ON ASEAN’s 50th Founding Anniversary: ASEAN must transform its vision into reality

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As the Philippines gears up to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on its 50th founding anniversary this year, and with the regional bloc’s Post-2015 vision of a people-centered and peaceful ASEAN, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA), the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) along with the broader civil society movements in the region, urgently call on the regional bloc to address the issues of regional peace and human security that continue to stunt the growth and challenge the stability of the whole regional community.

ASEAN continues to face a multitude of serious challenges specially peace and human security issues. These are embedded from the inability of most governments to address the roots of the internal armed conflicts arising from assertions of the right to self-determination, political unrest and violent radicalism, ethnic struggles for autonomy, disputes over cross-border territorial and maritime issues, militarization and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms among others. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable and marginalized, the powerless and the nameless peoples of the ASEAN—the ones who should have been the “center” of ASEAN’s vision–have always been at the receiving end of all these conflicts.

Recent efforts by member-states towards regional cooperation must seek to pursue and explore initiatives that will institutionalize mechanisms for sustainable peace, justice and development, and atransparent and fully consultative civil society participation in the regional mechanism with the interest of the people at its core.

More concretely, we urge the ASEAN to ensure utmost support to formal and informal peace processes in the region particularly in the Philippines, Burma (Myanmar) and South Thailand. Towardsdemonstrating ASEAN’s commitment to a comprehensive security agenda as stated in the ASEAN political-security blueprint, ASEAN member governments must strengthen its preventive diplomacy to address comprehensive peace and human security issues and the social impacts of recurring conflicts by establishing partnerships especially with civil society movements and communities directly affected by the conflicts in the region and institutionalize a prevention component in its dispute settlement mechanisms.

Crucial to the meaningful celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN and the realization of its goals should be a firm commitment to translate all its well-crafted slogans into actions and turn its vision into reality. With its five decades of existence, ASEAN should know by now that an inclusive and sustainable regional peace and security cannot be possibly achieved if it remains to be detached and indifferent from the realities on the ground. That, even if it aims to continue to banner a ‘people-oriented, people-centered, and people-driven ASEAN’, this will be meaningless unless the voices of ASEAN peoples are heard and their aspirations reflected on the regional bloc’s programs and platform.

The broad civil society and peoples movements around the region view the ASEAN’s 50th anniversary as a great opportunity to once again remind governments of their duties and obligations. Once and for all, the ASEAN should take up the challenge of making a difference in the lives of the peoples of ASEAN. We urge the Philippines to lead ASEAN in this direction.

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