Experts discuss progress towards ASEAN goals

11 October 2013

Helen Nesadurai addresses the ASEAN forum
Helen Nesadurai addresses the ASEAN forum

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) moves towards its 2015 goal of forming an economically prosperous and integrated region, its member nations are working together to address transnational challenges. But this cohesiveness may also be its key limitation, according to Helen Nesadurai, a world expert in globalisation.

Associate Professor Nesadurai, the keynote speaker at an international forum organised by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, called for ASEAN to focus on the needs of ordinary people and engage more deeply with civil society.

"The ASEAN Community has a long way to go before it becomes a reality for the people of ASEAN," she said. "There must be greater consultation with regional civil society, allowing an institutionalised role for civil society in ASEAN consultative processes."

The forum brought together key thinkers to discuss political, economic and socio-political issues within ASEAN.

Associate Professor Nesadurai said that while the ASEAN principles of maintaining state sovereignty through non-interference enabled cooperation between member states, it had come at the expense of securing people's well-being and needs.

A lecturer at Monash University's Malaysian campus and a former consultant for the ASEAN Secretariat, Associate Professor Nesadurai urged scholars to look beyond ASEAN towards new kinds of non-state governance in SE Asia, such as private regulation developed by non-governmental organisations.

"Private regulation, which works though consumer market pressure, holds promise and merits greater attention in studies of Southeast Asia," she said. "There is some degree of success so far, but we need to know more about it."

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence emphasised the University's enthusiasm for acting as a conversation starter about issues within ASEAN.

"ASEAN is a great idea that can only be good for the region," he said. "We hope this forum helps people think through the challenges facing ASEAN."

Contact: Richard North

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