UGM-RUG International Working Conference on Regional and National Approaches Toward Sustainable Development Goals in Southeast Asia and ASEAN Day 1

ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada and the Groningen Research Centre for Southeast Asia and ASEAN, University of Groningen, organized international working conference on regional and national approaches toward sustainable development goals in Southeast Asia and ASEAN. The conference was opened by welcoming message from Dr. Dafri Agussalim, MA, as the Director of ASEAN Studies Center, Dr. Poppy Sulistyaning Winanti as the Vice Dean of Faculty of Social and Political Science, and also Prof. Ronald Holzhacker as the representation from Groningen Research Centre for Southeast Asia and ASEAN, University of Groningen. Some of the keynote from the welcoming message are the strengthening collaboration between two institutions, the importance of the event, and also the significant contribution that can be made when the output of the international working conference could be published.

There were five session of draft paper presentation from five international working conference participants. The first draft paper presenter was Prof. Julio Teehanke from Philippines with the draft paper title is Measures of Accountability: Monitoring Sustainable Development Target 16.6 in the Philippines using Varieties of Democracy Data. Towards Quality Education: Capacity Building for the Academic Community in Cambodia and Laos then presented second by Dr. Azirah Binti Hashim from Malaysia. The next presenter was Dr. Ulrich Karl Rotthoff from Philippines with that discuss Human Rights and Development: The Philippine Case in the International Context. The forth presenter was Dr. Maharani Hapsari from Indonesia with the title of the drat paper is Reinscribing Space for Citizenship: Grassroots Communities, Sustainable Development Goals and Water Governance in Indonesia. Then the last presenter for the first day of the international working conference was Dr. Dafri Agussalim, MA, with the title Localising Sustainable Development Goals: Assessing Indonesian Compliance toward the Global Goals. After each session of draft paper presentation, there was Q&A session that was aimed to evaluate the draft paper that later on would be revised then published as the output of the international working conference.

Following this international working conference, there would be another international working conference as the continuation of today conference and is scheduled to take place in October 2018 in Brussels at the Holland House along with the publication of the book as the final output of research collaboration.


To protect migrant workers, Indonesia should engage multiple stakeholders

ASEAN Studies Center UGM held the seventh Bincang ASEAN which discusses some problems that Indonesian migrant workers face in several countries. This discussion is triggered by the recent problems regarding the migrants’ workers. Ezka Amalia, a postgraduate student at Nagoya University, Japan, began the discussion by examining the history of the women migrant workers and the problem they face on a daily basis. She addresses the problems surrouding labor migration in the region, such as the feminization of migration and worker’s rights’ fulfillment, in which the workers mostly became the vulnerable due to their role as a low-skilled labor.

Asia is the region with the largest number of domestic workers, with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka being the largest sender country. According to the ILO 2013 data, migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to long hours (99%), not covered by workers law (61%), and do not have weekly resting rights (97%). Most of the problem originated from the lack of knowledge regarding the right of works in the respective countries.

Ezka noted that most of the governments are still focused on controlling the migrants labor instead of protecting the migrant labor rights. Female migrant workers are not a citizen (in the recipient country). On the other words, they are marginalized citizens, which makes the recipient’s countries feel no need in addressing the problems immediately. There is also a heated debate as to whether Hong Kong government (which is autonomous from the mainland China) and the agency should fulfill the rights of migrant workers, which is yet to reach a conclusion. Women migrant workers have yet to understand their guaranteed rights in employment law.

Ezka also highlighted the nature of the migration of transnational female workers, which is accompanied by advocacy activities by NGOs and trade unions. She said that it needs to be involve all of the international actors working in this issue. Therefore, a transnational perspective is needed in looking at the issue of the protection of female migrant workers

To date, the advancement towards the protection of the migrant’s workers are being made; the advocacy from the NGO namely Migrant CARE and a workers union, in Hongkong, for example, the women migrant workers formed Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU). She conclude that the protections of migrant workers still needs to be put into the heart of Indonesian government’s program abroad.  

ASEAN Studies Center Introduced at Groningen Fall Conference on Challenges of Governance in Southeast Asia and ASEAN

On Tuesday (12/9), M. Prayoga Permana and Dio Herdiawan Tobing, introduced ASEAN Studies Center (ASC) Universitas Gadjah Mada and its the newly established cooperation with Groningen Research Centre on Southeast Asia (SEA ASEAN) and ASEAN at the Centre’s Fall Conference on Challenges of Governance in Southeast Asia and ASEAN.

The conference was opened by an introductory speech from Prof. dr. Ronald Holzacker, the Executive Director of SEA ASEAN, noting that the aim of the conference was to present research findings of the centre’s Ph.D candidates whose research are surrounding most up-to-date topics of governance in Southeast Asia.

The conference was attended by the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja and the Embassy’s Education and Cultural Attache, Bambang Hari Wibisono.

Furthermore, the conference was divided into three tracks, which consists of Economic Challenges to Development in Southeast Asia and Regional Integration, Spatial Challenges to Development in Southeast Asia, and Political, Social, and Legal Challenges to Development in Southeast Asia and Regional Integration.

In the conference, M. Prayoga Permana, the Former Director of ASC and Lecturer at the Department of Public Policy and Management UGM began his presentation by explaining how the two universities agreed initiate collaboration in the field of research, conferences, and student exchanges.

Following his presentation, Dio Herdiawan Tobing, ASC’s Former Research Manager and currently LL.M Student in Leiden University, introduced the ongoing projects initiated by both research centers. He pointed, “we are currently working on a research project covering the ASEAN haze agreement in Southeast Asia, an international working conference which will be held next month, and a book launch which scheduled to happen in November 2018″.

The international working conference will carry a theme of Regional and National Approaches toward the Sustainable Development Goals in Southeast Asia and ASEAN, taking place at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada on 3-5 October 2017.

Lastly, the conference was then followed by presentations from SEA ASEAN’s Ph.D. candidates in regards to their dissertation research findings.


AYIEP Participants Learn from Asian Start-Ups

After joining International Seminar on  ASEAN 50th Anniversary at the 1st day, the ASEAN Youth Initiative Empowerment Program (AYIEP) continues by presenting two public lectures from young, creative digital entrepreneurs. Mr Alfatih Timur (also renowned as Timmy), the founder of –the first Indonesian digital crowdfunding platform—shared his experience alongside Mr Makshud Manik, the founder of, a Bangladeshi platform for youth opportnities information.

In the first session, Mr Timmy shared his experience by introducing his crowdfunding initiative to Indonesian digital audience since 2013. “We created a platform to help people who need financial assistance by facilitating campaign in digital media. It succeeds with many campaigns funded even exceed 100% of their proposed target”, said Timmy in front of 24 AYIEP participants.

A former student activist at the University of Indonesia, Timmy’s achievement has been acknowledged by Kompas, the most prominent Indonesian newspaper, and Forbes. His initiative was also endorsed by Professor Rhenald Kasali, his mentor and Professor of Business at the University of Indonesia.

Timmy also expanded his digital charity to help people abroad, including Rohingya.  “As long as there are initiatives, we are keen to help”, said Timmy.

The second session presents Mr Makshud Manik, the co-founder of He provided platform for Asian youths to share information of opportunities, such as; conference, workshop, and summer schools.

“We are fortunate to have Indonesia and ASEAN as the biggest viewer of our website”, said Makshud, who also works as a Senior Researcher for Dhaka-based think-tank Institute for Policy  Advocacy and Governance (IPAG).

With emerging global connectivity, ASEAN remains one of the biggest shareholder in world market. “It should be responded by digital innovation, which saw ASEAN as a growing user in the latest decade”, said Makshud.

He also addressed some challenges for digital innovation. “We also face the emergence of both deep webs and dark webs, which oftenly misused digital platform for transnational crime. Our innovation try to encounter these trends by providing access and opportunities for young people”, Makshud added.

The ASEAN Youth Initiative Empowerment Program was held from 23-29 July 2017. The short course program includes series of Public Lectures, Seminars, Working Groups and recommendation drafting session which aimed to enhance global and regional connectivity.

Ambassador Ong Keng Yong: Digital Transformation is the Future of ASEAN Integration

ASEAN’s 50th anniversary should be addressed by nurturing digital integration, says H.E. Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, former ASEAN Secretary-General in FISIPOL UGM  (27/7).

Speaking as a Keynote Speaker at an International Seminar held by ASEAN Studies Center UGM, Ambassador Ong highlights the importance of ICT development in future ASEAN integration, which has been set up since his tenure as ASEAN Secretary General.

“Today we face rapid technological development following the rise of ICT platforms in the region, particularly in Indonesia. ASEAN needs to foster digital innovation and strengthen local economies through digital platform,” said Ambassador Ong.

He highlights the progress that has been advanced in ASEAN since early 2000s, which involved the creation of ASEAN ICT Masterplan and other regional policy frameworks in tackling digital divide.

“ASEAN is indeed not perfect, but we are keep progressing and ASEAN is the only regional organisation we have now”, said Ambassador Ong.

The International Seminar on ASEAN’s 50th Annivesary was held in conjunction with the 2nd ASEAN Youth Initiative Empowerment Program (AYIEP), an annual program by ASEAN Studies Center UGM to foster social awareness among ASEAN youths. The program is held from 23-29 July 2017 in Yogyakarta, following the success of the 1st AYIEP in August 2016.

Several prominent figures in ASEAN are invited to deliver speech and lectures. Besides Ambassador Ong, the speakers are Ambassador Djauhari Oratmangun, Senior Adviser for Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Stuart Shaw (Political Counsellor at Canadian Mission to ASEAN), Alfatih Timur (Founder and CEO of, and Makshud Manik (Founder of Ambassador Foster Gultom (Senior Official at the Directorate-General for ASEAN Cooperation) and Dr. Poppy S Winanti (Vice Dean of FISIPOL UGM) were also present to chair the sessions.

There are 24 participants from neighbouring ASEAN countries and outside the region who participate  at the Program, including from Vietnam, Phillippines, Japan, Egypt, and Indonesia. Several exchange students from African countries also joined the program. They will exchange ideas at Working Groups and visit some digital hubs in Yogyakarta as a part of the program.


Bincang ASEAN Discusses EU and ASEAN Model of Integration

ASEAN Studies Center UGM held the sixth meeting of Bincang ASEAN in Friday (19/5), which invited Prof. Janos Vandor (Professor at Budapest Business School) and Suraj Shah (Graduate Student at King’s College University of London) to share interesting views on whether on European Union can serve as an integration model for ASEAN as there has been several attempts to achieve integration outside of Europe, including ASEAN. However, how do EU model integration suits ASEAN?

Shah Suraj begin the discussion by examining the Varieties of Capitalism Approach (VoC) applied by EU and ASEAN. Suraj pointed out ASEAN and EU has a different path to select related to VoC. EU develops supranational institutions that suit a Liberal Market Economies (LME), whereas ASEAN develops intergovernmental institutions that suit a Co-ordinated Market Economies (CME). Reviewing the condition of ASEAN recently, Prof Janos Vandor from Budapest Business School who paid a visit to ASEAN Studies Centre added that EU and ASEAN develops a different political will. ASEAN shows no indication of sovereignty sharing and a high chance of competitiveness within the members — a striking contrast to EU.

Recapitulating the international political economy, EU and ASEAN shares different mechanism. To enforce the mechanism, EU established European Parliement and European Courts which determine all member states to adhere to this and can not pursue their own bilateral agenda. While, ASEAN constructs ASEAN centrality that allows members to engage outside of the region, and make their own trading agreements on a bilateral level.

Suraj also mentioned that so long as ASEAN maintains the institutional form of the ASEAN Way, there is no way to enforce or socialise system coordination or institutional complementarity that would allow for supranational integration. In conclusion, Prof Vandor and Suraj agreed that ASEAN must find its own path towards integration based on its institutional form as a limited access order and economic model of a coordinated market.

ASC Discusses Global Discourses on Rohingya

ASEAN Studies Center UGM held the fifth meeting of Bincang ASEAN in Friday (12/5), which invitedHadza Min Fadhli Robbi, S.I.P.  (alumnus of the Department of International Relations who is currently completing a Master’s program at the Eskisehir University Osmangazi, Turkey) to share information about the geopolitical issues of the Rohingya community. Held at BC building room number 207, the discussion was initiated with the issue of global discourse and political contestation in Rohingya-Arkan, looking at the issue from the discourse of countries such as Myanmar, ASEAN, China, West and Turkey.

Hadza began by arguing that Myanmar tends to place the Rohingyas as “radical others”. It makes the Rohingyas regarded as unworthy human beings. The Rohingyas have no civil rights like any other ethnic group in Myanmar.

ASEAN as the second closest actor in this case also wants to be involved in resolving the Rohingya conflict. However, this is hampered by the sensitive norms. ASEAN is still considered lack of will and empathy. Countries in Southeast Asia mostly see the Rohingyas problem with the point of view of illegality, and not in the perspective of human rights.

“The Chinese in Rohingya’s problems tend to be pragmatic. As a country that has a giant corporate partnership, China sees the Rohingyas as a poison that hinders growth for Asean as well as China, ” said Hadza. In the similar vein Western countries such as America, England, Australia who sees the conflict Rohingya from the liberal norms of democracy. Western countries wish to protect both Rohingya and the government of Myanmar.

Turkey, in this case, hold a different approach based upon historical connections. Both Myanmar and Turkey had a good relations in the past. The Turkish government with its state-centered approach is very cautious in helping to resolve the sensitive conflicts of Rohingyas. Various aids, such as refugee and logistics tents, have been distributed to the conflict area. In an effort to support Rohingya, Turkey also often broadcast the Rohingya conflict on Turkish cooperation media. (/in)

ASC Welcomed Professor Anders Uhlin from Lund University

On Monday (6/5), ASEAN Studies Center received a visit of Professor Anders Uhlin from Lund University, Sweden. He visited our institution in conjunction with his agenda to be a speaker for the academic roundtable discussion, in which he had the opportunity to present his book entitled “Civil Society and Regional Governance”, taking place in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Welcomed by our Director Dr. Dafri Agussalim and staffs, Professor Anders Uhlin was glad to have the opportunity discussing about the current condition of how civil society involves in the making and changing of regional governance. He underlined that whether regional institution is challenged or not, civil society should remain at the center of regional governance. Coming up with the idea of “legitimization” and “de-legitimization”, he perceived that the legitimation of global or regional institution is in general coming from civil society. Therefore, studying regional governance and institutionalization is inconceivable without considering civil society at the core.

Book Review: ASEAN in 2017, Regional Integration in an Age of Uncertainty

Studying ASEAN as a region, its policy, relations among member countries, and geopolitical situations has attracted many scholars to inscribe their ideas and analysis. ASEAN in 2017: Regional Integration in an Age of Uncertainty, an outstanding monograph recently published by ASEAN Studies Center Faculty of Social and Political Sciences Universitas Gadjah Mada is one of them.

This monograph offers numerous important points about uneven regional development, which I shall address in this part. One of the example is trade regime, which serves as the core of ASEAN economic integration. Since the beginning, I strongly believe that a trade agreement is a political alliance. Either it is bilateral or multilateral to see ASEAN trade agreement as a product of political negotiation, which represents national interest remains important. In these circumstances, we know that ASEAN+6 (Australia, New Zealand, India, Republic of Korea, Japan, and China) has on-going negotiations on RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) at hands. The RCEP already failed twice to meet its deadline, which is due to the end of this year.

Dr Jeffrey Wilson once noted on his paper then at his public lecture (21 March 2017) that RCEP is like a ‘noodle bowl problems’. Unlike TPP, RCEP has standard issues on environment, labour workers, intellectual properties, etc. However, Shane Preuss offers clear ideas about how to deal with, for example, the labour workers issue. Even if the sending labour states made a consensus with the receiving labour states, the government (with or without aid from NGOs) must promote it in the most efficient and effective mechanisms. It nevertheless would be a good starting point if each nation fully aware about what their most potential resource and start cooperating from that aspect. Once they realize what it is, then give the most attention on it.

I shall start with lessons from European Union on work labour. Would it work in ASEAN? Consider, for example, cultural different between both entities. The European society already passed a long journey from functional cooperation, which I doubt would go immediately in Southeast region. However, the author already put some attention that we could not just apply the exact policy in ASEAN and yet the EU’s experience would still beneficial for us to learn.

What I shall disagree with the arguments made in the book is that if the only things we should do is to provoke socio-cultural purpose with people-oriented and people-centred approaches. In the age of anthropocentrism, I argue that we should not pay attention with merely human-made problems, but also in a wider environmental perspective. We should lead ASEAN to put more attention on environmental issues, rather than merely focusing on ‘people-oriented’ and ‘people-centred’ ASEAN.

Paul J. Crutzen, an atmospheric chemist, is the person who popularise the ‘Anthropocene’ term. In 2000, Crutzen stated that anthropogenic activity (every human behaviour) in 21st century affects the atmosphere. It could be related to recent condition as the time when anthropogenic activity has a significant effect to the ecosystem. Probably, it started since the 18th century, right after the Industrial Revolution.

Consider, for example, haze issues in the region. Remember when the peatland in Borneo (Kalimantan) and Sumatra were burned down because the El Ninocyclic in 2015. Neighbour states such as Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia spoke up to press the government to take a quick and efficient action. However, environmental problems have its own characteristics. It needs integration and commitment from every nation in the region, since the excess will affects not only one country, but also the whole region. The effect was devastating. If you would not to inhale smoky air in the morning, you have to track where the fresh air is coming.

There is a real-time satellite imageries from Global Forest Watch about the burning events, actually when its peak on 14 October and its downfall on 14 December 2015. That is a reason why Carbon-tax regulation is important and we need to struggle for this from now on.

Carbon dioxide gas was produced naturally in three ways. First, from volcanic mountains both on earth surface and on deep below ocean. Second, as the result of deep ocean organism metabolic process, which would float to the sea surface in summer. Third, from fossil fuel or coal burning from anthropogenic activity (economic activity).

We could not (or less) doing anything to control carbon dioxide gas from the first and second producers. Yet, we absolutely could do something to produce less carbon dioxide gas from our activity, and carbon-tax regulation could be a solution to the problem.

Carbon-tax regulation is a set of rules to control the price of carbon dioxide emission (as a fee) produced from a certain party. Private corporations and state-owned corporations, especially in industrial and transportation, every goods from export-import activities, also every Indonesia citizen needs to be taxed. Precisely, with different charge. The regulation would give most impact to the export-import trade. Goods could not be imported from a country that does not apply the regulation unless they pay a high tariff or they could apply the same regulation in their own country to pass the goods.

However, the addition fee would raise up the price of goods or service. However, the good news is, money from the tax would be shared (as a dividend) to every citizen on the same amount. Everyone would receive it in a certain period and does not depend to one’s carbon dioxide emission produced. The government, along with every state-owned enterprises does not receive any rupiah of it. Generally, the people would be helped in transition from fossil fuel and coal dependence.

The RCEP negotiations include reducing export-import tariff, which could means a good thing since it would increase corporations and factories to produce more goods, and stimulating economic growth. We should also consider the contribution of increased economic growth to environment. More goods produced (with recent technologies) means more waste produced too, if we still use fossil fuel or coal as two main energy sources.

I do not say that the government needs to ban all economic activity that includes fossil fuel or coal as the energy sources, since the effect would be economically damaging. However, we should start to consider not just our future, but our next generations too. Would they live in a world when they have to fighting with others just to drink a glass of water? An age when they have to wear a gas mask all the time because the contaminated air to be inhaled?

Implementing the regulation should be accompanied with more research on renewable energy sources, and in the same time, we could raise campaign to using less plastic and using more eco-friendly stuff in our daily life. We have to raise environmental awareness not just in Indonesia, but also in the whole region. This is the problem that we should work together to solve.

Here I am not arguing that socio-cultural purpose with people-oriented and people-centred approaches is unnecessary. Nevertheless, I shall say that it is not the only important thing to be consider of. If we pursue a premise ‘to fulfil basic rights’ in the last article by Ahmad Umar with a more philosophical thought, I wonder if we could achieve it in the near future. If one could not get what he or she needs, would it be ASEAN member-states’ duty to provide it for the people?

Viny Alfiyah is an Undergraduate Student at Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada


Bincang ASEAN: ASEAN in 2017, Regional Integration in an Age of Uncertainty

Earlier this year, four researchers from ASEAN Studies Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, namely Ahmad Rizky M. Umar, Dedi Dinarto, Dio Herdiawan Tobing, and Shane Preuss have offered policy recommendations for ASEAN in a brief monograph entitled “ASEAN in 2017: Regional Integration in an Age of Uncertainty.”

The fourth Bincang ASEAN put effort to disseminate the monograph. Generally, the publication informs readers on how ASEAN should react towards geopolitical crisis. This discussion was a response on the failure of ASEAN to overcome the regional issues.

Three topics were discussed. Firstly, Dinarto reviewed the political issue on how Rodrigo Duterte dealt with maritime security and overcome the on-going crisis in South China Sea. He found out that Duterte remains unclear on how he will pursue maritime security, despite Duterte’s attention in maritime domain.

Regarding to this stance, Dinarto offered three recommendation: 1) ASEAN under Philippines should engage more with China, 2) ASEAN should be adaptive and fluid; and 3) ASEAN should reconsider its core principles and values.

The second issue was economic. Preuss discussed how ASEAN has fallen short to overcome low-skilled labour migration referred to Thailand – Cambodia Momerandum of Understanding (MoU).

As the solution, Preuss outlined the following recommendations: 1) identify sectors and industries with labour shortfalls; 2) develop and integrated regional framework for ensuring affordable and safe migration; 3) lower the costs of sending remittances by improving low-skilled worker access to financial institutions in their host state; and 4) facilitate integration policies for temporary low-skilled migrants.

The third was socio-cultural issue. Discussing the issue of refugee diplomacy, Tobing argued that the current state-centric approach has failed to solve Rohingya. Therefore, he proposed several recommendations under socio-cultural banner: 1) make use of ASEAN’s strategic measure to reduce barriers in multicultural community; 2) promoting multi-stake holders and community-based approaches; and 3) ASEAN must keep on engaging with Myanmar through its members.

Another serious part that still lagged far behind was social integration. Umar reviewed the social purpose of ASEAN regarding two key principles of ASEAN regional integration: “people oriented” and “people-centred”. If only this principle had been applied, ASEAN would have face a bright future. “It is not too late to start. Acknowledging and embracing the difference is the most important thing,” he ensured.