By: Antonius Prawira Yudianto
Established for more than four decades in Bangkok, Thailand, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has expanded to become a pivotal regional organization, not only in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region, but also in fostering closer collaboration with major players in the world. Originated from five member states, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, ASEAN has expanded its membership to ten members, on April 30, 1999. While having its membership expanded, in 2003, ASEAN Leaders agreed to build an integrated region which is open, peaceful, stable, prosperous, and bounded by dynamic partnership through the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015.
The ASEAN Community consists of three pillars, namely, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community. Furthermore, at the 12th ASEAN Summit in Singapore, January 13, 2007, the ASEAN Leaders affirmed their commitment to accelerate the establishment of an ASEAN Community through the signing of the ASEAN Charter. Since then, ASEAN has gained a new status as a rules-based organization.
Over two-and-half years since the ASEAN Charter came into effect, the region is moving forward with confidence. ASEAN’s 44 years of journey has never been far away from the positive contributions of its member states, cspecially in successfully avoiding a wide range of conflicts and open war by fostering cooperation in every aspect as well as enhancing confidence building in the region. Indonesia, the same as other member states, has also greatly contributed to ASEAN. Indonesia’s active role in ASEAN is often recognized by the establishment of strategic documents called the Bali Concord. During its tenures as Chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has established three Bali Concords, namely Bali Concord I in 1976, which is known as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), Bali Concord II in 2003, as the basis and foundation of the ASEAN Community, and most recently, Bali Concord III in 2011, the Declaration on the ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations. As stated by the former ASEAN Secretary-General, Rodolfo C Severino, what Indonesia brought to ASEAN was something that gave the organization weight, strength and direction, something that made ASEAN possible.
Indonesia’s active role in ASEAN is logical, since ASEAN has always been the cornerstone of Indonesia’s foreign policy. ASEAN issues have always been Indonesia’s priorities. The main importance of ASEAN to Indonesia is that, Indonesia may implement its active and independent foreign policy, while keeping ASEAN Centrality as its umbrella. By increasing ASEAN’s posture in the world, Indonesia’s profile in the global arena would also be increased. The relationship between ASEAN and Indonesia correlates in a mutually beneficial manner.
As the organisation grows, the challenge to raise its posture in the world has also grown. Global challenges nowadays are different from when ASEAN was first established in 1967. The endeavor to achieve a politically stable and economically conducive ASEAN, as mandated by the ASEAN Charter, requires more effort today than before. The fast-changing dynamics of globalization have made existing challenges complex, multi-faceted, and transnational. The future of ASEAN relies not only on the positive contribution of Indonesia, but also on member states. The future of ASEAN lies on the ability of its members to overcome global challenges while still keeping up the pace of achieving the ASEAN Community 2015 and beyond.
In 2011, with the theme “ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations,” Indonesia, as the Chair of ASEAN in 2011, decided to establish for member states a common political platform to deal with global issues. With the vision of ensuring significant progress in the attainment of the ASEAN Community, establishing a regional condition conducive to development and initiating a post-2015 ASEAN, major achievements were attained. The adoption of the Guidelines of the DOC after ten years of deadlock, the re-negotiation of the Protocol of the SEANWFZ Treaty, the Establishment of the AHA Centre in Jakarta as well as the adoption of the Bali Concord III, were the highlights of ASEAN during Indonesia’s Chairmanship. The year 2011 has greatly provided Indonesia with an opportunity to contribute positively to the development of the evolving regional architecture and to establish a strong basis for ASEAN in facing the ASEAN Community 2015 and beyond 2015.
What ASEAN has to do now is to keep the positive momentum while also taking into account that the ASEAN Community 2015 is not the finish line. ASEAN needs to stay on track and make further progress in the future. Keeping in mind that the development of ASEAN is not measured by the “high-end” document it produces, but by how ASEAN can benefit its members as well as bring the organization closer to the people. The full utilization of all ASEAN sectoral bodies as well as increasing the involvement of “the people” instead of “government” is essential. Ensuring the implementation of ASEAN Connectivity is also pivotal to build an interconnected region. As for Indonesia, being the Chair of ASEAN is a matter of annual rotation. Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN entails generating positive contribution to the development of the ASEAN Community, a process that does not end with the conclusion of the Chairmanship period, but continues to move forward.
 The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, in the Annual Press Briefing 2011 (Penyataan Pers Tahunan 2011)