Entries by aseansc

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.


  1. ASEAN. (2015). ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025. In ASEAN Economic Community Scorecard. https://doi.org/10.1355/9789814414296-012
  2. Aswicahyono, H., & Soedjito, A. (2016). Trade in Goods under the AEC: A New Map of Competitiveness for Indonesia. CSIS Working Paper Series No. 02 – 2016, (November). Retrieved from https://s3-csis-web.s3.ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/doc/Trade_in_Goods_un_Indonesia.pdf?download=1
  3. Baumol, W. J. (1967). Macroeconomics of Unbalanced Growth: The Anatomy of Urban Crisis. The American Economic Review, 57(3), 415–426. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1812111
  4. CECPHILS. (2023). The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and its impacts on the environment. Retrieved from https://www.cecphils.org/read-the-regional-comprehensive-economic-partnership-rcep-and-its-impacts-on-the-environment/
  5. Global Economy. (2021). Indonesia: Corruption perceptions – Transparency International.
  6. Global Economy. (2022). Indonesia: Business freedom. Retrieved from https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Indonesia/herit_business_freedom/
  7. Miles, I., & Boden, M. (2015). Services and the Knowledge-Based Economy. New York: Routledge.
  8. OECD. (2022). Services Trade Restrictiveness Index. Retrieved May 26, 2023, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=STRI
  9. Tian, K., Zhang, Y., Li, Y., Ming, X., Jiang, S., Duan, H., … Wang, S. (2022). Regional trade agreement burdens global carbon emissions mitigation. Nature Communications, 13(1), 408. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28004-5
  10. World Bank. (2021a). Indonesia Services (% of GDP).
  11. World Bank. (2021b). Services (% of GDP). Retrieved from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.SRV.TOTL.ZS

Institutional Visitation by Prince of Songkla University – FISIPOL and PSU Future Collaboration

Yogyakarta, Friday, March 3, 2023

FISIPOL together with the ASEAN Studies Center UGM welcomed the institution from the Prince of Songkla University (PSU), Thailand. This meeting was held in Dean’s Meeting Room at 01.00 pm (GMT +7), with the purpose of discussing future research and academic collaboration and networking with academia and researchers in environmental energy, social policy, or climate change.

This meeting was attended by four representatives from the Prince of Songkla University namely Dr. Surawut Chomaitong (Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, PSU), Dr. Yasmin Sattar (Associate Dean for Academic and Research, Faculty of Political Science, PSU), Dr. Hafiz Salae (Associate Dean for Student Development and Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Political Science, PSU), and Mrs. Amney Sumalee (International Affairs Officer, Faculty of Political Science, PSU).

Meanwhile, the FISIPOL together with the ASEAN Studies Center UGM attended by Dr. Wawan Mas’udi (Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences), Prof. Dr. Poppy Sulistyaning Winanti (Vice Dean of Academic and Student, FISIPOL), Dr. Dafri Agussalim (Head of ASEAN Studies Center, FISIPOL), Yulida Nuraini Santoso, M.Sc., (Managing Director of ASEAN Studies Center, FISIPOL), and Tunggul Wicaksono (Research Manager of ASEAN Studies Center, FISIPOL).

In the discussions at this meeting, both parties discussed research collaboration, joint lectures & conferences, an exchange program for students and staff, and a cultural exchange & cooperative education program. From this discussion, it is hoped that in the future this collaboration between FISIPOL and Prince of Songkla University can be realized and carried out well.

This meeting then ended with the giving of souvenirs by each party and also taking a group photo.

#UGM #FISIPOL #ASEANStudiesCenter #PrinceofSongklaUniversity #Thailand #ResearchCollaboration #AcademicCollaboration #StudentExchange #UGM

Public Seminar – Indonesia’s Agenda in ASEAN Chairmanship 2023: Opportunities and Challenges

Indonesia’s Chairmanship role in the midst of the dynamics of global issues that are always challenging at this time is driven by strong initiatives to build a regional region that has a stable, fast-growing, inclusive, and sustainable economy. Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2023 is an important momentum that needs to be utilized to create a peaceful region that upholds human and democratic values through policy alternatives oriented to the interests of the grassroots community.

On February 14, 2023, the ASEAN Studies Center and the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) successfully held a Public Seminar with the title “Indonesia’s Agenda in the 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship: Opportunities and Challenges”. This Public Seminar was divided into two-panel discussion sessions and had two purposes, namely first, as an arena to highlight priority agendas that are relevant to Indonesia’s Chair in ASEAN, as well as to become a means for academics and practitioners to identify policy gaps so that, further, formulate an agenda -agenda to be accomplished. Second, building networks and increasing the role of the academic community in Indonesia’s strategic policies is especially important in efforts to build Indonesia’s leadership projection in the region and the world.

In panel discussion 1, the topic was “Geopolitical Challenges and Democracy in the ASEAN Region,” which presented two speakers, namely H.E. Sidharto R. Suryodipuro (Director General for ASEAN Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Dr. Amalinda Savirani (Lecturer of Department Political and Government, UGM), and was moderated by Dr. Luqman-nul Hakim (Lecturer of Department International Relations, UGM). Based on the presentation submitted by H.E. Sidharto R. Suryodipuro, the government is quite optimistic in terms of Chairmanship in ASEAN, considering this is not Indonesia’s first experience in ASEAN Chairmanship with an “at the crossroads” situation. The most important challenge is how to build a common identity as a new ASEAN political subject in the region and in the world, which will not be easy, both internally and externally. While Dr. Amalinda Savirani explained that, from an internal perspective, there are many divergent things in Southeast Asia, which makes it difficult for us to find a common ground. But at the same time, new issues such as environment, technology, and human trafficking inevitably force us to create a common ground and are expected to have a major impact on institutional maturity in ASEAN. The external challenge is that generally there are two collective identities, namely, a common ground inside or a common enemy outside. This is a matter of geopolitical turbulence, instead of being able to make ASEAN more unified, it actually has the potential to create the polarization.

For discussion panel 2 discussed the Opportunities for ASEAN as the Epicentrum of Growth and presented three speakers namely Ni Made Ayu Marthini (Deputy Marketing for the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy/Agency for Tourism and Creative Economy), Nella Sri Hendriyetty, Ph.D. (Head of Center for Regional and Bilateral Policy, Ministry of Finance), and Dr. Muhammad Rum (Senior Researcher of the ASEAN Studies Center, UGM), and moderated by Yulida Nuraini Santoso (Managing Director of the ASEAN Studies Center UGM). From the presentation of the three speakers in discussion panel 2, there are 3 things that can be concluded, namely, first, the fact that the existing economic deliverables are not a single issue, so they cannot be done alone or seen as a stand-alone part. And because of that we discussed at length about cooperation and the cross-pillar mechanism, perhaps it can be strengthened. Second, Indonesia has an extra challenge as Chair this year, because there is pressure to connect with the deliverables that existed last year when Indonesia became Chair of the G20, so this puts us in the spotlight. Third, it is our responsibility as Indonesian citizens to reconcile, and perhaps also to oversee efforts to achieve existing deliverables.

From discussion panels 1 and 2, it is hoped that there will be many insights that can be developed by the community or academics as both academic ideas and policy recommendations.

ASEAN’s Pathway to Sustainability Through Green Recovery Post-Pandemic Covid-19: Challenge and Opportunity

Written by Wahyu Candra Dewi

Striking in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly brought disruption to people’s livelihoods worldwide. Upon its initial announcement in March, the pandemic extended from a global health crisis into a global economic crisis that impacted countless nations, including ASEAN country member. As the virus spread at an unprecedented speed through human interaction, governments started to impose the policy of limiting people’s mobility and travel, causing numerous businesses to stop operating, which led to an economic downturn. After undergoing growth of around 4.4 percent in 2019, the financial situation in Southeast Asia countries declined by an average of 4 percent in the following year (Asian Development Bank, 2022b). The degree of severity varied amongst the nations. Thailand’s growth, for example, underwent a sharp contraction of 9.6 percent, while Malaysia’s economy was shrinking by 5.6 percent (Asian Development Bank, 2022b). Furthermore, according to Asia Development Bank’s calculation (2022), the pandemic Covid-19 had blotted out 9.3 million jobs which pushed 4.7 million people in the region into extreme poverty.

Nevertheless, the coronavirus outbreak was considered to create a one-a-lifetime opportunity, to change the trajectory of a country’s development. How the pandemic Covid-19 nearly drove Southeast Asia to the brink of recession showed the vulnerability of the current economic system (Hanns Seidel Foundation, 2021). Therefore, a change in today’s structure is needed to create a more resilient and sustainable economy. ASEAN governments are apparently aware of this present moment. Through ASEAN Summits in Ha Noi, Vietnam, on November 2020, country members formulated a recovery framework focusing on five key areas, including the effort to create a sustainable and resilient future referred to as Green Recovery (ASEAN Secretariat, 2020).

Green Recovery as A Pathway to Achieve Sustainability

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations in 2015 and consisted of 17 goals and 169 targets which cover three pillars of sustainability: people, prosperity, and planet (Suriyankietkaew & Nimsai, 2021). Under the UN 2030 Agenda, member states are committed to eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, decoupling economic growth, dealing with climate change and environmental degradation, and creating a better world for future generations (United Nations, 2015). Until 2020, the countries in Southeast Asia were lagging in terms of achieving SDGs. Albeit a thriving economic growth, the region is characterized by high levels of inequality; a lack of social protection; a sizeable informal sector; a decline in peace, justice, and robust institutions; as well as an alarming level of ecosystem damage, biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas emission (United Nations, 2020).

ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework showed how ASEAN governments have become more attentive toward sustainability goals and manifesting the effort to address the issue through Strategy Number 5: Advancing towards a More Sustainable and Resilient Futures. Looking deeper into the area of priorities, this strategy can be considered as another endeavor to pursue a chance for green recovery post-Covid-19The approach identifies seven sectors that need to be developed by country members to achieve sustainability and resiliency, including: (1) promoting sustainable development in all dimensions; (2) facilitating the transition towards sustainable energy; (3) building green infrastructure and addressing fundamental infrastructure gaps; (4) promoting sustainable and responsible investments; (5) promoting high-value industries, sustainability, and productivity in agriculture; (6) managing disaster risks and disaster management; and (7) promoting sustainable financing (ASEAN Secretariat, 2020).

Green recovery is perceived as a crucial step that needs to be taken as a pathway for building back the world after Covid-19, necessarily in Southeast Asia. Research conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2020) showed how the coronavirus outbreak was closely related to environmental degradation. Numerous diseases that led to the pandemic came from microbes of animals that spilled over. With the desolation of many animals’ habitats, this spill-over will likely have a higher percentage in the future. As southeast Asia is located in a tropical area that is home to a wealth of biodiversity, this region would be more vulnerable to upcoming pandemics (Asian Development Bank, 2022a). Therefore, a recovery process that could ensure the repair of environmental damage would be needed to prevent future health crises and promote and protect sustainability.

According to Asian Development Bank (2022a), implementing green recovery can create more jobs, as every USD 1 million in government green spending would generate 7.49 full-time jobs in renewable infrastructures. The existence of renewable infrastructures could create a circular economy that would significantly impact the environment: cleaner energy and lower gas emission, leading to a greater chance of maintaining global temperature. Further, economic activities that take the environmental dimension into account are expected to prevent Southeast Asia’s GDP from declining by 25 percent in 2045 and would also increase the region’s competitiveness in the global market (Hanns Seidel Foundation, 2021). This way, the development trajectory would be more sustainable and long-lasting for future generations. However, the enforcement of green recovery in ASEAN is not without challenges.

Challenge and Opportunity for Implementing Green Recovery

Increasing environmental protection awareness amongst leaders in the region opens an enormous opportunity for executing green recovery. This concern is manifested in ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, created by ASEAN as a recovery guideline post-Covid 19. Some country members have also adopted green growth or have a framework to fight climate change. Cambodia and Vietnam, for example, have specifically employed green growth as part of the national development plan (OECD, 2022). The Philippines released National Framework Strategy for Climate Change 21-22, and Singapore launched Singapore Sustainable Development Blue Print (OECD, 2022) as part of the effort to combat environmental issues and sustain growth. These approaches showed that Southeast Asia countries already have a tendency to mainstream the ecological dimension into economic development.

Nevertheless, the implementation of green recovery is being challenged by the absence of solid institutions that have the capacity to enforce the execution. The above-mentioned recovery framework is non-binding, which means that the decision to follow the guidelines is being referred back to the country member. ASEAN highly upholds the non-intervention principle as they prefer regional stability rather than enforcing values on unwilling countries, which could lead to rising tension. Therefore, non-compliance with the recovery framework would not inflict any consequences. Further, the transition into green infrastructures would need a long commitment and expensive investment. According to Asian Development Bank (2022a), green recovery would require USD 172 billion of capital annually by 2030. This would be a tough option for some developing countries in Southeast Asia with limited capital. The gain of the investment cannot be harvested immediately, even though the impact would be long-lasting. On the other hand, the government is confronted by demands from the domestic public for welfare that must be met promptly. With this dilemma, green recovery in Southeast Asia would still have a long way to go.

About Writer

  • Wahyu Candra Dewi is a graduate student in Universitas Gadjah Mada, majoring International Relations. She is interested in issues related to digital transformation, environment, and human security. Author can be contacted at wahyucandradewi@mail.ugm.ac.id


  1. ASEAN Secretariat. (2020). ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework. Ha Noi. Retrieved from https://asean.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/ASEAN-Comprehensive-Recovery-Framework_Pub_2020_1.pdf
  2. Asian Development Bank. (2022a). Implementing Green Recovery in Southeast Asia. Manila.
  3. Asian Development Bank. (2022b). Southeast Asia Rising from the Pandemic. Manila. Retrieved from https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/779416/southeast-asia-rising-pandemic.pdf
  4. Hanns Seidel Foundation. (2021). Building Back Better: Southeast Asia’s Transition to Green Economy After Covid-19, Assessment and Recommendation for Parliamentarians. Vienna. Retrieved from https://aseanmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Building-Back-Better-APHR-Report-FINAL.pdf
  5. IPBES. (2020). Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Retrieved from https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-12/IPBES%20Workshop%20on%20Biodiversity%20and%20Pandemics%20Report_0.pdf
  6. OECD. (2022). Green Economy Transition in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/c410b82a-en
  7. Suriyankietkaew, S., & Nimsai, S. (2021). COVID-19 Impacts and Sustainability Strategies for Regional Recovery in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities. Sustainability, 13(16), 8907. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168907
  8. United Nations. (2015). Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations website: https://sdgs.un.org/publications/transforming-our-world-2030-agenda-sustainable-development-17981
  9. United Nations. (2020). Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on South-East Asia.

What’s Missing in the AHRD?: Synergizing with Civil Society Towards Better Human Rights Regime in ASEAN

Written by Gerald John C. Guillermo

Civil society has long been a bastion of service and advocacy—contributing to the development and uplifting of lives, particularly in marginalized and underprivileged sectors of society. The Southeast Asian region is a testament to the catalytic role that civil society plays in lobbying for positive sociopolitical and economic changes, most especially in human rights protection (Tadem, 2017). During the COVID-19 pandemic, civil society organizations (CSOs) have supported efforts to curb the effects of the pandemic, especially for the vulnerable and marginalized. Those CSOs involved in human rights and democratization have faced more constraints in operation and activities prior to the pandemic, but many have continued their advocacy to hold their government accountable (Nixon, 2020). 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has embraced a shift toward a “people-oriented” approach, aiming to widen participation in civil society but restricting engagement which includes the establishment of an accreditation system and participation in informal consultations for CSOs (Gerard, 2014). Moreover, strict restrictions on the nature of participation and a limited set of issues up for discussion narrow cooperation with CSOs further, which results in discouraging participation from human rights-based CSOs. Therefore, the civic society narratives in ASEAN-sanctioned spaces are limited and controlled. 

This is particularly true with the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). The AHRD has been criticized for being a context-dependent human rights document subject to laws, local principles, and customs. In fact, during its declaration, various civil society organizations denounced the AHRD and that it “falls far below international standards” by undermining the universality of human rights principles (Article 19, 2012). Furthermore, the drafting process was controversial, such that CSOs were primarily excluded from the drafting process except for carefully managed “consultations” and representatives were still accountable to their government (Renshaw, 2013; Davies, 2014). The exclusion of civil society in the drafting process of the AHRD illustrates the limited effectiveness of CSOs’ advocacy in having an actual human rights protection mechanism in the ASEAN (Gomez & Ramcharan, 2012).  

However, civil society has moved forward and beyond the broken dynamics between CSOs and official ASEAN processes. For instance, CSOs all over the ASEAN region has maintained a robustly critical stance toward the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in its tenth year of founding and challenge them together with ASEAN to improve on acting on rights abuses (Hanara, 2019 & Forum Asia, 2019, as cited in Langlois, 2021). Moreover, in response to constraints on civil society participation, CSOs have developed “created spaces,” i.e., pursuing a political activity that bypasses regional and state actors such as with ASEAN-sanctioned modes of engagement and political arenas such as parallel activities, protests, and production and dissemination of critical knowledge (Jayasuriya & Rodan, 2007, as cited in Gerard, 2014) and supported by external actors (Sundrijo, Awigra, Safitri, Virajati, & Wening, 2020). 

While this seems as if parting ways between one of the moving spirits of the human rights agenda in the region, i.e., the civil society and the ASEAN, it is not the be-all and end-all scenario. There are ways for ASEAN to catch up to its commitment to human rights and live up to being “people-centered.” To develop and establish an institutional and normative human rights framework in the region, formal and genuine consultation mechanisms with the CSOs must be in place, which includes the establishment of formal complaints mechanisms in AICHR, expansion of the accreditation process for CSOs, particularly for human rights based CSOs, (Jones, 2019) and review of the effectiveness of the AHRD.  

The issues confronted by the Southeast Asian region, as surfaced in the recently concluded 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits, such as climate change, economy, peace, and security, are to be viewed not only at the state level but also in spaces where it matters—at the ground level. Recognizing the role of CSOs in helping solve such issues is one thing but engaging them more genuinely is another. ASEAN must support on-the-ground efforts of CSOs to mainstream human rights and connect networks of CSOs to promote understanding of particular issues with various stakeholders.  

Moreover, external organizations and stakeholders must support efforts for civil society to integrate and synergize with the broader organization of ASEAN. With ASEAN welcoming more external partners to pursue areas of cooperation, such international stakeholders must steer the discussion in crafting a more inclusive human rights regime in the region with the help of CSOs. 

Indeed, CSOs in the ASEAN region have been growing both in quantity and quality, constructively contributing to regionalism and strategically maneuvering against the institutional state-centrism of ASEAN through less structured mechanisms (Sundrijo et al., 2020). While CSOs have the means to navigate this “road less traveled,” it should not be that way. ASEAN must genuinely open its arms and confront the complex issue of human rights and “living” the AHRD, facing not only government dignitaries but listening to real people, real stories, and real lives, particularly the marginalized and the oppressed. 

*The views expressed in this article do not represent any of the organizations with which the author is affiliated. 

About Writer: 

  • Gerald John C. Guillermo is a Juris Doctor student at the University of the Philippines College of Law. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, with a Minor Degree in Development Management at the Ateneo de Manila University. His areas of skills and interests include youth, public policy, international relations, governance, and law. Contact information:geraldjohnguillermo@gmail.com.


  1. Article 19. (2012). Civil Society Denounces Adoption of Flawed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration: AHRD falls far below international standards. https://www.article19.org/data/files/medialibrary/3536/Civil-Society-Denounces-Adoption-of-Flawed-ASEAN-Human-Rights-Declaration.pdf  
  2. Davies, M. (2014). An Agreement to Disagree: The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and the Absence of Regional Identity in Southeast Asia. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 33(3). 107–129. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/186810341403300305  
  3. Gerard, K. (2014). ASEAN and civil society activities in ‘created spaces’: The limits of liberty, The Pacific Review, 27:2, 265-287, https://doi.org/doi:10.1080/09512748.2014.882395 
  4. Gomez, J. & Ramcharan, R. (2012). ASEAN needs formal civil society engagement mechanism on human rights. Asia Centre. https://asiacentre.org/asean-needs-formal-civil-society-engagement-mechanism-on-human-rights/  
  5. Jones, D. (2019). ASEAN’S Human Rights Conundrum: An Analysis Of The Failures Of The ASEAN System For Promoting Human Rights (Bachelor’s dissertation). https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=ppe_honors  
  6. Langlois, A. (2021). Human rights in Southeast Asia: ASEAN’s rights regime after its first decade. Journal of Human Rights, 20(2), 151-157. https://doi.org/doi:10.1080/14754835.2020.1843144 
  7. Nixon, N. (2020). Civil Society in Southeast Asia During the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Asia Foundation. https://asiafoundation.org/publication/govasia-issue-1-civil-society-in-southeast-asia-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/  
  8. Renshaw, C. (2013). The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012. Human Rights Law Review, 13(3), 557-579. https://doi.org/doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngt016 
  9. Sundrijo, D. A., Awigra, D., Safitri, D., Virajati, K., & Wening, P.P.P. (2020). Civil Society Participation in ASEAN Regionalism Strengthening the Capacity of ACSC/APF to Advocate the Interest of the People of Southeast Asia. Human Rights Working Group. https://www.hrwg.or.id/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Civil-Society-Participation-in-ASEAN-draft-2.pdf 
  10. Tadem, E. (2017). New Perspectives on Civil Society Engagement with ASEAN. Heinrich Böll Stiftung. https://th.boell.org/en/2017/07/12/new-perspectives-civil-society-engagement-asean#_ftn2 

ASC UGM at FISIPOL UGM Research Days 2022

Last week on FISIPOL Research Days 2022, our research on Halal Tourism has been presented by Dra. Siti Daulah Khoiriati as the lead researcher of this research project.

In this research, our research team found numerous issues and major keyfindings that are faced by the halal tourism communities in Yogyakarta. In terms of this, our Center managed to share the knowledge for the empowerment of tourism villages in Yogyakarta.

Several questions arose from the participants, start from how the halal tourism is able to increase the interest of the tourism rather than a regular tourism, also how the stakeholders could support the development of the halal tourism. Other than that, there is a question about how can the interest between halal tourism and regular tourism could be taken into a common benefit.

The product of this research are Policy Briefs, and Infographic that can be accessed through the following link.

Policy Briefs: ugm.id/ASCPolicyBriefs
Infographic: ugm.id/ASCInfographic

ASEAN’s Human Rights Promises and Pitfalls: Is the ASEAN Effective in Advancing its Human Rights Agenda?

Written by Arvhie Santos


When the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) first recognized the concept of human rights in the ASEAN Charter promulgated in 2007, which led to the formation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in 2009, and subsequently the body’s adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) on 2012, it did so with the promise that Southeast Asian citizens shall enjoy the same rights and freedoms that all other peoples around the world are endowed with. 

This promise has been in grave peril with the flurry of human rights abuses in the Southeast Asian region for the past years. Any hope that ASEAN’s adoption of the AHRD presaged a new era of regional responsiveness to human rights violations was seemingly short-lived. This paper argues that while the adoption of the AHRD has set the stage for a formal human rights discourse in the region, little progress has been made since then for various reasons.  

ASEAN’s Effectiveness in Advancing its Human Rights Agenda  

  • The promises set forth through the AHRD and the AICHR 

The AHRD was created by the AICHR with the goal of upholding the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) while also bearing in mind the region’s socio-economic, political, and cultural particularities in which the AHRD will be operationalized.1 To a certain extent, the AICHR was successful in attaining this goal. ASEAN member-states affirmed therein all the civil and political rights, and all of the economic, social, and cultural rights, in the UDHR.2 The AHRD even included clauses or provisions not circumscribed in the latter, such as one that relates the problem of child labor,3 the rights of those suffering from communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS,4 as well as the right to development, which must be exercised in a manner consistent with other human rights.5 

AHRD was seen as a significant achievement in the region because it reflected the shared commitment and explicit consent of the ASEAN Member-States, through the AICHR, notwithstanding its heterogeneous political and cultural dispositions, to a formal human rights systems and set of principles. Hence, the significance of AHRD as a human rights text emanates mainly from the fact that it represents the AICHR’s first step at human rights standard-setting.6 For this reason, it carries substantial political weight and normative value. 

The issue of human rights in the region has gained legitimacy by being incorporated into the AHRD. Thus, it has effectively placed the importance of human rights in the sphere of ASEAN discourse. The AHRD has become a starting point for the development of regional human rights norms. Establishing rights institutions and authorizing the use of rights language legitimizes norms that protect dissent and political contestation, in turn aiding the kinds of contestatory rights politics that press for the realization of these norms in regional and domestic political life.7 

From an optimistic point of view, AHRD is regarded as a preliminary to a serious regional-level effort to promote and protect the rights set out in the UDHR.8 It laid the groundwork for the passage of subsequent international treaties and independent mechanisms for a stronger realization and protection of Southeast Asian citizens’ human rights. However, for all of ASEAN’s “commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,”9 the many pitfalls surrounding its human rights architecture have allowed the continuous perpetration of human rights atrocities within its Member-States with few repercussions. 

  • The general situation of human rights in the region 

Home to the world’s newest regional human rights system, it seems Southeast Asia is back to being a “club for dictators” with the onslaught of human rights violations in recent years. In Brunei Darussalam, the entry into force of its new revised Penal Code would result in human rights violations because it allows the punishment of homosexuality, adultery, and rape with the death penalty.10 In Cambodia, authorities have pursued a heavy crackdown against the media.11 As in the case of two of the reporters of Cambodia Daily newspaper who were investigated for baseless charges of “incitement.”12 Indonesia was urged to halt threats and intimidation against human rights defender Veronica Koman and her family.13 

 In Laos, human rights activists Ms. Lodkham Thammavong, Mr. Soukane Chaithad, and Mr. Somphone Phimmasone have been deprived of their liberty and their right to a fair and free trial for more than five years since their arrest.14 In Myanmar (Burma), military units carried out a large-scale ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population through arbitrary detention, massacres, mass arson, and sexual violence.15 In Malaysia, violence against the LGBT community has been pervasive, with the murder of a transgender woman Sameera Krishnan in February 2018 and the rape and murder of T. Nhaveen in June of the same year, to name a few.16 

 In the Philippines, more than 120 children, including a one-year-old, were killed during Former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.” According to a report, most were killed while in the company of adults who were the supposed target or were deliberately shot as proxies.17 In neighboring Thailand, serious human rights concerns continue to persist, highlighted by its recent refoulement of asylum seekers who are seen as illegal migrants subject to arrest and deportation to Cambodia, where their lives and freedom would be at risk.18 In Viet Nam, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly have seriously deteriorated with the increasing number of journalists and rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained.19 

  • The pitfalls and insights 

The lack of human rights progress in the region for the past decade magnifies the shortcomings of the AICHR and the AHRD to produce “the full realization of human dignity and the attainment of a higher quality of life for ASEAN peoples.”20 For one, the culture of ASEAN foreign relations generally does not encourage an establishment of cooperative approaches that would interfere with member-states domestic affairs. The ‘ASEAN way’ emphasizes that consensual decision-making and non-interference—including in the form of criticism towards human rights violations—in the internal affairs of fellow ASEAN member-states are overriding principles of intra-ASEAN relations.21 

Hence, as the institution responsible for the promotion of human rights, the AICHR must be guided by the principles of non-interference, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and respect for independence. These principles are deemed in conflict with the international human rights standards as enshrined in the UDHR and the Vienna Declaration, such as universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and interrelatedness of all human rights.22 This kind of approach leaves us with the danger of yielding the future of its human rights agenda to the political will of each member state’s government, some of which are patently unwilling or unable to abide by their human rights obligations. 

Secondly, AICHR consists of ten commissioners, all appointed by their respective governments. As an intergovernmental consultative body, it has no formal compliance or enforcement mechanisms. Its Terms of Reference do not envision the AICHR to have any judicial mandate nor provide any legal procedure23 through which a state or individual can file a suit or avail a remedy concerning alleged human rights atrocities by member-states, which differentiates it from the African, European, and Inter-American regional human rights systems.24 In conjunction and as previously mentioned, the AICHR’s commissioners are appointed by member-states and are, therefore, “accountable to” their appointing governments, who may decide, at the latter’s discretion, to replace them. Hence, the AICHR commissioners did not act, in meetings and consultations about the AHRD, as independent agents who were interested in furthering human rights discourse. They are bound by the strict instructions of their government which hinders them from carrying out their work progressively and holding their own or any member-state responsible. 

This is aggravated by the fact that civil society organizations (CSOs) had virtually little or no participation at all in drafting the AHRD.25 Despite repeated calls for transparency and participation from CSOs, it was not until September 2012 that a draft was formally circulated.26 By excluding or giving CSOs minimal opportunity to provide their inputs, the ASEAN citizens were not given an adequate way to ensure that their concerns were introduced, received, and incorporated into the Declaration. In May 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nava Pillay, expressed that “No discussion of human rights can be complete or credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions.”27  

What’s Next? 

This article has presented a brief analysis of the situation and the legal framework in relation to human rights in the region. First, it has been asseverated that the ASEAN has laid down the foundation for the development of future binding human rights instruments in the region through the AICHR and the AHRD. Second, and in juxtaposition to the first, it has examined the general situation of human rights in the SEA, which implies that a lot of work still has to be done. Finally, it has argued that the ASEAN, despite the steps it has taken, still falls short in protecting the fundamental rights of its people.  

A human rights text, in this case, the AHRD, is indeed an important first step, but ultimately, the actual value of one will be evaluated by the role it plays in compelling concrete actions to promote and protect the ASEAN peoples’ basic rights and freedoms. While political and economic challenges do exist and present an enormous stumbling block, they should not stop the ASEAN from initiating concrete plans to achieve a truly peaceful region that respects its peoples’ human rights. Further, the ASEAN is in a fortunate position, being the newest among other regional human rights systems. It could draw inspiration and learn experiences from these older models.  

Through this article, the author meant to initiate discourse and reflection on the first decade of the ASEAN human rights regime. It acknowledges the aspirations of the regime to promote and protect human rights and, at the same time, identify challenges and opportunities for reform. 

About writers:

  • Arvhie Santos is a Filipino liberal arts graduate with a degree in Philosophy from the University of Santo Tomas-Manila. Currently, she is pursuing her Juris Doctor degree. A paralegal by profession and a human rights advocate by heart, she is committed to promoting human rights, social justice and democracy through education, research, legal aid, and mobilization. Arvhie is also the Vice President for Training, Exchange, and Development of Asian Law Students Association – Philippines.  She is affiliated with the Free Legal Assistance Group, Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, Court Appointments Watch PH, and the Citizens Alliance for Life and the Law of the Sea. She can be reached through arvhie.santos.law@ust.edu.ph.



  1.  Catherine Renshaw, Human RIghts and Participatory Politics in Southeast Asia, p. 81.
  2.  Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, November 2013, Article 10 & Article 26.
  3. Betty Yolanda, et. al. “The ASEAN Human RIghts Declaration: A Legal Analysis,” American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, 2014, p. 1.
  4. SUNDRIJO, Dwi Ardhanariswari. (2021) Regionalising Global Human Rights Norms in Southeast Asia (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan).
  5. Catherine Renshaw, Human RIghts and Participatory Politics in Southeast Asia, p. 3.
  6. Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, November 2013.
  7. (“Bachelet urges Brunei to stop entry into force of “draconian” new penal code”, 2019)
  8. (“Increasing attacks on Cambodia’s media are a threat to democracy – UN human rights report”, 2022)
  9. (Human Rights Watch, 2018)
  10. (“Indonesia: Stop reprisals against woman human rights defender – UN expert”, 2021)
  11. (“Lao PDR: Five years after arrest, human rights defenders still denied access to lawyers – UN expert”, 2021)
  12. (“Rohingya: the deadly situation in Myanmar explained”, 2021)
  13. (Human Rights Watch, 2018)
  14. (Radcliffe, 2020)
  15.  (“Comment by UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville on killing of Cambodian activist and refoulements from Thailand”, 2021)
  16. (“Viet Nam: UN rights office denounces ‘increasing clampdown’ on freedom of expression”, 2021)
  17. Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, November 2013. p. 13.
  18. Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order by Amitav Acharya, London and New York, Routledge, 2001. However, this should not be construed in such a way that the ASEAN never engaged in human rights discussions amongst themselves. The case of Temple of Preah Vihear Case (Cambodia v. Thailand), ICJ Reports, 15 June 1962 was the first intra-Asian case referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Moreover, Singapore and Malaysia referred a territorial dispute to the ICJ: Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/ Singapore) Judgment, ICJ Rep 2008 12. The Philippines and Cambodia have also recognized as compulsory ipso facto the jurisdiction of the ICJ under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
  19. Yuval Ginbar, “Human Rights in ASEAN-Setting Sail or Treading Water”, Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 10 (3) September 2010, p. 514.
  20. Nicholas Doyle (2014). The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and The Implications of Recent Southeast Asian Initiatives In Human Rights Institution-Building And Standard-Setting. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 63, pp 67-101.
  21. Pepina Jane A. Petralba (2013). Hornbook on International and Philippine Human Rights Laws. REX Book Store, 37.
  22. It is well to note that CSOs–which are primarily composed of faith-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, labour unions, and indigenous groups–are traditionally recognized for their importance in defending human rights and holding governments accountable.
  23. See, e.g., Forum Asia, “Civil Society Demands Transparency and Consultation on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration” (Apr. 8, 2012), at http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=12449.
  24. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Next two years key to human rights development in ASEAN region – UN human rights chief”, 28 November 2011. See also International Federation for Human Rights Joint Statement, “The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration: Drafts Must Be Published and Subject to Meaningful Consultations with Local, National and Regional Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders” (May 2, 2012), at http://www.fidh.org/en/asia/asean/The-ASEAN-Human-Rights-Declaration.

ASEAN at a Crossroads: An Autocratic Turn in the Region

According to Democracy Report 2022, published by V-Dem Institute, Southeast Asian countries were reported to experience either democratic stagnation or regression, indicating a shift towards a more autocratic region. 

Although most Southeast Asian countries hold elections, they are considered to be the feature of, rather than the cause of, democratization in Southeast Asian countries. These countries cannot simply be labeled as electoral democracies. Elections and electoral institutions are vulnerable to a certain degree of abuse and corruption. In that vein, Democracy Report 2022 did not qualify these Southeast Asian countries as electoral democracies, except Indonesia and Timor-Leste.  

The political development in the Philippines under Duterte made the Philippines fall under the category of electoral autocracies following Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Despite elections being held in these countries, their electoral institutions failed to uphold democratic principles.  

Meanwhile, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam downgraded from electoral autocracies in 2011 to closed autocracies in 2021, following Laos. The citizens of these countries barely have institutional capacities to hold accountable power holders — individuals or groups of people. Military forces have become a critical player in advancing autocratic governance in the region. It is evident in the 2014 Thai coup d’état and the most recent Myanmar coup d’état in which democratic institutions and human rights were violated.  

Beyond electoral components, an autocratic turn in the region has advanced through ‘authoritarian innovations’ in a broader regional geopolitical context and within individual countries. They are new governance practices, which take different forms, intended to shrink meaningful public political participation. The COVID-19 pandemic has also further intensified the use of authoritarian practices.  

Such an autocratic turn poses a challenge to ASEAN to realize its vision of being a people-centered and people-oriented community. In this vein, unpacking how this trend further intensifies is critical to enable ASEAN as a regional bloc to curb further democratic regression. Two issues are worth discussing here. 

First, in a broader geopolitical context, the rise of China has unavoidably shaped — complicated — the ways in which Southeast Asian countries and ASEAN navigate their internal political dynamics, enabling anti-democratic forces in the region to grow.  

The 2021 Myanmar coup d’état was clear evidence. The Myanmar armed forces claimed that the coup was a ‘constitutional’ response to the election fraud committed by the National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in the 2020 election. The Institute for Strategy and Policy reported that over 5,600 civilians, including four democracy activists, were executed by the junta under the banner of the State Administration Council (SAC). 

Responding to the political crisis in Myanmar, the nine ASEAN leaders and the Myanmar junta chief agreed upon the “Five-Point Consensus” as the framework to maintain peace and stability in the region. However, by exploiting the ASEAN’s ‘non-interference’ principle, the SAC refused to conform to the consensus, resulting in no tangible outcomes.  

It is clear that China maintains its legitimacy as a strategic and economic partner for ASEAN countries through its Belt and Road Initiatives while leveraging the democratic decline in the region to pursue its national interests. Positioning itself as the dominant power in the region, the rise of China’s power has indirectly empowered anti-democratic forces in the region by providing support for their political survival.  

China’s support for the Myanmar junta to protect its political sovereignty has complicated ASEAN’s approach to the crisis. Keeping this in mind, the non-interference principle must be revisited to avoid its abuse by the member states in the name of sovereignty at the expense of human rights and to enable Responsibility to Protect. 

Second, the emerging new authoritarian practices to subvert democratic progress are evident in and intensified by handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asian countries. The handling has been shadowed by shrinking civic space 

Contact tracing essentially designed to halt the spread of COVID-19 may serve as a platform for governments’ digital surveillance unrelated to the pandemic. Digital Reach, an organization that looks into the impact of technology on human rights in Southeast Asia, monitored the use of digital contact tracing across six ASEAN countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  

One big concern arising from this digital contact tracing is a privacy issue. In Singapore, despite having a personal data protection policy, data collected from its contact tracing app was made accessible for criminal investigations. The report from Digital Reach showed that it is used to silence critics of the government of Singapore. In this context, the absence of a personal data protection policy in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam increases the likelihood of public surveillance and violation of the right to privacy. 

Responding to the pandemic, ASEAN released the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework outlining ASEAN’s five broad strategies for recovery. Yet, this recovery framework disregards the importance of upholding democratic principles, although strengthening human security is part of its broad recovery strategies.  

Given the long-term impacts of the pandemic, democracy in the region will continue to deteriorate if ASEAN fails to center democratic principles in its COVID-19 recovery strategies. ASEAN must work closely with its accredited entities, including civil society organizations, to hold ASEAN governments accountable in their efforts for COVID-19 recovery. 

Two issues above demonstrate that ASEAN is, once again, at a crossroads. Democracy in the region is beyond fragile; it will continue to decline if ASEAN turns a blind eye to it. However, to renew ASEAN’s commitment to democratic principles in the region, it must begin from within each of ASEAN member states.  


*The views expressed in this article do not represent any of the organizations with which the authors are affiliated. 


About writers: 

  1. Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh is a PhD candidate at the School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland. Twitter: @muhammadammarh_ 
  2. Muhammad Maulana Iberahim is Regional Media & Communications Support Officer at International Organization for Migration. Twitter: @iberahims  

The Challenge of ASEAN Institutionalism in Outer Space

Written by: Ade Meirizal & Dinda Julia Putri 

A lot of people are blurry to consider space. Space activities are more complex. Not only for telecommunication, banking, and GPS utility, outer space can provide fish movement data, disaster mapping, and even agricultural sources on earth from satellites. With information from satellites, the quantity of fishery activity could be maximized and can help fishermen to trace fish locations throughout the sea. Furthermore, satellites can help farmers to map fertile soil to start agriculture and create sustainability in the quality of the goods (eco-business.com. 2021). Geographically, ASEAN is surrounded by sea, which means fishery activity is part of Southeast Asia people, and agriculture is an essential element in SEA society. SEA is the best place to establish a launch site because it is close to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO). GEO was the most suitable and conducive orbit for satellites, especially for communication satellites; most of the USA communication satellites were positioned in GEO to make data gathering more efficient and reliable (Peterson, 2003). In the historical record, a few countries in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Vietnam, joined the space activity a long time ago. Indonesia was the first SEA country to launch its own satellite in 1963 through a national entity called LAPAN (the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space). Vietnam was a part of the Soyuz 37 mission to send their first cosmonaut to space. Thailand and Malaysia are the main actors in SEA space history, which focus on space powers. Uniquely, four ASEAN space powers are surrounded by minimal interest and technology in space, such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Unlike many other state members, Singapore stressed its interest in industrialization and academic-centrics of space technology (Verspieren and Coral, 2021). 

Advantages & Urgency 

Most ASEAN state members are located on the equator line, namely; Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This position is beneficial to cut off budget and efficiency. The equator can give an additional natural boost for rockets to reach space and affect rocket fuel and booster consumption. Due to safety and prevention during the rocket launching process, the coastline of each area in SEA was a potential place to establish a launch site so debris and failed launch would not hit citizens (scienceabc.com, 2022). The urgency of ASEAN to advance space activity is because of the geographical issue. We know that most ASEAN countries are lying on the ring of fire, the most dangerous area on earth. This area is vulnerable but has enormous potential in sources. Space technology such as satellites is beneficial in preventing disaster (Verspieren and Coral, p. 6. 2021). On the other hand, ASEAN is surrounded by major powers on geopolitics at the global level. Emerging countries outside of ASEAN, such as India, Brasil, and South Korea, show their progress in space activity, like India, which puts their space interest not only for commercial but also military purposes. Space rivalry has become a reality in recent decades. The main actors in space are not only states but also privateers and possibly threatening regional interests. 


Space activity in ASEAN was organized by SCOSA (Space Technology Development and Utilization), and this framework is part of the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST). SCOSA is one of the most extensive plans of ASEAN from 2016 to 2025 through the ASEAN Plan of Action on Science, Technology, and Innovation (APASTI), released in October 2017 (Verspieren and Coral, p. 11, 2021). However, SCOSA is a sub-committee that was created by ASEAN Committee on Science, Technology, and Innovation (COSTI). In other words, SCOSA is not an independent entity in ASEAN. SCOSA was established under the huge COSTI umbrella. Compared to the European Space Agency (ESA), which organized eight programs, namely; space science, human & robotic exploration, observing the earth, telecommunication, satellite navigation, space transportation, technology and operations, and standing independently, SCOSA stressed its focus on satellite, geoinformatics, and space technology applications (asean.org. 2022). Moreover, the “sub-committee” has a deficiency. Although it has a specific responsibility in terms of purposes (Merriam-webster.com, 2022), this form has many disadvantages. According to the management studies, the sub-committee has limitations like; indecisiveness that brings stakeholders to the disconcerting decision, high cost, domination by few, and lack of secrecy, which means there are no stakeholders responsible for maintaining the decision had been taken.  

All countries in ASEAN can represent their country in SCOSA, but funding and participation are optional. Lack of sustainable funding affects space development on a regional level. Although state members are integrated into ASEAN, each country has its own space of cooperation outside of ASEAN due to the characteristic of ASEAN itself, which is flexibility. Many ASEAN countries authorize their space initiative from the national level or support from the space-faring countries outside of ASEAN like Japan and China (Verspieren and Coral, p. 12, 2021). We can assume this uncertainty might be crucial to institutionalizing space in ASEAN. The ambiguity of members to interpret common goals in the space program creates gaps among members. Each member has their own orientation in space activity. Like Singapore focuses on space academics and business, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam are more interested in space power, and Brunei Darussalam is uninterested in space. This uncertainty is a symbol of the emptiness of authority in the institutionalization of space cooperation within the ASEAN body. The “flexibility” tradition that is used in many ASEAN actions is one of the biggest challenges. ASEAN traditionally allows its members to take their own action without interference, and its effect is to equalize space development goals with a common interest at the regional level.  

Liberal institutionalism concept shows the direction in order to reach common goals. This concept is possible to organize its members to build the main agenda and accelerate equal economic development. Conceptually, Liberal Institutionalism argues that in order for there to be peace in international affairs, states must cooperate together and, in effect, yield some of their sovereignty to create “Integrated communities” to promote economic growth and respond to regional and international security issues (Rebecca David, 2011). Even though SCOSA established ASEAN, the sub-committee in ASEAN space activity is not enough. Regional bodies like SCOSA should stand autonomously, supported with clear main agendas, shared interests, and collective financial support. By designing mutual goals for state members, ASEAN can accomplish priority sectors in space technology. Single sector by utilizing satellites for collecting data affects many aspects of society in ASEAN. For example, using fish movement data from satellites can stimulate the fish quantity and rising efficiency in terms of the fishery. Farmers and stakeholders can use satellites to monitor fertile soil and crops, like Global Agriculture Geo-monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM) launched by the USA authority (Brown, 2015). Remote sensing applied in satellites is possible to map disasters in various territories. For these reasons, ASEAN countries can apply outer space technology to rising prosperity, reducing hunger, and value-added to ocean products and agriculture, not only at the regional level but also around the globe. 


About Writers:

  1. Ade Meirizal studied in the Master’s Degree program in International Relations, UGM. he has an interest in space policy and its connection to global affairs. He has a field of interest covering Political psychology in international relations, diplomacy, and outer space. Contact information: ademeirizal@mail.ugm.ac.id 
  2. Dinda Julia Putri currently studies in the Master’s Degree program in International Relations, UGM. She was an awardee from Beasiswa Pendidikan Indonesia (BPI), managed by Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (LPDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology. She has a field of interest covering diplomacy, foreign policy, and European Union Studies. Contact information: juliaputridinda@gmail.com 


  1. Verspieren, Quentin & Coral, Giulio. (2022). Introduction: Why Space Matters in ASEAN. Springer.  
  2. Devitt, Rebecca. (2010). Liberal Institutionalism: An Alternative IR Theory or Just Maintaining The Status Quo. E- International relations.    https://www.e-ir.info/2011/09/01/liberal-institutionalism-an-alternative-ir-theory-or-just-maintaining-the-status-quo/ 
  3. Brown, E. Molly Rebecca. (2015). Satellite remote sensing in agriculture and food security assessment. Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/j.proenv.2015.07.278.  
  4. Ashish. (2022, July 8). Why Are Rockets Launched From Areas Near The Equator? Retrieved from https://www.scienceabc.com/eyeopeners/why-are-rockets-launched-from-areas-near-the-equator.html. 
  5. Priority Areas of ASEAN Science and Technology Network. Retrieved from https://astnet.asean.org/sub-committee-on-space-technology-and-applications-scosa/ 
  6. Measures, Nick. (2021, March 2). How Satellite Imagery is Helping Precision Agriculture Grow to new Heights. Retrieved From https://www.eco-business.com/news/how-satellite-imagery-is-helping-precision-agriculture-grow-to-new-heights/  www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subcommittee 

AUKUS Impact for Achieving ASEAN Vision 2025

Written by: Hastian Akbar Stiarso & Rayhan Fasya Firdausi 

The newly formed trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK, and the United States (AUKUS) on 16 September 2022 is a contentious issue across the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The planned purchase of nuclear-powered submarines increases Australia’s naval deterrent capability against China’s growing naval power (Pillai Rajagopalan, 2021). It is feared that this will threaten the politics and security of the ASEAN region because although AUKUS is known to be not an alliance, it is a sign that has shocked the strategic landscape of ASEAN. 

ASEAN welcomes the right kind of open competition among the great powers in the region—namely, peaceful and progressive. So far, ASEAN does not have a consensus with AUKUS. This is also why ASEAN member countries have mixed reactions to AUKUS. Indonesia is very wary of this development. Indonesia is “deeply concerned about the ongoing arms race and power projection in the region”. Like Indonesia, Malaysia is also concerned about whether AUKUS could trigger a regional arms race. Although Australia will not acquire nuclear weapons under the treaty, Malaysia remains concerned that transferring nuclear technology to an Australian submarine force could be a weak link in the nuclear weapons (Djalal, 2021). 

Meanwhile, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines remain neutral. They believe that AUKUS will strengthen regional peace and security. AUKUS is seen as a welcome step toward strategic balance in the regional geostrategic competition (Djalal, 2021). 

The AUKUS issue should be a mutual concern of ASEAN member countries. This difference of opinion can be resolved if we adhere to the principles of the political-security pillar in ASEAN 2025, one of which is enhanced dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN external partners for mutual benefits and interests. This has also never been studied in previous studies. 

AUKUS is a defense pact formed by Australia, Britain, and the United States on 15 September 2021. This defense pact was formed as a forum to share knowledge about advanced defense and to facilitate Australian troops with nuclear-powered submarines. The existence of AUKUS caused various reactions, including France, which opposed this partnership because it impacted their partnership with Australia. ASEAN countries themselves have different views on the existence of AUKUS. Malaysia and Indonesia reject the existence of AUKUS because they think that AUKUS will provoke other powers to be more aggressive in the region, specifically in the South China Sea. Singapore has a different view from Malaysia and Indonesia. They view AUKUS as contributing to building regional stability and peace. Vietnam chooses to act more cautiously. They choose not to comment on this issue (Southgate, 2021). Differences in views between countries impact efforts to maintain balance with the United States and China. The presence of AUKUS has an impact on the difficulty of achieving the status quo. These conditions, plus the entry of Australia to become more influential in the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN itself does not have a single voice on regional security issues. Therefore, ASEAN’s centrality will continue to face the influence of outside forces. 

AUKUS is an essential issue for ASEAN, considering that they have the principle of centrality, where ASEAN is a key player in decision-making and the region’s future. While there has been a low level of concern over the struggle for power in this region, challenges to the principle of centrality are almost non-existent. However, China’s aggressiveness towards ASEAN countries caused this balance of power to be disturbed. In addition, the proliferation of non-ASEAN-centric cooperation, such as QUAD, whose members are DPs of ASEAN and members of the EAS, is a concern for ASEAN. With the advent of AUKUS, a partnership that is not ASEAN-centric in the region is added. The presence of AUKUS is seen as a geopolitical threat to ASEAN. This is related to the aim of AUKUS to counter increasing Chinese activities. Here there is a difference between QUAD and AUKUS. At the 2nd QUAD Summit, they convinced ASEAN that the existence of QUAD could reach ASEAN in practical terms. However, AUKUS has a different mindset; they have ideas about regional powers that interfere with ASEAN’s centrality. Therefore, the existence of AUKUS will cripple ASEAN’s strategic position (Gurjit Singh, 2021). 

AUKUS will bring ASEAN into a security dilemma where the procurement of nuclear submarines for Australia will bring a new chapter in the arms race in the region. On the other hand, ASEAN adopts the principle of balance of power in ensuring regional security. The presence of AUKUS as a new force will impact the distribution of power in the region. The condition of security integration in ASEAN itself is still low, so a joint defense strategy is far from being formed. ASEAN seeks to form a unified and inclusive community in the defense field through the ASEAN Community 2025. The ASEAN Community 2025 views ASEAN as a united and inclusive community and a resilient society. Our society will live in a safe, harmonious, and secure environment, embracing the values ​​of tolerance and moderation as well as upholding ASEAN’s basic principles, shared values ​​, and norms. ASEAN must remain cohesive, responsive, and relevant in addressing regional peace and security challenges and play a central role in shaping the regional architecture while deepening our engagement with external parties and contributing collectively to global peace, security, and stability. However, to achieve that, ASEAN itself is difficult to have one voice, and AUKUS plays a role in showing that there is no cohesion among member countries. AUKUS will increase regional power competition, creating the potential risk of arms races and significant power confrontations, further weakening regional prosperity, peace, and stability. However, AUKUS can also be a tool to trigger ASEAN to maintain regional order by promoting dialogue. This can be seen in ASEAN’s efforts to build an ASEAN-centric platform for security dialogue, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum. 

There has never been an issue like AUKUS in ASEAN before. The closest issue is the establishment of SEATO in 1954, which involved the Philippines and Thailand before becoming part of ASEAN. So this AUKUS issue must be faced without any examples from the past. AUKUS issues can be handled easily if ASEAN and AUKUS emphasize the dialogue function. As stated in ASEAN Vision 2025, dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN external partners must be increased to achieve mutual benefits and interests. Before reaching ASEAN’s external partners, we must improve dialogue within ASEAN’s internal. We can see that within ASEAN, there are still differences of opinion among ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which have different views from Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines in responding to the existence of AUKUS. With this dialogue, ASEAN member countries can have the same attitude in dealing with the AUKUS issue. 

Furthermore, dialogue can also be increased by presenting AUKUS as an external partner of ASEAN. In this dialogue, it can be discussed the possibilities that can occur in the cooperation of Australia, Britain, and the United States, which can affect the security of the ASEAN region. This dialogue is expected to produce beneficial cooperation for both parties while helping ASEAN achieve ASEAN Vision 2025 in the pillars of security politics. 


About Writers:

  • Hastian Akbar Stiarso is an undergraduate student majoring in International Relations at UPN “Veteran” Yogyakarta. Hastian is a member of KSM DEFENSIA, a study group engaged in traditional and non-traditional security studies. Hastian has an interest in security studies, especially in traditional security and conflict management. 151190057@student.upnyk.ac.id 
  • Rayhan Fasya Firdausi is an undergraduate student majoring in International Relations at UPN “Veteran” Yogyakarta. Rayhan is a member of KSM IRON FIRE, a study group engaged in research and writing for security studies. Rayhan has interests in non-traditional security studies, conflict resolution, and social movements. 151190101@student.upnyk.ac.id  



  1. Djalal, D. P. (2021). Asian review: Diplomatic caution: ASEAN responses to AUKUS security dynamic. East Asia Forum Quarterly, 13(4), 16–18. Retrieved from https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/informit.191261782401741 
  2. Gurjit Singh. (2021). The ASEAN disunity over AUKUS. Retrieved 5 September, 2022, from ORF website: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-asean-disunity-over-aukus/ 
  3. Pillai Rajagopalan, R. (2021). Does AUKUS Augment or Diminish the Quad? Retrieved 5 September, 2022, from ORF website: https://www.orfonline.org/research/does-aukus-augment-or-diminish-the-quad/ 
  4. Southgate, L. (2021). AUKUS: The View from ASEAN. Retrieved 5 September, 2022, from The Diplomat website: https://thediplomat.com/2021/09/aukus-the-view-from-asean/