Think Tank (2/2021)
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Policy Research Network on Contemporary Southeast Asia Webinars
17 Mar 2021

Three clusters of the Policy Research Network on Contemporary Southeast Asia (PRN-SEA) shared their findings in a series of webinars co-organised by RSIS, Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) and Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in March. Comprising think tanks and research institutes from Japan and several Southeast Asian countries, the PRN-SEA aims to tap regional expertise and provide policy recommendations on common challenges facing the region.

The three webinars held on 17, 25 and 30 March 2021 were respectively titled “State Responses to Extremism in Post-Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia”, “Changing Landscape of Development Cooperation in Southeast Asia”, and “Sustainable Growth in ASEAN Countries”.

The first webinar covered a study of how four Southeast Asian states (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore) have responded to violent extremism in their respective countries. For this study, the focus was on recent violent acts perpetrated by religious extremist groups. The aim was to examine each state’s capacity to respond to violent extremism with a view to understanding the similarities and differences in their responses.

The second webinar examined the state of international development cooperation in Southeast Asia. Owing to regional cooperation initiatives by extra-regional players, states in Southeast Asia have been facing the challenge of securing ownership of those initiatives, or “ASEAN centrality”, which could give them a better understanding of the potential for sustainable and balanced development. The webinar shed light on the realities of development cooperation in Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on analysing South-South cooperation involving aid by the “emerging donors” within the region. Specifically, webinar participants discussed Thailand’s endeavour to be a more active regional provider of development cooperation, Indonesia’s recent move to establish a streamlined aid agency (Indonesia AID), and Vietnam’s emergence as a provider of assistance to its neighbouring states.

The third webinar looked at the pre-COVID-19 pandemic situation of economic growth led by direct investment and supply chains and explored the post-pandemic growth strategies in the ASEAN region. ASEAN member states, like many other states around the world, experienced negative growth in 2020 owing to the impact of the pandemic. This year, the progress of countermeasures against COVID-19 is expected to bring about a relatively high rate of growth. The webinar participants concluded that in order to return to the full-fledged high growth levels achieved before the pandemic, it would be essential to build and expand supply chains based on direct investment.

With the conclusion of the three webinars by the end of March 2021, only one research cluster of the five identified under the first phase of PRN-SEA remains to be completed. (See also article titled “Great Power Rivalry and Maritime Order in Southeast Asia”, which covered the findings of the first research cluster through a joint webinar held on 9 March 2021.) The fifth cluster, which focuses on environmental issues, will report its research findings over the coming months.

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