Think Tank (November to December 2019)
Dr Bhubhindar Singh, Associate Professor and Coordinator of RSAP
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Contested Multilateralisms: Lessons for ASEAN
14 Nov 2019

Despite its success, ASEAN has faced various internal and external challenges. To overcome such challenges, ASEAN can look to the experiences of other regional security architectures for useful learning points. With this objective in mind, RSIS’ Regional Security Architecture Programme (RSAP) convened a workshop on 14 November 2019 to analyse other regional security architectures. Some 25 experts from the academic and think tank communities participated in the workshop.

The workshop started with three panels on the regional security architectures in Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East, respectively. Discussions focused on multilateral organisations such as the League of Arab States (LAS), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

The workshops yielded some interesting insights. The EU and NATO have built up strong frameworks to handle their internal, external and combined threats and have well managed relations with extra-regional powers, particularly the United States in the case of the EU. The IORA has dealt with unconventional security threats and is working towards a response to America’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The GCC has been looking forward to a solution to the division among its member states, while the LAS is seeking to reform itself in preparation for a greater role in regional affairs.

The concluding discussion sought to draw out lessons for ASEAN, such as on flexible consensus and open regionalism. In particular, the lack of capacity in the IORA and other organisations, which impedes their functioning, highlighted the need to commit sufficient resources for ASEAN’s further development.

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