Event Reports

ASEAN Security Connectivity: Inaugural Workshop

by Dr. Frederick Kliem

"Defining Problem and Project"

“Due to the animosity of the past, regional integration is still at a stage of confidence building. This does not mean that ASEAN should remain stuck with process. On the contrary, tangible cooperation on the ground can and must be part of further confidence building. Limited security as well as societal cooperation within existing mechanisms is most appropriate to advance trust building and transparency, and ultimately regional integration.”

At the inaugural workshop on ASEAN Security Connectivity (ASC), His Excellency Kasit Piromya, former Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, lamented how little progress ASEAN had made since the Thai Chairmanship under his guidance. At the same time, he articulated his optimism and urged ASEAN to proceed on all issues of transnational relevance.

From December 6 to December 8, the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KASPDA) together with its partner the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) gathered experts from across the region in order to embark on a 1.5 year project. ASC aims to develop a concept and clear policy recommendations aiming to enhance security cooperation within existing ASEAN mechanisms. Over the course of three workshops, the concept itself will evolve and shall be exemplified by application to three case studies. Resulting policy recommendations will be fed into the Thai and Vietnamese ASEAN Chairmanship.

Dr. Frederick Kliem of the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia sketched the main idea of this project in his opening remarks. “Multilateralism and regional cooperation is the answer to most contemporary transnational challenges. ASEAN does not lack mechanisms and institutions per se. Yet, especially on questions of transnational security, whenever an issue of transnational relevance emerges, there is nothing but ASEAN silence and existing multilateral instruments are not exhausted.” Success or failure of ASEAN Security Connectivity rests with the ability to connect challenges with ASEAN’s interests and capacities. Dr. Do Thanh Hai of the DAV added that danger lies in particular in the dividing influence of, and interference by external powers in the ASEAN process.

The first, inaugural workshop identified the main problems and aimed to allow for an overview of the status quo. To that end, the working group listened to and discussed the security situation in the region from different national perspectives. The largest and most influential perspectives, such as the Indonesian, were as well represented and heard as the smaller, less noisy perspectives, such as Brunei. Since ASC does not intend to add to ASEAN’s institutional “alphabet soup” even further, but instead to “connect” and empower existing instruments, the ASC working group proceeded to gauge and discuss existing ASEAN capacities. Both a hands-on view from ASEAN practitioners and a theoretical view from International Relations and Political Institutionalism experts allowed this workshop an excellent overview of the status quo of security cooperation, of challenges and opportunities.

KASPDA is already looking forward to the second ASC Workshop, hosted by our partner DAV, in March 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. There, the ASC concept will be constructed and research on practical application shall commence. The entire KASPDA team as well as our partner DAV would express deepest gratitude to our distinguished guests and dear friends. See you all in 2018.