Credit by Labuan Bajo traditional performance ahead of ASEAN Summit 2023 © Kemenpar
From ASEAN Summit 2023: Does ASEAN Really Matter to its People?

From ASEAN Summit 2023: Does ASEAN Really Matter to its People?

Indonesia's main goals for its chairmanship of ASEAN this year are to turn the bloc into the "epicentrum" of global economic growth and establish its "Vision 2045" under the broad theme of "ASEAN Matters". 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo's explanation of the meaning of "ASEAN Matters" and the goal of turning ASEAN into the "epicenter" of growth for the global economy. President Widodo emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that ASEAN countries must work together to overcome common challenges and ensure regional stability and prosperity. He also highlighted the importance of cooperation with ASEAN's external partners, particularly in the areas of trade and investment.

However, beyond the joint declarations and documents that emerged from the Labuan Bajo summit, we must ask if ASEAN really matters to the people it purports to represent, and if so, how.

The summit largely avoided addressing tough questions, but credit must be given to Indonesia for focusing on the civil war in Myanmar, even though progress remains slow. The conflict in Myanmar makes it difficult for ASEAN to make progress elsewhere as long as it is a member state and its crisis remains unresolved.

ASEAN's humanitarian aid is only beginning to be distributed in Myanmar, and the bloc's diplomats were even shot at by unknown gunmen earlier this week. Indonesia's efforts to broker peace through "quiet diplomacy" may be commendable, but the lack of transparency is concerning.

People in the other nine member states also have the right to ask how ASEAN matters to them, as surveys have shown that ASEAN has barely touched people's lives and that most feel very little connection to the organization's work. The lack of a sense of community among the peoples of the region suggests the limits of ASEAN's reach in its current form.

The new goal of turning Southeast Asia into an epicenter of economic growth seems ambitious, but the ongoing civil war in Myanmar may further alienate people from the ASEAN project. The attendance of Timor-Leste's prime minister at the summit ahead of the nation's formal admission to ASEAN later this year should serve as a reminder to governments that they need to do more for their people to make ASEAN matter.

Overall, the Labuan Bajo summit appears to be nothing more than photo ops and lofty declarations that barely touch the lives of the people they supposedly represent.

 Sources : The Jakarta Post. | | 


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