policy Analysis
    This section explains the reasoning behind your policy recommendations. In effect, this section describes the problem that your policy recommendations intend to solve. It should include an analysis of current policies related to the issue, their strengths, weaknesses, and any gaps or areas that require improvement.
  • Policy Recommendation
    Present your proposed solutions or recommendations. These should be clear, specific, and actionable. Explain how these recommendations address the identified problem and why they are the best course of action. It’s essential to provide evidence and examples to support your recommendations.
  • Conclusion
    This final section of the policy brief should detail the actions recommended by your findings. Summarize the key points of the policy brief, emphasizing the importance of the recommendations and their potential impact on the issue.
  • References
    Include a list of all the sources and references used in the brief. Follow a consistent APA citation style.

      8. Incorporate visuals into the policy brief. Choose effective visuals for the type of information you would like to communicate. For example, pie charts and bar graphs are preferable to data tables to illustrate findings. Include captions for photos and other visuals that explain the content to the reader.

      9. The policy brief will be curated and published by the ASEAN Studies Center for academic purposes.


Submission and Competition Technicalities 

1. Submission is to be submitted through ugm.id/ASCPBC24

  • File naming should be Last name_Policy Brief [E.g. Saputra_Policy Brief (individual) or Saputra, Firhansyah & Ashari_Policy Brief (groups).
  • The submitted policy brief should be in PDF format.
  • The latest submission to be made is by Sunday, 30th of June. 
  • One representative is sufficient for group submission to submit the final policy brief.

2. Ten of the best policy briefs will be selected to continue to the next stage. This will be announced 10th of July.

3. The top three winners will be announced on the 1st of August 2024

4. The winners are asked to make a 10 minutes video presenting their policy brief. 


Submit Your Policy Brief here: ugm.id/ASCPBC24




Contact Person

Mr. Tunggul Wicaksono

Research Manager, ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada



In December 2022, the Indonesian government passed a law that penalizes sex outside marriage. This is only one of the many changes in the criminal code that observers warn of the increasing conservatism in the country.

Indonesia houses the largest Muslim population in the world and is also a republic whose democratic experiences and milestones have been widely studied by scholars within and beyond the region. This makes Indonesia a compelling case for reflection on the nexus and tensions between religion and democracy. Is religion compatible with democracy? What opportunities and challenges does the “Islamic Renaissance” entail in the country? Democracy on Religion

Liberal democracy espouses secularism, the separation of church and state, and freedom of religion. In an “ideal” democratic system, the state must not endorse nor support any specific religion while guaranteeing the free exercise of religion among citizens. This is essential in a democracy for many reasons. Religious freedom is a crucial civil right that enhances citizens’ individuality and relations with others. It stops one religion from dominating society, hence promoting diversity and co-existence. At the same time, it prevents policies from being framed according to religious beliefs, which may result in discrimination and repression of fundamental human rights.

Religion and its Tensions with Democracy: The Case of Indonesia

This is particularly important for Indonesia. While the country is predominantly Muslim, Indonesia also has many ethnolinguistic groups with different cultures and practices. It is a challenge in itself to build one nation with an immensely heterogeneous society. The diversity in the country resulted in years of ethnic conflict and violence. Even a religious minority, the Ahmadiyya, faces intimidation and oppression in the exercise of their faith. Indonesia’s dilemma points to the longstanding debate in human rights discourse and practice – are human rights universal, or are they relative to culture and local customs? While I am more inclined to support the former, it is important to be aware and carefully consider the context of a country when designing human rights advocacy and interventions.

However imperfect, the democratization process in Indonesia has assisted in facilitating efforts for reconciliation and balancing competing interests in the country. Recently, the President stunned the world when he acknowledged past grave human rights abuses in the country, including an anti-communist purge in the ’60s and the arrest of democracy activists during the Suharto presidency.

Indonesia sits in between secularism and theocracy. The country’s fundamental law espouses Pancasila, which is the foundational political theory of Indonesia. Through its five principles, Indonesian society believes in one God and aspires to create a just and civilized humanity, unity, democracy, and social justice for all. This tells us that, by principle, Indonesia gives importance to pluralism and citizenship. Scholars and practitioners of the law also adopt legal pluralism and believe that different legal systems are complementary rather than contradictory. For example, community practices and customs are considered along with national and local regulations in settling disputes and conflicts at the village level.

However, in recent years, Indonesia has seen the expanding role of Islam in the country’s social and political life. Aside from Islam being a “source of ethical and cultural guidance”, many Islamic organizations have secured formal power, which allows them to easily introduce measures within the state apparatus that cement their own interests. Hardliner Islamic groups have also proliferated, and fundamentalist thought and practices are becoming more and more widespread. Islamic identity politics have also been evident since Widodo coalesced with conservative Islamic factions and appointed Amin, an influential Islamic figure, as his vice president. The new penal code tends to be more religious than secular. This has implications for Indonesia’s supposed secularism and diversity. How can the Indonesian government best represent the interests and aspirations of all?

As Indonesia continues to modernize and extend its economic and political ascendancy in the region, rapid changes in its social relations and dynamics are also expected. This demands a more careful look at the kind of laws and “social controls” that the government enforces. Suppose conservative forces are forwarding laws in the name of protecting tradition and keeping Indonesian values in check. In that case, it should not be at the expense of fundamental civil and political liberties, nor should it be to repress vulnerable groups even further, such as women, LGBT+, and ethnic communities. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Hence, political representation must reflect the diversity and vibrance of Indonesian society. If only one group dominates political and policy discourse, it ultimately jeopardizes the general will.

When religion becomes the yardstick for crafting rules and policies, it creates biases, whether intended or not. Propositions that are credible and necessary but “contradictory” to a certain religion may be rejected simply because they do not fit the personal convictions of decision-makers. Integrating religion into politics usually leads to oppressive and harmful policymaking. Religion is also a form of heuristics or cognitive shortcut that devalues deliberation and discussion. Instead of scrutinizing issues, people may resort to using their religion as the sole basis for their position on a particular matter. Democracies ought to be deliberative and pluralistic.

Human rights activists and organizations in Indonesia have sounded the alarm on many changes in the criminal code that could stifle individual freedoms and lead to setbacks in the country’s democratic progress. Aside from banning sex outside marriage, the government also reinstated laws that criminalize insulting the President and other state officials and institutions. They also increased the punishment for blasphemy. These laws can be disproportionately used against individuals and groups with legitimate criticisms and concerns about the government. It may also render already marginalized communities even more vulnerable. Religion, Populism, and Repression

This trend is not only unique to Indonesia. Much of the world has seen the rise of “nationalist” movements, often within the pretext of religion and safeguarding culture. India’s Modi has exhibited Hindu nationalist tendencies, which have meant greater intolerance against the Muslim minority in the country. Myanmar’s Tatmadaw has weaponized Buddhism to rally support from the public and account for its atrocities.

The use of religion to justify repressive and oppressive regimes is apparent. Religion is an effective tool to unify a group of people and subject them to a specific set of beliefs and values, which may be highly prejudiced and absurd. Religion acts as a moral compass that defines what is right and what is wrong. Because religion is subjective, it can easily be manipulated to serve political objectives. Populists and autocrats can bastardize religion to create a public enemy, instill an “us vs them” mentality, and sow further polarization.

Failed democracies thrive out of fear, whether it is real or manufactured. Religion can be a potent force to ingrain this fear. This hysteria against change and modernization is easy to whip up when people already have preexisting beliefs. It is not too difficult to segregate people and label them as the “other”. When this distinction is entrenched, it is convenient to normalize discrimination and violence.

It is said that Indonesia is a model for “Moderate Islam” when compared to the Middle East; the “Indonesian way” can complement Western values and democracy. It also has the potential to correct Islamophobia and promote Islam as a religion of peace. On the other hand, if Indonesia cannot find its balance and condone fundamentalist and hardliner Islamic groups to flourish, Indonesia will certainly regress in its hard-won democratic gains.

Religion has inherent contradictions with democracy. Subscribing to a religion and structuring a supposedly diverse society using its tenets is monopolistic and can bring about intolerance. It is paramount for democracies to ensure that civil, political, and socioeconomic rights are not deprived based on religion and other forms of cleavages. The access and exercise of power should be as widely distributed as possible. Public office should not be limited to certain political clans or religious organizations. For instance, at the village level, cultural and socioeconomic elites must share power and administration with vulnerable and historically marginalized groups. There are more reasons and illustrative cases, present and past, to posit that religion is more of a bane than a boon to democracy. At the moment in world history when (dis)information is fast and instant, we must maintain vigilance in dealing with autocratic agendas in the guise of “respecting” values and tradition. It is easier to believe and conform than to reflect and deliberate. But democracy dies when we rely on shortcuts to define what is good for us. Democracy dies, slowly and deliberately, when we allow a few to sabotage our freedoms and liberties to increase their own. Demagogues and despots are usually cunning and do things “in the name of God”.




Evans, M. S. (2014). Religion and political decision making. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(1), 145–163. http://doi:10.1111/jssr.12088

Evans, T. (2012). Separation of Mosque and State in Indonesia. Policy, 27(4), 35–39.

Głodek, A., & Grzywacz, A. (2020). Indonesia – between religion and democracy, Warsaw: Boym Institute. Retrieved from https://instytutboyma.org/en/indonesia-between-religion-and-democracy

Jaffrey, S. (2020). Is Indonesia Becoming a Two-Tier Democracy?, Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Jamaluddin, M., Chen, H. & Watson, A. (2022). Indonesia bans sex outside marriage as parliament passes sweeping new criminal code, Jakarta: CNN.

Klinken, G. v. (2019). Living in a Sacred Cosmos: Indonesia and the Future of Islam. Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia, 175(1), 81–135. http://doi:10.1111/jssr.12088

McWilliams, E. (2018). Democracy in Indonesia: A Progress Report, Washington D.C.: The Foreign Service Journal.

Nagda, A. (2020). The Diplomat. [Online] Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/the-islamization-of-indonesias-foreign-policy/

Omelicheva, M. & Ahmed, R. (2018). Religion and politics: examining the impact of faith on political participation. Religion, State, and Society, 46(1), 4–25.

The World Factbook. (2023). Indonesia, s.l.: Central Intelligence Agency.

Wieringa, S. E. (2006). Islamization in Indonesia: Women Activists’ Discourses. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 32 (1), 40–27.



Short Biography:

Kay Conales is a student of the Asia Pacific-Master of Arts in Human Rights and Democratization of the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) of Mahidol University (Thailand). She also studied in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIPOL) of APMA’s partner-university Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia). She can be reached through e-mail at ksconales@gmail.com.

Redefining Commodities in International Trade: ASEAN Blue Carbon Initiative and Its Role in Navigating Climate Crisis in the Southeast Asia Region

Stepping further into the technological and industrial advancement age, the narration of sustainability in the international trade system has gained much attention from policymakers worldwide. Not only due to the climate crisis’s indiscriminate effect, which transverses beyond borders but also the highly disruptive implications for the international community’s economic activity, this agenda is being prioritized by governments. To make a long story short, states are looking for an answer to strike a balance in economic production, which is pivotal to our daily lives, and the climate crisis is irreversible damage. A recent initiative that has been put forward to solve these pressing issues is the carbon trading system, which places a cap and tax on corporations’ greenhouse emissions. In the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Blue Carbon ecosystem, which consists of mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows, holds massive potential to be the global hub for carbon sequestration and storage. This article aims to explore ASEAN’s potential to fulfill its leading role in the blue carbon economy agenda and how it may contribute to our collective struggle to halt the climate crisis.

Blue carbon can be understood as carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems. Scott & Lindsay (2022) stated in their writings that the ecosystem’s critical components are crucial in offsetting carbon

footprint excess as the water-logged soils can isolate and store more carbon per unit than a regular forest. Statistically, in an empirical study conducted by Gruber et al. (2019), 31% of our carbon emissions are effectively absorbed into the depths of our ocean each day. Its high percentage of efficacy surely promises a critically needed way out for actors around the world whose means of production are still in the range of carbon-intensive. In 2023, fossil fuel use and energy exploration will still top the list as the biggest carbon emitters by industry; its cheapness deters the motivation to rapidly change into green energy that requires more material resources in its exploration. Aside from the dilemma of unsustainable energy scarcity, like any other political economy field of study, the answer to the question “Who gets what, when, and how?” that indicates the ‘paradox of plenty’ remains blurry, and our inability to answer it with a degree of fairness could still drag us into the edge of climate crisis injustice. In response to this issue, ASEAN created a comprehensive framework that accentuates the potential of the region’s blue economy; here, blue carbon initiatives are identified as one of the supporting pillars.

ASEAN’s Blue Economy Framework puts the values of inclusivity, cross-sectoral approach, and sustainability as its guiding principles. Correlating to the issue at hand, in its Blue Conservation Management plan, ASEAN member states are looking to achieve a neutral carbon balance using their marine and coastal-based activities. Regular emissions and sequestration capability assessments are also integrated into its strategies, along with the nationally determined contribution (NDC) system, which gives member states room to find a fine line between exploitation and preservation. The culmination of all these aspects is crystallized in the Blue Growth objective, which emphasizes the role of the ocean as the state’s engine of growth (Eikeset et al., 2018). In the writer’s opinion, ASEAN’s initiative is paramount to our collective effort to mitigate the detrimental effects of economic production. This premise holds bits of truth in the fact that the region hosts the planet’s most significant share of mangroves and seagrass, with 37% and 23%, respectively (Stankovic et al., 2023). These two components play critical roles in offsetting carbon footprints; creating a system that puts these rising states’ aspirations at the center is important. After all, we can’t negate the harsh fact that not all states are in the same stages of industrialization and development, but the climate crisis still happens indiscriminately. That logic requires us to pursue solutions that are constructed from the principles of sustainability and empowerment to make sure no one gets left behind this time.

Among the member states, Indonesia is one of the countries that possesses the ability and capacity to spearhead the effort. Along with Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico, Indonesia owns more than 25% of the world’s mangrove population, which could absorb roughly 3.14 billion metric tons of carbon (PgC) (Sulaiman & Lutfi, 2019). Things are also pretty much the same in the same state with our seagrass reserves. Based on that fact alone, surely the international community would expect Indonesia to set the tone in this joint effort to redefine commodities in our trade system. After all, modifying something that is heavily reliant on nature’s ability presents an untapped opportunity as well as a grave danger should we fail to prevent it from getting into exploitation. Reflecting on what has been going on for the past couple of years, corporations’ unwillingness to switch their methods of production proves to be quite a challenge in implementing the carbon trading system. Instead of integrating bits of environment-based modification into their economic affairs, most of them choose to pay for the excess and thus put into question the effectiveness of the newly introduced carbon offsetting scheme. At the end of the day, those selfish actions do not contribute much to the declining amount of carbon emitted that has been set as the primary objective. In correspondence with this intricate issue, the writer thinks that Indonesia could use its capacity to influence and drive certain ASEAN policies that balance complex day-to-day economic activities and environmental preservation.

Consequently, our action to put a price tag on the ocean means that marine and coastal protection should be at the top of the list of policy priorities. ASEAN, through its Blue Economy Framework, has planned on establishing marine protected areas, such as the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape and Coral Triangle Initiatives, to fulfill that mission. The organization aims to build a collaborative engagement between governments, NGOs, and local communities—three actors that have high stakes in how the coastal environment would be developed should it turn into a ‘carbon sink’. Moreover, this particular model of engagement that combines top-down and bottom-up approaches can also be seen as an effort to decentralize this carbon sequestration-centric issue. To achieve inclusive growth, equal rights of access to resources must be given to every actor so that they may contribute equally to the collective effort. This kind of political-economy arrangement, in the eyes of the writer, could be the entry point for ASEAN to lead in the global market. Humans and nature must be empowered equally to help us reach a state of sustainability in the future.


In conclusion, despite its commitment-related issue, ASEAN has managed to create a well-written plan for maximizing the potential of the blue economy in the region. Its top-down and bottom-up approach opens up an opportunity to create an inclusive environment to achieve sustainable growth. Concerning our responsibility towards the environment, ASEAN could take on the role of norm-setter to make sure inclusivity and sustainability are put into similar initiatives. This becomes increasingly important as this region possesses most of the untapped potential, and for years, it has been crucial for the local communities’ livelihood. Above all, no one should get left behind in the effort to find the balance between economic growth and nature protection.



Eikeset, A. M., Mazzarella, A. B., Davíðsdóttir, B., Klinger, D. H., Levin, S. A., Rovenskaya, E., & Stenseth, N. Chr. (2018). What is blue growth? The semantics of “Sustainable Development” of marine environments. Marine Policy, 87, 177–179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2017.10.019

Gruber, N., Clement, D., Carter, B. R., Feely, R. A., van Heuven, S., Hoppema, M., & Ishii,

  1. (2019). The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007. Science, 363(6432).

Scott, M., & Lindsey, R. (2022, September 29). Understanding blue carbon | NOAA Climate.gov. www.climate.gov. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/understanding-blue-car-bon

Stankovic, M., Mishra, A. K., Rahayu, Y. P., Lefcheck, J., Murdiyarso, D., Friess, D. A., Corkalo, M., Vukovic, T., Vanderklift, M. A., Farooq, S. H., Gaitan-Espitia, J. D., & Prathep, A. (2023). Blue carbon assessments of seagrass and mangrove ecosystems in South and Southeast Asia: Current progress and knowledge gaps. Science of the Total Environment, 904, 166618. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.166618

Sulaiman,  B.,  &  Lutfi,  M.  (2019).  COASTAL  COMMUNITY  PERCEPTION  OF

MANGROVES IN SULI SUBDISTRICT, LUWU. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 8(4).


Short Biography:

Oktavianus Bima Saputra is an undergraduate in the Department of International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada.


Korea-Indonesia Cooperation Forum in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations

In order to celebrate 50 years of relations between South Korea and Indonesia. On November 30, 2023, the ASEAN Studies Center at Gadjah Mada University was invited to join the Korea-Indonesia Cooperation Forum in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations at Hotel Mulia Senayan Jakarta, Grand Ballroom, Indonesia. In this meeting, was raising the theme “K-Wave & I-Wave, Together for the Future”

The Center was part of an academic seminar session commemorating 50 years of Korean-Indonesian diplomatic relations. The session began with remarks from Lee Sang-deok, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Indonesia, then continued with Congratulations from Lee Kyung-soo, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Vice President of the Korean Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR), and Dino Patti Djalal, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Chairman & Founder of FPCI (Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia).

In this session, there were four representatives from the ASEAN Studies Center, namely Dr. Dafri Agussalim (Executive Director), Falikul Isbah (Adjunct Researcher), and Desintha Dwi (Fellow Researcher) as panelists, and Tunggul Wicaksono (Research Manager) as moderator.

In this session, representatives of the ASEAN Studies Center discussed “Steps to Expand Korea-Indonesia Cooperation in Order to Strengthen ASEAN Centrality” together with other panelists, namely GU Bo-kyeung, Research Professor at the Korea Institute for ASEAN Studies, Busan University of Foreign Studies (BUFS ), and KO Young-kyung, Research Professor at the ASEAN Center, Korea University.


The discussion session then ended with a summary of the morning session by KO Young-kyung and Tunggul Wicaksono, and then continued with lunch together.

NACT Country Coordinators Meeting and Annual Conference 2023

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) are interconnected regions with significant potential for trade, infrastructure development, and economic growth. China introduced the BRI in 2013 to link Asia with Europe and Africa through infrastructure projects, trade routes, and cultural exchanges. Its implementation sparked discussion, prompting the need for a nuanced assessment of BRI’s impact on the global stage.

To generate a broader measure on this issue. On October 2023, 10-11, NACT China which is represented by the China Foreign Affairs University and NACT Indonesia which ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada represents,  held a Network of ASEAN-China Think Tanks (NACT) Country Coordinators Meeting and Annual Conference 2023 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This year’s NACT has the theme “High-Quality BRI Cooperation and the AOIP”.

On the first day, the meeting began with the NACT Country Coordinators Meeting, which was divided into two sessions. The first session was Retrospective Remarks on 2023, delivered by Prof. Yang Yue (NACT China) and Dr. Dafri Agussalim (NACT Indonesia). Meanwhile, the second session, namely Introductory Remarks on 2024, was delivered by Mrs. Vithaya Xayavong, NACT Laos (NACT Co-chair 2024), and also Prof. Yang Yue. The NACT Country Coordinators Meeting then continued with a discussion about the 2024 NACT Working Group meetings and the collaboration between Tracks I and II, which then ended with a group photo of the CCM.

The meeting then continued with the NACT Annual Conference, which was opened by Dr. Fina Itriyati, Vice Dean of Collaboration, Alumni, and Research Affairs, FISIPOL UGM. Then continued with opening remarks from Prof. Gao Fei, Vice President, China Foreign Affairs University, and continued with keynote speakers from H.E. Hou Yanqi, Ambassador of China to ASEAN; H.E. Derry Aman, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN; and H.E. Ekkaphab Phanthavong (pre-recorded), Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community for 2021-2024.

H.E. Hou Yanqi said that the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook is an independent initiative of ASEAN, which includes important principles such as maintaining ASEAN’s central status, upholding openness and inclusiveness, and focusing on development and cooperation. Meanwhile, H.E. Derry Aman said that the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation on the AOIP, adopted during the 26th ASEAN-China Summit in Jakarta, signifies China’s support in ASEAN’s effort to mainstream and implement the AOIP.

Before the panel discussion session began, a group photo of the Annual Conference was also taken. NACT Annual Conference 2023 had three panel discussion sessions and raised the topic of “Promoting Mutually Beneficial Cooperation between the BRI and the AOIP”. The first session was moderated by Mr. Tunggul Wicaksono, Research Manager of the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. The first-panel session started with a presentation from Ms. Ousa Cheng (NACT Cambodia), who delivered a presentation entitled “Driving Sustainability Together Exploring ASEAN-China Partnership in the Belt and Road Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”. Continued by Prof. Han Zhaoying (NACT China) on “The Great Power Rivalry between the U.S. and China and its implications for Southeast Asia’s stability”, and Dr. Nur Rachmat Yuliantoro (NACT Indonesia) on “Converging the BRI and the AOIP: A View from Indonesia”.

The second session was moderated by Prof. Yang Yue from Dalian University of Technology (NACT China), with the first panelists namely Mr. Bounphieng Pheuaphetlangsy (NACT Lao PDR), Continued by Mr. Calvin Cheng (NACT Malaysia), who presented his thoughts on “Avenues for cooperation between the BRI and the AOIP”, and Dr. Khin Ma Ma Myo (NACT Myanmar) as the next panelist explained her research on Myanmar, “BRI Infrastructure Development in Myanmar: The Case of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor on Regional Connectivity”.

Last but not least, Ms. Yulida Nuraini Santoso, MSc., Managing Director of the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada, moderated the final panel discussion. The first panelist in this session, Mr. Jovito Jose P. Katigbak (NACT Philippines), presented his thoughts on “Harmonizing BRI and AIOP: A Philippine Perspective”. Continued by Dr. Kong Tuan Yuen (NACT Singapore) on “From RCEP to DEPA: Singapore Perspective on ASEAN-China Digital Cooperation“, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dulyapak Preecharush (NACT Thailand) on “Thailand between the BRI and the AOIP: A Geopolitical Analysis & Solution”, and Mr. Tu Anh Tuan (NACT Vietnam) as the last panelist explained her research on “Promoting the Synergy of AOIP and BRI in a Changing World”.

The NACT Annual Conference discussion panel session was also attended by several lecturers, students, and representatives from the International Relations department and the ASEAN Studies Center in Yogyakarta. During the three discussion panels, the discussion sessions at the NACT Annual Conference were active, and many insights were gained in these sessions.

The first day of NACT 2023 then ended with a Welcoming Dinner and a performance from Unit Kesenian Jawa Gaya Surakarta (UKJGS). Meanwhile, on the second day of NACT 2023, the participants went on a day-long field trip in Yogyakarta. Starting with visiting the Yogyakarta Royal Palace, then continuing with lunch at Bale Raos. After that, do a Batik Workshop at Omah Budoyo, and then end with a Closing Dinner at Candhari Heaven Restaurant.

ASC UGM x Kemenko Polhukam Focus Group Discussion

Yogyakarta, 27 September 2023 – ASEAN Studies Center Gadjah Mada University (ASC UGM) x Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs (Kemenko Polhukam) held a Focus Group Discussion (FGD). This FGD raised the theme “Indonesian Maritime Diplomacy Strategy in Promoting South China Sea Solidarity” and was attended by the BRIN Research Center, ASEAN Studies Center at UNS, the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency, and the Human Rights and Maritime Law Coordinator, Directorate General of ASEAN Politics and Security.

Diplomatic Briefing and ASC Monograph 2023 Launch

Yogyakarta, 22 August 2023 – ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada (ASC UGM) held a Diplomatic Briefing event and the launch of the ASC Monograph 2023. The event had the theme Diplomatic Briefing on Strengthening Indonesia’s Leadership for the Promotion and Protection of Women and Children in ASEAN – ” Charting a Safer Future: Advancing the Rights and Well-Being of Women and Children in ASEAN” and took place online through the Zoom Meeting platform. It was attended by participants from diplomats, researchers, academics, and students.

The Diplomatic Briefing event took place at 13.00 (GMT +7) and was opened with opening remarks by H.E. Amb. Lambert G., Ambassador of the Netherlands, and Dr. Dafri Agussalim, Executive Director of ASC UGM. Meanwhile, the Diplomatic Briefing and ASC Monograph Launch event were moderated by Yulida Santoso, Managing Director of ASC UGM. This event allows presenters to share in-depth insights on women’s and children’s issues. Yanti Kusumawardhani, a representative from the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), explained child issues. Meanwhile, Dr. Fitriani, Senior Researcher from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), presented an in-depth review of women’s issues.

Meanwhile, the launch of the ASC Monograph 2023 was also one of the sessions that all participants had been waiting for. This monograph is a collaborative work between authors and an editor from ASC UGM. ASC Monograph 2023 raises the title “From Vulnerability to Resilience: Enhancing Women and Children’s Well-Being”. ASC Monograph 2023, this time with six chapters, was written by seven authors. Two of the seven authors include Tunggul Wicaksono (Chapter 1: Empowering Futures and Bridging the Gap in the Protection of Women and Children) and Dio Tobing (Chapter 5: Safeguarding Children’s Rights Online in ASEAN: A Shared Responsibility). At the launch event, Tunggul Wicaksono, Research Manager of ASC UGM, introduced the contents of the monograph with an emphasis on the main findings and their strategic implications. Dio Tobing, a representative from the World Benchmarking Alliance, was also present to discuss the relevance of the conclusions of the monograph to broader global developments.

This event also provided a space for participants to ask questions directly to the presenters and discuss various issues raised in the Diplomatic Briefing and the contents of the ASC Monograph 2023.

Open House ASC UGM: ASEAN Day!

On August 8, 2023, the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada held an Open House in celebration of the 56th anniversary of ASEAN Day, in the BC building room no. 208–209, FISIPOL UGM. This activity opened at 13.00 WIB and was attended by students from various universities and different departments, such as UGM, UII, UMY, UPN, and UNY.


In the Open House activity, the session in room BC 208 was facilitated by Diaz Kurniawan, Program Manager of ASC UGM. In the session, Diaz Kurniawan explained the ASC UGM program division and the programs within it. One of the programs he presented was the ASEAN Youth Initiative Empowerment Program (AYIEP), which this year ASC UGM will again be holding a program for the fourth time with the theme “Human Rights in ASEAN”. Apart from explaining the AYIEP program, Diaz Kurniawan also explained the program that students always look forward to every year, namely the internship program.

Meanwhile, in room BC 209, there was a sharing session regarding research at ASC UGM, which was facilitated by Yulida Santoso, Managing Director of ASC UGM, and Tunggul Wicaksono, Research Manager of ASC UGM. In the sharing session, the students were quite active in asking questions, while one of the students wanted a 1-on-1 session. Therefore, Tunggul Wicaksono and the students shared ASC UGM research 1-on-1 in room BC 208. Meanwhile, Yulida Santoso continued the research-sharing session with students in room BC 209. The sharing session was then followed by a discussion on the South China Sea dispute, which has recently become a trending topic in the media.

The Open House activity then ended with a door prize draw. Where there were 8 students who were lucky to get flash disks, block notes, and mousepad prizes from ASC UGM. At this Open House, ASC UGM also distributed free books to the participants who attended.

The ASC UGM Open House activity in celebration of the 56th anniversary of ASEAN Day was a success. Therefore, it is hoped that this event will become an annual ASC UGM event in the future. Especially with this Open House event, ASC UGM can bring ASEAN closer to students. This is in line with the tagline owned by ASC UGM, namely “Bringing ASEAN Closer To You”.


ASEAN Chairmanship 2023: Indonesia’s Tendency to Solve the South China Sea Territorial Disputes

On 13 November 2022, the handover of ASEAN chairmanship from Cambodia to Indonesia was held at the ASEAN summit. Adopted the “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth” theme, Indonesia is responsible for one year of ASEAN’s chairmanship. At the ASEAN summit, Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia, said that ASEAN should be a peaceful and stable area and a presenter for global stability (Southgate, 2023). Some agendas should be a concern in Indonesia’s chairmanship. One of those is the issue that ASEAN has always faced: the South China Sea disputes. The conflicting claims of ASEAN’s countries’ sovereignty have worsened the relationship between China and ASEAN. So, how will Indonesia react while connecting the interest of Indonesia’s foreign policy?

Current Status of the Territorial Disputes in The South China Sea 

The status of the South China Sea remains uncertain. The claim of ASEAN countries’ seas has been seen as an insult to countries’ sovereignty. Criticization until objection to the nine-dash line as a legal argument by China has been an agenda by ASEAN countries for years. Other countries, such as the United States, have stated their position to object to China’s claim by rejecting the claim of Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia seas (U.S. Department of State, 2020). Other than that, the USA has expressed its concern about how unlawful the claims are and how China has violated international law (U.S. Department of State, 2020).

The tension between ASEAN and China has gradually increased due to this issue. China has increasingly put its efforts into reclaiming the land by expanding the size of the lands, military installations, and ports, especially in the Paracel and Spratly Islands (Center for Preventive Action, 2022). China also has militarized Woody Island with its jet, radar system, and cruise missiles (Center for Preventive Action, 2022). The Philippines, as one of the ASEAN members, has had a long-time dispute and negotiation with China. In reaction to China’s continued incursions into areas of Phillippine-claimed waters in the South China Sea, the Philippines has increased its military presence and gathered U.S. military assistance in the region (Gomez, 2023).

How about Indonesia’s response? The new demarcation exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between Indonesia and Vietnam will resolve the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing (Strangio, 2022). This demarcation is also seen as an important step in settling maritime disputes in the South China Sea. In its ASEAN chairmanship 2023, Indonesia has also started a code of conduct (COC) for the South China Sea dispute (Reuters, 2023). This negotiation which has been ongoing for over 20 years, tried to be restarted by Indonesia. Even though the claim to proprietorship of territorial waters covers with Indonesian EEZ through the Natuna islands, Indonesia has frequently said that Indonesia is not a part of the South China Sea disputes (Pratama, 2023). Fact that China has sent a letter to stop Indonesia from drilling for oil and gas in Natuna and even sent Coast Guard to monitor it (Reuters, 2020), Indonesia reacted as if it is not an urgent thing. Indonesia responded and rejected the claim under the UNCLOS agreement saying that China’s claim had no legal basis (Reuters, 2020). While this scene happened in 2019, there are no further policies to China’s ego. This Indonesia’s silent treatment has indicated that Indonesia, with its interest in China’s policy, will not likely take serious steps to encounter China’s domination of the South China Sea.

Indonesia’s Current Foreign Policy: Tend to Align with China

A close relationship between China and Indonesia cannot be debated anymore. Under Joko Widodo’s chairmanship, a large investment cooperation called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has started. One of the most controversial projects, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, is under the BRI investment (Fitriani, 2022). Electric vehicles, a lithium battery factory in Morowali, Jatigede dam, and other developments are also under the BRI investment (Fitriani, 2022). Other than that, the mining and energy industries receive the majority of Chinese investment in Indonesia. Indonesia had the most coal-fired power stations developed overseas by Chinese companies as of 2021. Besides, Indonesia and China are also good partners for their food security. The decision of Indonesia to ratify the China Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) shows satisfaction for China (Rahmat, 2022). The renewing agreement, Bilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation (BETC), that has been expired in April 2021, has also been an agenda of G20 between Indonesia and China (Rahmat, 2022). Based on these facts, it can be concluded that Indonesia’s interest has tended to favor China’s interest.

Even though its principle of foreign policy, “bebas aktif” (independent and active), it is understandable for Indonesia to align with the Asian superpower, China. It is logical and pragmatic because China offers more chances than other major powers and has become the main driver of global economic growth. Since the signing agreement of the Indonesia-China Strategic Partnership in 2005, China has become Indonesia’s largest trading partner. Moreover, China and Indonesia also have the highest import and export growth rates among ASEAN nations. According to the National Bureau of Statistics and China Customs, China and Indonesia’s combined import and export volume climbed from $66.234 billion in 2012 to

$124.57 billion in 2021, with a detail of USD 31.951 billion to USD 63.923 billion, Indonesia exported more goods to China. Other than that, through the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, this bilateral trade has positively affected the expansion of some export commodities, such as palm oil and coal (Maria, 2022). The fact that both economies are complementary, with  China having advantages in manufacturing and technology while Indonesia is rich in agricultural and raw materials, has been seen as a bilateral mutual relationship. In the future years, China’s investment in Indonesia will keep increasing as it becomes a more significant trading partner for Indonesia. Therefore, it makes more sense to accept China’s emergence and work together to counter the challenges it poses than condemning it or excluding it, which will only feed great power rivalries that could jeopardize Indonesian interests in the long run.

During Indonesia’s presidency, ASEAN’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting ASEAN’s economic growth will be the main agenda for the 2023 chairmanship (Southgate, 2023). These objectives can be seen in its eight flagship events, of which the Trade Ministry of Indonesia is responsible for four. These four flagship events, The ASEAN Online Sale Day, the ceremony of the RCEP, the launch of the new ASEAN tariff finder, and also the Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) agreement (ANTARA, 2023), have been seen as a focus on promoting ASEAN’s economic interest and strengthening the regional organization’s relevance in the global arena. These agendas align with Indonesia’s concern about its economic policy and also strengthen its relationship with China.

What is next?

Indonesia’s ignorance of the South China Sea dispute and Indonesia’s foreign policy tendency to China’s cooperation leads the writer to one conclusion: Indonesia will not likely finish the disputes between ASEAN members and China on the chairmanship of ASEAN. The dependency on China will guide Indonesia to enhance its foreign policy on the economy,

rather than solving the South China Sea issue. Despite numerous concerns about the stability of the area, Sulaiman (2019) argues that Indonesia is not developing a coalition to counter China’s expanding dominance in the South China Sea or improving its ability to project power. Indonesia’s interest has fallen into China’s hands. The strategic culture that affects Indonesia’s military and foreign policy thinking on threat perceptions and economic considerations results in under-balancing conduct, which restricts Indonesia’s alternatives in relation to China. China as a state is therefore not regarded as posing a significant, direct, or immediate threat that would require a prompt response and could damage Indonesia’s more significant interests. Moreover, the writer believes that Indonesia maintains its stance in position: Indonesia does not think that the issue is urgent to solve. Indonesia’s government is ignorant enough about the issue and currently does not have any intention to make policies to counter the unilateral recognition. Indonesia also has not been damaged enough to shift its foreign policy for the security of sovereignty. Therefore, Indonesia’s interest in the mutual economic relationship with China has made stagnancy on the issue, even in Indonesia’s year of ASEAN chairmanship.

Through the article, the writer believes that the settlement of South China Sea disputes will remain stagnated, not much different from the chairmanship of Cambodia. The interest between Indonesia and China has gradually strengthened and will obstruct the settlement of the issue, including foreign policy tendencies and economic reasons. Thus, Indonesia should not get swayed by the mutual relationship but view the issue with an objective perspective. The ASEAN region has got threatened enough to create a project power to encounter China’s power. Therefore, Indonesia needs to balance the security danger that China poses in the South China Sea by taking necessary steps, especially in its ASEAN chairmanship in 2023.


About Writer

Jefferson Davids Soasa is an undergraduate in the department of International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada.



ANTARA. (2023). Trade Ministry prepares 4 flagship events for ASEAN Chairmanship 2023. Antara News. https://en.antaranews.com/news/270234/trade-ministry-prepares-4-flagship-events-for-asean-chairmanship-2023

Center for Preventive Action. (2022). Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea. Global Conflict Tracker; Global Conflict Tracker. https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/territorial-disputes-south-china-sea

Gomez, J. (2023). Philippines confronts Chinese diplomats over sea disputes. AP NEWS. https://apnews.com/article/china-philippines-south-china-sea-disputes-70ea7983dbf67 b1f9ae5264c6ce9271a

Maria, C. (2022). The Impact of Trade Agreement and War on Specific Indonesia-China Bilateral Trade. Journal of Research on Business and Tourism.

Pratama, A. (2023). Indonesia’s Ambiguity in the South China Sea is Hampering its Interest. Modern Diplomacy. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/01/13/indonesias-ambiguity-in-the-south-china-sea- is-hampering-its-interest/

Rahmat, M. Z. (2022). China-Indonesia Relations in 2022: A Year in Review. Stratsea. https://stratsea.com/china-indonesia-relations-in-2022-year-in-review/

Reuters. (2020). Indonesia rejects China’s claims over South China Sea. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-china-southchinasea/indonesia-rejects-c hinas-claims-over-south-china-sea-idUSKBN1Z01RE

Reuters. (2023). ASEAN chair Indonesia to intensify talks on code for South China Sea. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/asean-chair-indonesia-intensify-talks-code-south-china-sea-2023-02-04/

Southgate, L. (2023). Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship: Promoting ASEAN Relevance in 2023? Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2023/01/indonesias-asean-chairmanship-promoting-asean-relevance-in-2023/

Sulaiman, Y. (2019), What Threat? Leadership, Strategic Culture, and Indonesian Foreign Policy in the South China Sea. Asian Politics & Policy, 11: 606-622. https://doi.org/10.1111/aspp.12496

Strangio, S. (2022). After 12 Years, Indonesia and Vietnam Agree on EEZ Boundaries. Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2022/12/after-12-years-indonesia-and-vietnam-agree-on-eez- boundaries/

U.S. Department of State. (2020). U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea. United States Department of State. https://2017-2021.state.gov/u-s-position-on-maritime-claims-in-the-south-china-sea/in dex.html

Williams, R. D. (2020). What did the U.S. accomplish with its South China Sea legal statement? Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/07/22/what-did-the-us-accom plish-with-its-south-china-sea-legal-statement/

Embracing ASEAN Economic Community 2025: Unlocking Prospects and Overcoming Obstacles in Indonesia

Imagine businesses of all sizes, effortlessly trading goods and services across ASEAN borders, tapping into diverse markets, and seizing growth opportunities. Picture investors eagerly exploring investment prospects in ASEAN, fueling economic growth and creating job opportunities. Envision entrepreneurs, armed with innovative ideas and regional market access, expanding their businesses and contributing to prosperity. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint seeks to create such an environment, where businesses of all sizes can thrive and contribute to inclusive development in the region. The AEC Blueprint serves as a roadmap to transform this vision into reality, propelling ASEAN towards a new era of economic integration for inclusive development in the region.

The AEC Blueprint 2025 outlines five reinforcing characteristics for ASEAN’s economic integration, namely: (i) A Highly Integrated and Cohesive Economy; (ii) A Competitive, Innovative, and Dynamic ASEAN; (iii) Enhanced Connectivity and Sectoral Cooperation; (iv) A Resilient, Inclusive, People-Oriented, and People-Centered ASEAN; and (v) A Global ASEAN. These characteristics provide a roadmap for ASEAN’s economic integration efforts, emphasizing the need for integration, competitiveness, innovation, connectivity, inclusivity, resilience, and global engagement (ASEAN, 2015). We are currently two years away from achieving the dream, and as ASEAN continues to evolve as a regional bloc, the AEC Blueprint still presents both opportunities and challenges for member countries, including Indonesia, in its pursuit of greater economic cooperation towards 2025 and beyond. 

Unleashing Underestimated Economic Sector

The AEC Blueprint 2025 presents a plethora of opportunities for Indonesia. In essence, the blueprint creates greater market opportunities for ASEAN members. The integration of ASEAN markets under the AEC framework will hopefully drive Indonesia to improve competitiveness and efficiency for intra-ASEAN trade. This collective effort among ASEAN member countries has the potential to unlock underestimated economic sectors.

The services sector, despite its contribution of over 64.4% to the global GDP (World Bank, 2021b), has often been colloquially referred to as the “Cinderella sector”. This stems from the belief held by economists, industrial relations researchers, and innovation scholars who regard the sector as relatively unproductive compared to other sectors, despite its potential to bring significant value to the economy (Miles & Boden, 2015). In fact, William Baumol went so far as to suggest that the expansion of this low-productivity services sector could potentially hinder economic growth due to limited productivity improvement, potential labor cost savings, and price-inelastic demand (Baumol, 1967). This concept is now known as “Baumol disease”. Interestingly, the services sector’s share in Indonesia’s GDP is relatively high compared to other sectors, contributing 42.8% to its total GDP, highlighting the significant opportunities that can be tapped into for the economies (World Bank, 2021a).

However, Indonesia still faces challenges in its services sector, as indicated by the OECD’s Services Trade Restrictiveness Index. It reveals that Indonesia demonstrates high levels of restrictiveness, particularly in legal services (scoring 0.9), accounting (scoring 0.7), and telecommunication (scoring 0.6), where a score of zero indicates complete openness and a score of one indicates complete closure to foreign services (OECD, 2022). These restrictions can potentially limit the availability of high-quality services and productivity.  Opening up the services market can effectively address these quality issues and provide opportunities for Indonesia to access higher quality services from abroad, and of course benefiting other economic sectors as well. Just like goods, high-quality and efficient services do not necessarily have to be produced domestically. Services trade allows Indonesia to access the immediate benefits of better quality services from abroad which can support other economic sectors.

Enhancing Manufacture, Fisheries and Agriculture Sector

Indonesia, being the ASEAN country with the largest population and GDP, holds other significant opportunities from the AEC Blueprint. The country’s abundant natural resources, particularly in agriculture and fisheries, further amplify its potential for economic gains through the AEC. Despite these favorable demographic and economic factors, recent industrial performance in Indonesia has been subpar. The fisheries and agricultural sectors, in particular, face weak competitiveness within ASEAN. Additionally, Indonesia faces competition from Vietnam in prawns and textiles, as well as from Thailand in the automotive supply chain within ASEAN (Aswicahyono & Soedjito, 2016). To achieve competitiveness within ASEAN, Indonesia must focus on developing a robust manufacturing base and enhancing the quality of its human capital. However, the country is grappling with persistent challenges related to infrastructure, including logistics, energy supply, and transportation, as well as an inefficient bureaucracy and corrupt institutions.

Unfortunately, Indonesia’s Business Freedom Index by The Global Economy had a decline in its value from 71 in 2021 to 67 in 2022, giving Indonesia just 57th in the Business Freedom ranking amongst 175 countries (Global Economy, 2022). In addition to that, Indonesia only ranks 95th on the Corruption Perception Index (Global Economy, 2021), indicating that practices of administrative and political corruption are still high. In order to combat these problems, Indonesia should focus on improving the regulatory environment to enhance business freedom. This may include simplifying and streamlining business regulations, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and enhancing transparency and efficiency in administrative processes. This could help create a more conducive environment for businesses to operate, attract investment, and foster economic growth in strategic sectors like agriculture and fisheries, while also giving strict regulations to mitigate the practice of corruption.

A Shift to Green Economy

The AEC Blueprint 2025 indeed emphasizes the importance of environmental sustainability and the integration of green principles into the economic policies and practices of ASEAN member states; it is specifically stated in the second characteristic of its framework, “A Competitive, Innovative, and Dynamic ASEAN”. This includes efforts to reduce GHG emissions, promote renewable energy, enhance resource efficiency, and address climate change impacts. The Blueprint also encourages the adoption of sustainable production, consumption patterns, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fisheries practices (ASEAN, 2015). But even so, its implementation to shift to a greener economy is not as good as its vision. In fact, The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest economic cooperation initiated by ASEAN countries to accomplish AEC’s visions, does not include a single chapter or regulation about the environmental consideration (CECPHILS, 2023). Provisions of RCEP for reducing tariffs could make non-renewable energies such as fossil fuel cheaper and more accessible to member countries. This may lead to an escalation in their utilization, particularly in Indonesia, which relies heavily on coal production and consumption. In addition, a recent study revealed that if all tariffs were eliminated among RCEP members, it could significantly increase approximately 3.1% in global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion annually. This would effectively double the average annual growth rate of global CO2 emissions observed in the last decade (Tian et al., 2022).

Bright Future for Indonesia and ASEAN 

As ASEAN advances towards the realization of the AEC 2025, Indonesia faces a dual landscape of opportunities and challenges that must be addressed within a limited timeframe of approximately two years. While the AEC 2025 offers prospects for increased economic integration that could benefit Indonesia’s economy, challenges such as the need for structural reforms, increasing competitiveness, and environmental impact mitigation must be effectively navigated. Strategic planning, policy coordination, and stakeholder engagement are crucial for Indonesia to maximize the potential of the AEC 2025 and promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This will not only contribute to Indonesia’s prosperity and resilience but also to that of the broader ASEAN region.


About Writer

M. Tora Bhanu Pandito is an undergraduate student at the Faculty of Economics and Business of University of Brawijaya. His interests extend beyond the classroom, as he is deeply invested in foreign policy issues, writing research articles, and enhancing the creative economy. He had the privilege of serving as the Head of Creativepreneur for the Student Executive Board, leading several university initiatives aimed at empowering MSMEs and fostering entrepreneurship that promotes sustainable economy. Contact can be made through his email at torapandito@gmail.com.


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