ASEAN Decision-Making and Policy Change in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Long criticized as a talk shop, ASEAN has made significant progress both in the regularization of its decision-making procedures as well as its reach into various policy areas. Regional-level decision making, particularly since the establishment of the ASEAN charter, is increasingly having an effect on ASEAN’s member states and their national policies. Progress has been made in all of ASEAN’s three pillars, although to varying degrees. The ASEAN Economic Community, long considered the policy area with the most political traction, has seen movement on several policies such as competition regulation and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA). Progress within the political-security and socio-cultural pillars of the organization has been more modest, but efforts suggest an increasing regionalization of decision-making in these areas as well. Incoherence remains on some contentious issues, possibly most visible in the Philippine turnaround on the South China Sea in 2017 and continued regional inactivity in the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

This increased policy influence of the regional level can at least partly be tied to changing norms and mechanisms in regional decision-making. Beyond the ASEAN Way and its focus on consensus and non-intervention, ASEAN utilizes a variety of informal and semi-formal decision-making mechanisms to address emerging regional issues. One such example is the chairmanship of the organization, which has a profound effect on ASEAN’s agenda. Another example is the relationship between the ASEAN Secretariat and the sectoral bodies, driving technical policy-making. External partners, to varying degrees, also have an effect on how ASEAN decides, as is visible in the emerging regional connectivity agenda.

This panels welcomes proposals addressing particular policy areas and decision-making within ASEAN, in various guises. Papers addressing issues within the ASEAN Economic, Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Community pillars are all welcome. Decision-making may address questions of inter-state bargaining, regional mechanisms and institutions as well as ASEAN’s relationships with external actors (e.g. China, Japan, the US, or the EU) or civil society.