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Article Released Mon-9th-January-2006 10:32 GMT
Contact: Mohamad Abdullah Institution: Universiti Sains Malaysia
 Wither the ASEAN Security Community?

In his paper he suggests that the embedded diplomatic and security culture of the ‘ASEAN way’ is increasingly becoming counter-productive to the construction of a genuine security community

Saravanamuttu, Johan. “Wither the ASEAN Security Community? Some Reflections.” International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, 1, 2005 (Inaugural Issue): 44-61

Johan Saravanamuttu, a political scientist with expertise on Southeast Asia argues that a security community remains an object rather than a reality among the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries. This notwithstanding, ASEAN institutions, processes and structures in the security regime have multiplied manifold over its 38 years of existence.

The article argues that a security community remains an object rather than a reality among the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries. This notwithstanding, ASEAN institutions, processes and structures in the security regime have multiplied manifold over its 37 years of existence. The evolution of literature on ASEAN has seen a shift has to a constructivist and more reflexivist approach to understanding the emergence of a “security community”. Taking this tag, the article tries to examine state-civil society engagement in the area of human rights. Despite many ASEAN countries’ acceptance and adherence to various human rights conventions and the emergence of several national human rights commissions, the ASEAN approach to human rights remains hesitant and non-commital. However, the appearance of a Working Group on an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism and a civil-society-driven NGO such as ALTSEAN-Burma does augur well for continuing and further engagement of civil forces with the ASEAN formation. Such engagement could help to deepen processes and structures for human security in ASEAN. However, the evidence is that such engagement is mostly with national human rights commissions, which this is still one step removed from an actual engagement with the state or national governments as such.

It is still a long road to an ASEAN ‘security community’ from a civil society perspective. While statist constructivism in ASEAN may have engendered the minimalist conditions for such a security community, in so far as this fails to incorporate the involvement of civil society, the project would falter. Both the instrumental functioning of a security community and its legitimacy rests on the presence of an engaged civil society. On a theoretical level, the hypothesized agency of the “international state” in Wendtian constructivism does not truly apply to the ‘ASEAN state’, which remains weak (and, in many portions, undemocratic) with processes and structures which tend not to deepen aspects of human security. Furthermore, the character of ASEAN diplomatic and security culture (the ‘ASEAN way’) tends at times to be an impediment rather than an enhancer of human security.

For more information, please contact Associate Professor OOI Keat Gin - Chief Editor of International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (link below)

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Journal information

International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies

Keywords associated to this article: security; ASEAN' human rights
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