Seminar on Rules-Based ASEAN Highlights Symbiotic Relationship Between “ASEAN Way” and Rules-Based ASEAN

Singapore, 10 December 2015—With the ASEAN Charter, the 10 ASEAN Member States established the legal status and institutional framework for ASEAN. The Charter envisages a “rules-based” regime that adheres to principles of rule of law, democracy and good governance, even as the region continues to observe the “ASEAN Way.”

As the ASEAN moves toward the formal launch of the ASEAN Community on the 31st of December, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) considered it timely for stakeholders to consider what measures are necessary for ASEAN to evolve into the rules-based entity it aspires to be. Together with the ASEAN and the ASEAN-U.S PROGRESS, it convened from 9-10 December 2015 a “Seminar on a Rules-Based ASEAN” in Singapore.

The seminar was attended by representatives of the ASEAN Senior Officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the ASEAN Secretariat. Experts coming from the academe and think-tank organisations joined the forum to share their insights on the progress the region is making towards establishing a shared rules-based community.

Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chair for RSIS and former Secretary-General of ASEAN, in his opening remarks expressed the hope that the seminar would contribute to ASEAN’s transformation into a rules-based community. Professor David Cohen, HRRC Special Advisor and Director of the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, and Professor Kevin Tan, HRRC Governing Board Member and Adjunct Professor at RSIS, facilitated some panel discussions.

The seminar highlighted the symbiotic relationship between the ASEAN Way and rules-based ASEAN. The ASEAN Way has worked for many decades and it has brought the region far. It was noted, however, that change is taking place globally and ASEAN must also evolve—including transition in incremental steps into a more rules-based order—to realise its aspirations and vigorously participate in the global arena.

The ASEAN Charter has codified the region’s shared objectives, norms, and aspirations. It was expressed that next steps should focus on institutionalising ASEAN and bringing ASEAN to the people. Thus, the desire to have a common understanding of agreed goals, create more awareness, change mind-sets, and move people to action was voiced during the seminar.