Press Release – “Diplomatic Briefing on the ACWC 10th Year Commemoration – Solidifying the Role of Think Tanks and CSOs in the Advocacy to Strengthen the ASEAN Commission of Women and Children (ACWC)”

In continuation of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the ASEAN Studies Center UGM conducted a Diplomatic Briefing discussing the Commission’s work in the past decade and future outlook of its work. This event was held virtually on Friday, 9 October 2020, also with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and FORUM-ASIA.

Carrying the same theme, namely “Solidifying the Role of Think Tanks and CSO in the Advocacy to Strengthen the ASEAN Commission of Women and Children (ACWC)”, the forum invited the insights, experiences and thoughts from the audience on ways to further the cause of promoting the rights and protection of women and children in the region.

The meeting commenced with opening remarks delivered by Dr. Dafri Agussalim, Executive Director of ASEAN Studies Center UGM, followed by speech by Prof. Roel van der Veen, Head of Political Affairs of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and also Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA to launch the Report of FORUM-ASIA titled Assessing the Commission’s Impact on Protecting Women and Children’s Rights in ASEAN. Dr. Dafri emphasized the importance of promoting, ensuring the rights of women and children as they are an integral part of a thriving community. The success of ASEAN in empowering  and protecting the rights of women and children will likely lead us to become a successful region in the future. In line with this, Prof. van der Veen also stated the commitment of the Netherlands to always support ASEAN in reinforcing its regionalism, where it can be achieved by having strong regional institution that can ensure and protect the rights of its citizens, including women and children.

The discussion session of the Diplomatic Briefing was moderated by Andy Yentriyani Commissioner of the Committee for the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan). To start the discussion, Rachel Arinii Judhiastri, FORUM-ASIA, highlighted several key findings on FORUM-ASIA Report on the ACWC+10 including the fact that only 25% of the 2016-2020 Workplan had been implemented. This was due to several challenges in the region such as the Rohingya crisis, other human rights abuse towards marginalized groups, and lack of engagement in CEDAW and CRC reporting which clearly affected the responsiveness of ACWC in addressing issues relating to human rights of women and children. However, ACWC had also achieved notable milestones such as the Declaration on the Protection of Children from all Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse in ASEAN, the campaign on Trafficking in Persons and also the nexus to Violation Against Women. Therefore, as she also emphasized, there is a need to have strong regional mechanism which can accelerate the efforts in achieving gender equality, particularly within the Southeast Asia region.

Agustina Kustulasari, Senior Fellow, ASEAN Studies Center UGM, highlighted how ASEAN principles have hindered the decision making process and implementation of regulations and conventions related to the human rights issues, such as the rights of women and children. Therefore, to address this situation carefully, several recommendations included to involve more policy actors and media as the fourth pillar of democracy which can bring public opinions into the agenda setting and accelerate policymaking processes in the region. Engagement with the media in campaigning sensitive journalism will help amplify the use of appropriate terms when advocating issues to the government. She also mentioned the importance of involving the academia in conducting research related to the concerns of ACWC . This will help nudge ASEAN governments to place the issue of women and children, higher in the regional agenda.

H.E. Dr. Ratchada Jayagupta, ACWC Thailand, as respondent, focused her presentation on the implementation of ACWC TOR in Thailand. The ACWC Thailand had endorsed the ACWC gender sensitive guidelines on handling women victim of human trafficking in 2016, and translated the guidelines into Thai. A pilot project for capacity building was also conducted where it involved officials and CSOs working together on advocating particularly on anti-human trafficking. ACWC Thailand also attempted to increase the visibility of ACWC through various social media and channels to provide information and regular activities of the commission, as well as making the channels as a direct communication platform with all ACWC Representatives. The dialogue was then followed with a Q&A session where it discussed the hindrances of substantive engagement between ACWC and other ASEAN bodies, CSOs, think tanks, and also donors within the region. In general, during the ten years of the ACWC journey in advocating rights for women and children, the engagement with ASEAN mechanisms and other CSOs in the region had faces various challenges including limited resources, staffing in implementing its activities and overall support from ASEAN member countries. The limited visibility of the information about ACWC also may be one of the factors that affected the quality of the substantive engagement with the bodies, compared to other ASEAN human rights mechanisms.

Press Release – Webinar “Solidifying the Role of Think Tanks and CSOs in the Advocacy to Strengthen the ASEAN Commission of Women and Children (ACWC)”

Yogyakarta, 8 October 2020.

On Thursday, 8 October 2020, ASEAN Studies Center UGM held a webinar under the theme of Solidifying the Role of Think Tanks and CSOs in the Advocacy to Strengthen the ASEAN Commission of Women and Children (ACWC). The webinar, with the support of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and FORUM-ASIA, was held online via YouTube at 9am. The webinar was held to launch the Report on the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) +10 titled Assessing the Commission’s Impact on Protecting Women and Children’s Right in ASEAN, composed by FORUM-ASIA.

The webinar invited five keynote speakers, namely Rachel Arinii Judhistasari (FORUM-ASIA East Asia and ASEAN Advocacy Programme Manager), Sri Danti Anwar (Indonesia’s ACWC Representative for Women’s Right), Yuyum Fhahni Paryani (Indonesia’s ACWC Representative for Children’s Rights), Yuyun Wahyuningrum (Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR), and Agustina Kustulasari (Senior Fellow, ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada).

The webinar commenced with opening remarks by Dafri Agussalim as Executive Director of ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada, and Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA. Dafri highlighted the importance of protection of women and children as they are also part of the community. Following these remarks, the Report on Assessing the Commission’s Impact on Protecting Women and Childrens Right in ASEAN was officially launched.

The webinar, question, and answer session was moderated by Rita Serena Kolibonso.

The first speaker, Rachel Arinii Judhistasari, explained the findings within the Report with a highlight on the need for a robust regional mechanism to address human rights violations and discrimination. Although the mandate of ACWC includes balancing rights and responsibility, a pretext of religion and socio-cultural norms which often detrimental to children and women’s rights, this has yet to take form. The Report also suggested the importance of solidifying the role of CSOs across the region to support the work of ACWC.

The second speaker representing ACWC (women), Sri Danti Anwar, stated that 15 programs focusing on gender mainstreaming and strengthening human protection had successfully been achieved. Still, further plans need to be carried out, including eliminating violence against women and drafting the standard and protocol guidelines for ACWC. However, these initiatives were not without challenges. There remains a looming gap between the socio-cultural, economic, and political-security communities that often work in silo.

Similar to the effort of the ACWC (women), as specified by Yuyum Fhahni Paryani representing ACWC (children), the implementation of the current ACWC Work Plan 2016-2020 is an effort to be in step with a contemporary trend in the region in these fast-changing times. The next work plan’s strategic initiative would explore a “life-cycle” approach to take a more in-depth look at the needs of women and children in particular. This approach would ensure that they are advocated for and will not be left behind.

Meanwhile, Yuyun Wahyuningrum highlighted synergy efforts between AICHR, ACWC, and CSOs to further the agenda of gender mainstreaming in ASEAN. The creation of regionalization allows us to organize cooperation talks about the rights of women and children. In terms of ASEAN, to develop the standard, states need a space and interconnection through intergovernmental models that centralize on states’ initiatives.

It is also essential to understand similar ratifications pertaining to the rights of women and children, such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as Agustina Kustulasari presented in her findings. However, ASEAN’s moves have been slow-paced, particularly in areas of policy-making and implementation. It is challenged mostly by the non-intervention principle and peer-pressure. To address this issue, she suggested the involvement of other strategic policy actors such as the media to play their vital role as a potent agent in shaping the language of gender and the role of academia to provide an academic approach in addressing the challenges of ACWC.

The following are key points summarized from the Question and Answer session, namely: CSOs and think-tanks have to work closer if more advocative policies are to be developed in the future, the importance of distinguishing particular groups to identify their specific needs in the society, such as domestic violence victims during the lockdown, inclusive education to respond to mixed migration, mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 to women and children, and to monitor ASEAN member states’ response to these issues and further develop policy framework through AICHR. These points will be taken into account when establishing the forthcoming working paper.

Press Release – Bincang ASEAN: “Challenges for Indonesia and ASEAN”

Yogyakarta, 3 July 2020

The fourth edition of Bincang ASEAN Webinar was held on Thursday, 23rd July 2020. Co-hosted by the ASEAN Studies Center and the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs (Kemenkopolhukam), the event invited five keynote speakers namely: H.E. Ambassador Chilman Arisman (Chief Diplomat of the Directorate of ASEAN political and security cooperation), Dr. Dafri Agussalim (Executive Director of ASC UGM), Dinna Prapto Raharja Ph.D. (Associate professor Binus University), and Abdullah Zulkifli, S.T, M.Si (Assistant Deputy of ASEAN Cooperation at the Ministry of Political, Legal, and Security Affairs. The topic of the webinar is “Anticipating traditional and non-traditional security threat in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges for Indonesia and ASEAN”.

The webinar was started with opening remarks from H.E. Ambassador Dr. Lutfi Rauf. He spoke on the economic threat the region faces following the pandemic with the potential to reach a recession, the need for robust cooperation as traditional and non-traditional threat looms after this pandemic and the ASEAN strength in fending off infighting as geopolitical terrain shifts after the pandemic. Following the remarks, Dr. Wawan Mas’udi gave an opening remark as a representative from the Faculty of Social and Political Science Universitas Gadjah Mada. He touched upon the function of academia in knowledge production through academic work in supporting the efforts of handling the pandemic. He also reminded that being a natural leader, Indonesia should be in the front guard in arranging the regional framework to handle COVID-19 cases.

The topics discussed within the webinar are divided into four parts. First, in achieving regional stability, the pillar of the political security of ASEAN must be strengthened as great power competition re-emerges. ASEAN needs to show unity and resilience through the existing framework of political cooperation. Second, ASEAN has several modalities in operating the framework of cooperation in the health sector following the pandemic. The international regime model coined by Koremenos, Lipson, & Snidal (2001) has been used to measure the effectiveness of handling the pandemic. However, the implementation of such a model still leaves incongruities. Thus, ASEAN is given the opportunity to enhance further cooperation, especially in handling the pandemic. Third, there are several commonalities in the interest of ASEAN and Indonesia in maritime security and non-traditional security. The transnational crime could see an increase if states are focused on traditional security threats. Cooperation is an integral part of the safety and security of all member states of ASEAN. Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the scarcity of resources resulting in a larger potential for conflicts. ASEAN could be threatened by such conflict as competition for resources between member states is inevitable. However, member states should uphold the ASEAN cooperation in politics and economy to deter such imminent conflicts.

The biggest challenge for ASEAN is massive uncertainty on all parts. However, the crisis is not parallel to chaos as countries are not faced against one another directly but are struggling to take on the problems faced within. The three components of ASEAN: trust, relevance, and a binding identity, could be the key to maintaining the efficacy of ASEAN’s framework to deal with challenges coming ahead.

Press Release – Bincang ASEAN: “The Past and the Future of ASEAN Health Cooperation”

Yogyakarta, 5 May 2020

ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada held its first Bincang ASEAN Webinar on Tuesday, 5 May 2020, inviting Ahmad Rizky Mardathillah Umar, M.Sc, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Australia and former Executive Secretary of the Center. Umar shares his take on the current COVID-19 pandemic focusing on the past and future of ASEAN Health Cooperation.

Looking closely at ASEAN’s collective response towards the pandemic, Umar highlights ASEAN’s constrained policies while analysing the history of ASEAN’s health cooperation to understand its nature and possible future trajectories of regional health cooperation. Its current dynamics in responding to the outbreak and its implications can be traced back to the SARS and avian flu crisis in 2000, where it was relatively reactionary and resulted in feedback which was insufficient to address a large-scaled outbreak. This precedence has further shaped ASEAN’s responses which leads us to today’s marginalised policies.

Nonetheless, ASEAN’s nature to over-rely on its non-interference policy, places the policy-making and response strongly under the sovereignty of each ASEAN Member State. The current ASEAN’ response and coordination is argued to be ‘too little too late’ and seemingly complicated. However, this is only an indication that ASEAN can still further collaborate to provide  a more comprehensive response to the crisis. Umar argued that ASEAN needs a collective health surveillance system where technical and sectoral cooperation are encouraged with the need for more funding on research and cooperation at the regional level.

“If we take a look at what ASEAN Member States have done to maintain this collective effort, it shows that it has been not promising enough because the initial effort to contain the pandemic was only undertaken in April, months away from the first reported case. Nonetheless, this seemingly late response is understandable as ASEAN has a complex decision-making process and its existing institutional frameworks are not designed to respond to crises,” Umar explained.

With the establishment of the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund which was officialised during the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 held in April, it is hoped that ASEAN can boost greater future collaboration on regional health. It is also expected that ASEAN can result in more robust responses for critical matters not only in health security but in maintaining regional economic stability. “The fear is not only about the virus, but also the threat of an economic collapse in the future following the health crisis” Umar highlights.

Press Release – Ambassadorial Lecture “After the Commemorative Summit, Future of ASEAN-Korea Strategic Partnership”

On Friday, March 6, 2020, ASEAN Studies Center UGM held an Ambassadorial Lecture by the Ambassador of The Republic of Korea to ASEAN, H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Lim Sungnam, under the theme of “After the Commemorative Summit, Future of ASEAN-Korea Strategic Partnership”. The Ambassadorial Lecture was held at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM).

The Ambassadorial Lecture delivered four topics namely The Korean Miracle, The ASEAN Miracle, Current ASEAN-ROK Relations, and the Future of ASEAN-ROK Relations. During the first discussion, Ambassador Lim Sungnam explained how the Republic of Korea had endured the brutality of colonialism and evolved from the aftermath of the Second World War to become a developed nation in 1989. Ambassador Lim Sungnam referred to this development as the “Miracle of the Han River”. The next section of the Lecture, H.E. Lim Sungnam talked about the origin of ASEAN that had developed from a group of five Southeast Asian Foreign Ministers from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, into a formal organization today consisting of 10 ASEAN Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners . In the third discussion, Ambassador Lim Sungnam explained the relationship of ASEAN and the Republic of Korea which had developed from a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1989 toward the establishment of the first Korean Permanent Mission to ASEAN in 2019. Ambassador Lim Sungnam also emphasized the cultural relations between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea in the field of arts and gender equality, as well as the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund aimed at funding scholars and scientists from ASEAN countries. Lastly, Ambassador Lim Sungnam reiterated President Moon Jae-In’s foreign policy of “New Southern Policy” as the future collaboration between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea which upholds three principles namely people-centered community, prosperity, and peace.

The Lecture was followed by a Questions and Answers session. The session was lively as participants were eager to raise questions on interesting topics. Among them were questions on the Republic of Korea’s stance on ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and Korean Wave (Hallyu) impact on ASEAN countries. Ambassador Lim Sungnam reaffirmed the Republic of Korea’s support for ASEAN on AOIP and empowered the notion of ASEAN countries’ art and culture industries to develop their products in keeping up with the Korean Wave.

In closing the Ambassadorial Lecture, Ambassador Lim Sungnam presented an antique map of Asia from the 18th century to UGM which was followed by an exchange of token of appreciation from the ASEAN Studies Center.

The Ambassadorial Lecture was attended by scholars from around Yogyakarta including Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII), and Universitas Achmad Dahlan (UAD) and several notable institution and student organization from Yogyakarta.

Press Release: Working Conference – ASEAN-UK Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture

A Working Conference under the theme of “ASEAN-United Kingdom Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture” was held on 18-19 February 2020. It brought together experts from ASEAN Member States and Southeast Asian experts from the United Kingdom to exchange ideas on creating strategic partnership avenues between ASEAN and the United Kingdom with acknowledgement towards the rapidly changing regional architecture. The Conference was held at the recently inaugurated building of the ASEAN Secretariat, Jalan Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta, Indonesia. The two-day event covered presentations and discussions on various topics and was concluded by a site trip around the new and Heritage buildings of the ASEAN Secretariat. The panelists consisted of researchers from the ASEAN Member States, with the exception of representatives from Myanmar and the Philippines who were unable to attend, and the United Kingdom. The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, Deputy Secretary-General of Community and Corporate Affairs, and ASEAN entities also attended the event.

Prior to the Working Conference, a welcoming dinner was hosted on Monday, 17 February 2020, at the 1O1 Hotel Darmawangsa, at 19.00. The following day, Tuesday, 18 February 2020, participants arrived at 08.30 to register before the Conference commenced at 09.00. The Working Conference was officiated with opening remarks from the Executive Director of the ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, and the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community & Corporate Affairs. The opening was followed by a photo session.

The first session took place after a brief coffee break. Discussions took place under the theme, “ASEAN in the Changing Geostrategic Theatre”. The presenting panelists were from Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, and United Kingdom. The discussion evolved around the institutional agility and internal cohesion of ASEAN’s Centrality, historical references of ASEAN and its present, and further extended to discuss Brexit, Britain, and the World. The first session was concluded with a Question & Answer session.

The second session reconvened after a brief coffee break, at 11.00. The discussions evolved around “ASEAN External Relations” highlighting proposed narratives of researchers from the United Kingdom and Singapore. The session looked into the impacts of Britain’s historical role in the Southeast Asian region, Brexit, United Kingdom’s engagement to ASEAN, and response to the changing regional politics. This session also delved into talks of the ways forward for both ASEAN and the United Kingdom post-Brexit. It proposed focusing on engaging the ASEAN Chairmanship, in effort of establishing a meaningful tie with the region. The session was also followed by a Question & Answer session, and a lunch break.

The third session highlghted the role that the ASEAN entities play in strengthening the ASEAN Communities. The theme of the discussion was an “Introductory Presentation by ASEAN Secretariat and Associated Entities” which brought the views of the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Institute of Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), ASEAN Foundation, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). This session looked into the functions of the Secretariat, how Community building in the region is promoted through peace, stability, and understanding, as well as through the strengthening of the role of the youth.

Due to time constraint, the fourth session was held in conjunction with the fifth. The fourth session highlighted the views of researchers from Thailand, Cambodia, United Kingdom, on “ASEAN and Its People-Centeredness: Still Relevant?”. Participants looked at the challanges and ways forward of the people-centered ASEAN, questioned what bring people-centered and people-oriented means for the community-building effort of ASEAN, how the digital ambition of ASEAN looks like and what opportunities this leaves for the United Kingdom. Further, the panelists also looked into how the people-centered and people-oriented goal of ASEAN would play into the rapidly evolving regional security architecture. This lead to the fifth session under the theme of “ASEAN Regionalism”. Panelists from Vietnam, Malaysia and Lao PDR looked at sectors which provided greater opportunities for a stronger colaboration, namely in education, trade, and security. The Q&A for the fourth and fifth sessions were accommodated in conjuction. All five sessions of the Working Conference were moderated by the ASEAN Studies Centre. The Conference ended at 17.45 afterwhich the participants returned to 101 Hotel Darmawangsa.

Registration for the second day opened at 09.30 at the Video Conference Room, North Tower, ASEAN Secretariat. The session commenced at 10.00 to wrap-up the discussion from the previous day. Participants brainstormed possible outputs of the Working Conference, agreed on solidifying the Network of ASEAN-UK Think Tanks (NAUT) and looked into the possibilities of mainstreaming ASEAN studies in the UK. The discussion was held for two hours and was followed by a photo session. Participants were directed to the Lobby of the ASEAN Secretariat to have a photo session in front of ASEAN emblem, before enjoying the provided lunch. After lunch, participants were facilitated a site visit of public spaces within the new and Heritage ASEAN Secretariat building, by the ASEAN Secretariat. Participants visited the sky bridge connecting the North and South towers of the Secretariat, the Art Gallery, the Nusantara Hall, Library, the recently renovated Gift Shop, and the ASEAN Hall within the premise of the ASEAN Heritage Building. The visit to the ASEAN Heritage Building marked the end of the last day of “Working Conference on ASEAN-UK Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture”.

Internship at ASEAN Studies Center 2021

Greetings from the ASEAN Studies Center UGM!

This year,  ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada offers Undergraduate Students and Fresh Graduates from any majors and various universities in Indonesia to take part in our online internship program in three work divisions. The internship program will enable you to experience the dynamics of the ASEAN Community!

Internship period: September 2021 – November 2021

Required Documents:

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Latest Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  3. English Proficiency Certificate (TOEFL / IELTS / TOEFL Prediction)
  4. Other supporting documents  (Portfolio / Writing Examples / Project Experiences) *if available

General Requirements:

  1. Must be an active university student or fresh graduate from any majors and various universities in Indonesia
  2. Excellent written and verbal communication skill both in Bahasa and English
  3. Have an interest in the ASEAN or South-East Asia issues
  4. Ability to work effectively as a team member and independently with minimum supervision
  5. Commit to be available in working hours (3-4 hrs/day) during the internship program period (3 months)
  6. Able to access a good internet connection

Interns in Program Division

  1. Experience in managing national and international event (conference, seminar or public lectures)
  2. Knowledge of project funding procedures and guidelines
  3. Demonstrated experience in the formulation of cooperation and funding proposals

Interns in Research Division

  1. Experienced in assisting research and publication will be an added value
  2. Submitting 300 words of writing sample with a specific theme of “E-Commerce and ASEAN Regionalism
  3. Able to meet publication deadlines

Interns in Media Division

  1. Good analytical skills of content creation
  2. Maintain excellent writing skills in English
  3. Able to utilize design tools (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator) or video editing software (noncompulsory);


  1. Deadline of Application Submission – 13 August 2021
  2. Notification of Result for Interview – 16 August 2021
  3. Interview – 19 & 20 August 2021
  4. Notification of Final Result – 25 August 2021
  5. Internship Program – 1 September – 30 November 2021

Apply Here

Press Release: Sharing Seminar on Policy Research and Consultancy “Building an Inclusive Platform of Regional Policy-Making in ASEAN”

A one-day “Sharing Seminar on Policy Research and Consultancy: Building an Inclusive Platform of Regional Policy-Making in ASEAN” was held at Ashley Hotel, Jakarta, on Tuesday, 21 January 2020. The Seminar invited researchers from ASEAN Member States to participate in sharing their best practices of formulating strategic policy-making with the government and among think tanks. Also attending the Seminar were ASEAN entities, and government officials, etc.

The event commenced at 8.30 am and was followed by a Welcoming Speech and Keynote Speech, consecutively. After a brief coffee break, the event continued with presentations on “Linking Academic Research and Policy Making in Indonesia” and “Undertaking Policy Research” from Indonesian and United Kingdom facilitators. The first session discussed the nature of research and policy-making in Indonesia. It looked into the issues of bureaucracy, structural problems, government approaches, and lack of funding, etc. The speaker shared some tips on winning research grants including the involvement of agencies, building a firm reputation, and maintaining relations with stakeholders. The second session examined the various researches that are useful in achieving change in policy-making. It also discussed the various approaches in creating an impactful policy research including the importance of analysing stakeholders, appropriate timing, focusing on the solutions, and the importance of an engagement strategy.

In the sharing sessions which followed, best practices of conducting policy-oriented researches from the point of view of researchers were highlighted. Researchers from eight ASEAN Member States (representatives from Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar were unable to attend) shared their experiences in policy research, the difficulties met, achievements, and proposed way forward. The Seminar identified the similarities and differences in conducting policy-oriented research across the ASEAN Member States and saw merit in strengthening the network.

The sharing sessions were facilitated by a moderator to navigate the discussion and accommodate the Question and Answer session. The first sharing session invited researchers from Cambodia and Indonesia. The second session highlighted the experiences of researchers from Lao PDR, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The last session invited researchers from Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A Permanent Representative of an ASEAN Member State to ASEAN shared their insight and observation of the discussion. After a brief wrap-up, the sharing session was concluded.

Press Release: CIFP 2019

In collaboration with the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia’s annual Conference on Indonesian Foreign Policy (CIFP), the ASEAN Studies Centre hosted a Parallel Session titled “ASEAN Centrality, and the Indo Pacific: Can They Change the Geostrategic Chessboard?”. The Conference is the largest foreign policy conference in Indonesia and the world and was hosted on the 30 November 2019 at The Kasablanka Hall, Jakarta.

The chosen theme for this year’s conference was “Cooling Off the Hot Peace: Strategic Opportunities and Economic Remedies for a Distressful World”. The theme delved into the increasing re-emergence of “hot peace” in world affairs arisen from geo-strategic rivalries, mistrust, disruption, and brinkmanship, and promoted participants to look for a more stable, durable, and cooperative world order. Speakers at the main event included the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Retno L.P. Marsudi, the former Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr. Marty Natalegawa, the former President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Laureate, José Manuel Ramos-Horta among many others.

In the Parallel session, the session begun with Dr Dafri Agussalim’s, the Director of ASEAN Studies Centre, opening remarks about the Indo-Pacific concept and the Outlook. Dr Agussalim highlights that Indonesian foreign policy seeks to be inclusive, transparent, and comprehensive in character, based on the mutual commitment to foster peace and prosperity in the region. He describes the agreement of the ASEAN Outlook in the Indo-Pacific Region as Indonesia’s greatest diplomatic success among the member states. This is alongside his promotion that ASEAN must play a more significant role in the region, or the prosperity and opportunities will only be experienced by a few countries outside of the ASEAN region. Dr Agussalim concluded his remarks by accentuating the absolute necessity for Indonesia to maintain synergy in working with ASEAN and other stakeholder domestically to coordinate Indonesia’s foreign policy with that of ASEAN.

The sessions main discussion was moderated by Dr Poppy Sulistyaning Winanti, Vice Dean of Collaboration, Alumnni and Research Affairs of Faculty of Social and Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada; and panellists included Ambassador Jose Travares from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Kavi Chongkittavon from the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Professor Richard Heydarian from National Chengchi University and Ambassador Kok Li Peng, the Permanent representative for Singapore to ASEAN.  The Panel begun with a discussion of whether ASEAN should stay away from the dangerous rivalries, or if there is anything ASEAN can do to “cool down” the situation. Ambassador Travares presented that ASEAN is not shying away from conflict, although he argued that too much was being asked of ASEAN, as ASEAN is not a supernational body with a parliament, commission, court of justice and money like the European Union. Ambassador Kok Li Peng highlighted that ASEAN is still a small organisation where the member countries are still learning how to manage their sovereignty. She promoted that due to this ASEAN was created for leaders to manage international tensions and to work towards development and building in a non-exclusive manner. Dr Chongkittavon outlined that the weakness of ASEAN is truly its strength, as ASEAN does not have enemies, it can create a mechanism for rivalries to come together and become a “bridge builder” between conflicting sides. He also describes ASEAN as a “Disneyland for World Politics” as the many systems of government work productively together. Professor Heydarian quoted that even though “you might not be interested in the Pacific, the Pacific is interested in you”. He took a different approach and advocated that in special circumstances, ASEAN must take a ‘side’ to maintain strength. In relation to strength, Professor Heydarian stated that individual countries within ASEAN can be very influential with other middle-power nations, such as Japan and Korea, and to remove themselves from the US-China conflict.

The second question mainly focused on how the new Indo-Pacific Outlook can be used in policy making, and how inclusive the Outlook will be in relation to the Indo-Pacific. Ambassador Travares promoted that the Outlook showed the world that ASEAN has its own mind and independence and has moved beyond choosing between the options available from other powers. Furthermore, he linked the commonality between ASEAN members and outside stakeholders is productivity and questioned why the focus remained on conflicts and rivalries. Ambassador Kok Li Peng endorsed the need for a debate in how ASEAN will move forward in the future, after the Outlook. She said that ASEAN needs to continue working towards centrality as it will never be automatic. Dr Chongkittavon further replied that ASEAN no longer needs to choose and gave credit to the Indonesian-Thailand synergy that made the document possible.  He believes that ASEAN has earnt its centrality and can continue to set guidelines and maintain future projects. Professor Heydarian supported that strategic-intersectionality can be used to endorse centralism. Furthermore, minilateralism needs to be employed to work together on issues of shared concern, rather than focusing on the conflict ASEAN is a stakeholder in. He concluded the need for ASEAN to work with other regarding, but not against, China to achieve centrality, rather than only asserting it.

The final question asked panellists to summarise the future of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Ambassador Travares optimistically stated that ASEAN is transforming todays challenges into opportunities for cooperation in the future, while Ambassador Kok Li Peng alluded to the ASEAN led creation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest free trade area ever created, to show the capabilities ASEAN holds. Meanwhile, Professor Heydarian supported that ASEAN and its member states do have agency and are successfully growing to become middle powers. He also stated that regarding ASEAN in the Indo Pacific “we are hung together, or we are hung apart”.  Dr Chongkittavon simply summarised ASEAN as an “imperfect perfection” as an organisation and to give our trust to ASEAN

More information about upcoming events at the ASEAN Studies Centre UGM can be found at our website ( and for the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia at their website (

Press Release: Public Discussion and Book Launching on the 10th Anniversary of AICHR The Evolution of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism: Institutional and Thematic Issues Within

Written by: Fara Sheila Azalia

In commemoration of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)’s 10th anniversary, ASEAN Studies Center UGM has held the Public Discussion and Book Launching with the theme “The Evolution of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism: Institutional and Thematic Issues Within” at East Seminar (Seminar Timur), Faculty of Social and Political Sciences UGM, 16 November 2019.

Attended by over 40 institutions from all over Jogjakarta, this event launched the book and invited several notable speakers who were active in promoting and protecting human rights in ASEAN as a way to reflect how far we have overcome, and what are things that challenge us ahead.

Dio Herdiawan Tobing and Dr. Randy Wirasta Nandyatama as the editors of the book, along with Ezka Amalia moderated the whole discussion. Dio opened the session by talking about how human rights are perceived as Western thinking and how to contextualize human rights to be more relevant in ASEAN. Although human rights have its own ‘rules of the game’, however, this rule cannot be applied directly as ASEAN is made up of diverse countries. For instance, Indonesia and Thailand are going independent, while others are trying to have open elections. Thus, how to go beyond the rules and make it more relevant to the condition of ASEAN possess? That’s one of the question the book trying to answer. Randy presented the opportunities and challenges of implementing human rights in ASEAN. When it comes to opportunities, there have been good relations between states and civil society organizations (CSOs). Member states require new and fresh ideas and CSOs can give new ideas on how to promote human rights. When it comes to challenges, ASEAN has an ‘exclusivity’, meaning that different countries have their own distinct views towards human rights, which makes it harder for CSOs to engage. Each country has specific strategic thinking on human rights and only by having more knowledge, CSOs can have better suggestions on how to promote human rights. Ammar Hidayatullah as one of the writers of the book talked about rights for the disabled person in ASEAN. In ASEAN, 1 from 10 people have disabilities, making them reach to 65 million people in the region. So far, ASEAN has drafted the 2012 Bali Declaration and 2012 Commission drafted the Human Rights Declaration for the advancement for the rights of people with disabilities.

In the next session which called ‘Looking Back How Far Have We Gone Now?’, H.E. Amb. Ade Padmo Sarwono as the Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN highlighted the progress of human rights mechanism in ASEAN and how different countries have their own way to achieve establishment of protection of human rights. AICHR essentially is to promote conversation among the people in ASEAN so that they can share the best practice on protecting human rights in their own country. Although it has the element of ‘intergovernmental’, however, the work does not fall to the government scope only. It has to be supported by all elements of society to be succeeded. Only through conversations, then countries within ASEAN can move forward to achieve human rights protection. H.E. Amb. Phasporn Sangasubana, Permanent Representative of Thailand to ASEAN highlighted the role of non-state actors as the representative of AICHR and there has to be cooperation and coordination among the stakeholders in ASEAN. H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum as the Indonesian Representative to AICHR explained how human rights used to be perceived nationally, and since AICHR established, there are efforts to situate human rights regionally. AICHR still has limitations due to the lack of mandate of fact-finding, monitoring, and investigation of human rights. However, they are now acting as the platform of political dialogue between countries to share ways of promoting and protecting human rights nationally. They also have the ability to establish a focal point on specific issues. She argued that AICHR has been achieving good progress so far, by becoming a promotional regime–they institutionalized many human rights mechanisms such as AHRD, DEVAWC, and ACTIP.

The last session, ‘Looking Forward Prospects and Challenges Ahead’, was talking about what should AICHR improve to promote the protection of human rights in ASEAN by inviting Edmund Thai Boon Soon as the Former Malaysian Representative to AICHR (2015-2018), Desi Hanara as the Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator for ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, and Rachel Arini J as the East Asia and ASEAN Programme Manager of FORUM-ASIA Report No.2 Launching Perspective from the CSOs. Edmund stressed the importance of being assertive and do fact-finding for AICHR. Human rights standards often fall to the ‘margin of appreciation’ thus there has to be an agreed standard for ASEAN member countries. ASEAN also has many issues such as lack of protection for migrant workers. Although such issue exist, however, it is still lacking on how to manage those issues and what ASEAN can do is by having more fact-finding to cover as many issues as possible. Desi Hanara, on the other hand, compared AICHR with other human rights regional organizations. To name a few, European Convention on Human Rights, Inter-American Human Rights System, African Commission on Human’s People’s Rights, and ECOWAS. What ASEAN still lacking is on the individual complaint’s mechanism. ECHR can facilitate individual to submit their complaints directly to the ECtHR if the country is violating her/his rights. ECOWAS does not require one to exhaust local remedies if he/she wants to submit a case to the court. How about AICHR? It is not reaching those stages yet. Rachel Arinii assessed the performance of AICHR from the lense of CSOs. through the FORUM-SAIA Report No.2, there are various items that AICHR still lacking on. AICHR remained silent during the Rohingya Crisis and they only focus on achieving civic and political rights. Throughout these 10 years, there has not many that AICHR achieved. However, Rachel noted that this happened not because of the failure of the representatives. This happened due to structural failure. Last but not least, she recommended several actions to improve AICHR. One of them is to remove the ‘intergovernmental’ element from AICHR’s name and its mandate so that it becomes everyone’s job to improve human rights protection in ASEAN.

The book is accessible by early next year and can be accessed through our website (


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