APD Review | The ASEAN Way and Its Reform_Insights_Asia Pacific Daily

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APD Review | The ASEAN Way and Its Reform

Insights2017-11-14

By APD writer Wang Peng The 50-year-old ASEAN has made remarkable achievements in promoting regional integration and security cooperation and made great contributions to peace and development in Southeast Asia. The establishment and development of the ASEAN Community benefited from the establishment of the ‘ASEAN Consensus’ and its decision-making model - the ‘principle of consensus’. The advantages and limitations of the ‘ASEAN consensus decision-making model’ and its reform issues have aroused the attention of government officials and scholars of Southeast Asian countries in recent years. It is worth noting that the relevant developments deserve close ties with all ASEAN countries and its neighbours. “The ASEAN Way” When ASEAN was formed in 1967, it adopted a series of principles known as “the ASEAN Way”, which is based on non-intervention and extreme consensus. While ASEAN takes great pride in it, there is also a complaint of its lengthy and inefficient consultation that may take years to arrive at a mutually satisfactory decision. Will the ASEAN Way become an obstacle to greater economic integration and cooperation? Due to the diversity of history and culture of Southeast Asian countries, most ASEAN countries are still affected by the political systems of different sovereign states during the colonial period. Different colonial experiences have caused the isolation of neighboring countries in this region. Therefore, the political and historical differences have led to the cooperation of Southeast Asian countries non-formal voluntary arrangements, rather than legally binding agreements. Reaching a decision that meets all concerns requires time and patience to look for commonalities of interests. Although the ‘one country, one ticket to vote’ or ‘weighted voting’ majority vote procedural decision-making mechanism is simple and efficient, it can easily lead to discord and aggravate the historical differences that have made it difficult for ASEAN to establish and continue its development. It is therefore aimed at seeking the maximum - the principle of consensus on conventions, rather than the principle of efficient majority. This approach gradually became ASEAN’s major decision-making mode. The principle of consensus affirmed various concerns and suggestions on issues and solutions, respected and gave equal opportunity of expression among all members, which meant that members could fully consult before the joint decision was taken. In practice, the consensus model has proven to be an effective mechanism to solve difficult problems, while at the same time it can generate high-quality strategic decisions. All ASEAN decisions must be unanimous. These principles place extreme emphasis on national sovereignty and the commitment to non-intervention into the affairs of member countries. It seems that ASEAN does not have the luxury of years in today’s global economy. At the time of the establishment of the ASEAN Community, due to differences in the political systems and social development in various countries, promoting democracy, the rule of law, human rights and good governance were controversial issues. If the ASEAN strategic decision-making related to the above issues is formulated through the voting system, these strategic decisions will be rejected and the ASEAN strategy for community political security will not be formed. Possible solutions After 50 years of development based on the consensual consensus model, ASEAN has brought dividends for peace and development to the people in the region. However, in the context of a new era, ASEAN is increasingly characterized by a lack of unity and centrality. Its consensus decision-making model has been criticized as slow and inefficient. Moreover, in recent years, ASEAN has been considered unsuccessful in dealing with regional security tensions. In particular, it has faced internal differences of interest in the face of big powers, especially its lack of creativity and flexibility in preventive diplomacy or dispute settlement. Therefore, ASEAN’s consensus model for reform has become a core issue in ASEAN circle. A possible approach to reform is to improve the “10-X” supplement mode. The principle of consensus affects the efficiency of decision-making, but it also creates the problem of vicious vetoes. A member state should not prevent other countries from implementing its mutually-agreed decision, nor should it impose “tyranny” on other member states. Therefore, on the premise of upholding the principle of consensus, the “10-X” model should become a unique complementary measure. Such measures allow the delay in the participation of some members and do not prevent the consultative nature of the main issues. ASEAN could set up a working group or designate a formal guide to define the scope of the “10-X” model and related standards. Wang Peng is the Research Fellow at the Chahar Institute and China Institute of Fudan University. (ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

By APD writer Wang Peng

The 50-year-old ASEAN has made remarkable achievements in promoting regional integration and security cooperation and made great contributions to peace and development in Southeast Asia. The establishment and development of the ASEAN Community benefited from the establishment of the ‘ASEAN Consensus’ and its decision-making model - the ‘principle of consensus’. The advantages and limitations of the ‘ASEAN consensus decision-making model’ and its reform issues have aroused the attention of government officials and scholars of Southeast Asian countries in recent years. It is worth noting that the relevant developments deserve close ties with all ASEAN countries and its neighbours.

“The ASEAN Way”

When ASEAN was formed in 1967, it adopted a series of principles known as “the ASEAN Way”, which is based on non-intervention and extreme consensus. While ASEAN takes great pride in it, there is also a complaint of its lengthy and inefficient consultation that may take years to arrive at a mutually satisfactory decision. Will the ASEAN Way become an obstacle to greater economic integration and cooperation?

Due to the diversity of history and culture of Southeast Asian countries, most ASEAN countries are still affected by the political systems of different sovereign states during the colonial period. Different colonial experiences have caused the isolation of neighboring countries in this region. Therefore, the political and historical differences have led to the cooperation of Southeast Asian countries non-formal voluntary arrangements, rather than legally binding agreements.

Reaching a decision that meets all concerns requires time and patience to look for commonalities of interests. Although the ‘one country, one ticket to vote’ or ‘weighted voting’ majority vote procedural decision-making mechanism is simple and efficient, it can easily lead to discord and aggravate the historical differences that have made it difficult for ASEAN to establish and continue its development.

It is therefore aimed at seeking the maximum - the principle of consensus on conventions, rather than the principle of efficient majority. This approach gradually became ASEAN’s major decision-making mode. The principle of consensus affirmed various concerns and suggestions on issues and solutions, respected and gave equal opportunity of expression among all members, which meant that members could fully consult before the joint decision was taken.

In practice, the consensus model has proven to be an effective mechanism to solve difficult problems, while at the same time it can generate high-quality strategic decisions.

All ASEAN decisions must be unanimous. These principles place extreme emphasis on national sovereignty and the commitment to non-intervention into the affairs of member countries. It seems that ASEAN does not have the luxury of years in today’s global economy.

At the time of the establishment of the ASEAN Community, due to differences in the political systems and social development in various countries, promoting democracy, the rule of law, human rights and good governance were controversial issues. If the ASEAN strategic decision-making related to the above issues is formulated through the voting system, these strategic decisions will be rejected and the ASEAN strategy for community political security will not be formed.

Possible solutions

After 50 years of development based on the consensual consensus model, ASEAN has brought dividends for peace and development to the people in the region. However, in the context of a new era, ASEAN is increasingly characterized by a lack of unity and centrality. Its consensus decision-making model has been criticized as slow and inefficient. Moreover, in recent years, ASEAN has been considered unsuccessful in dealing with regional security tensions. In particular, it has faced internal differences of interest in the face of big powers, especially its lack of creativity and flexibility in preventive diplomacy or dispute settlement. Therefore, ASEAN’s consensus model for reform has become a core issue in ASEAN circle.

A possible approach to reform is to improve the “10-X” supplement mode. The principle of consensus affects the efficiency of decision-making, but it also creates the problem of vicious vetoes. A member state should not prevent other countries from implementing its mutually-agreed decision, nor should it impose “tyranny” on other member states. Therefore, on the premise of upholding the principle of consensus, the “10-X” model should become a unique complementary measure. Such measures allow the delay in the participation of some members and do not prevent the consultative nature of the main issues. ASEAN could set up a working group or designate a formal guide to define the scope of the “10-X” model and related standards.


Wang Peng is the Research Fellow at the Chahar Institute and China Institute of Fudan University.

(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

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