Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) once again organized the “Journalism School” (Sekolah Wartawan) on Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
In Tuesday’s edition of the Journalism School, UGM took a theme on “Measuring Indonesia’s Position in the ASEAN Summit” to provide insights to media professionals regarding various regional issues in Southeast Asia, from ASEAN’s formation to evaluating Indonesia’s chairmanship in ASEAN.
The event featured the UGM Center for ASEAN Studies Executive Director Dr. Dafri Agussalim, as the speaker.
“Discussions about ASEAN are important and interesting. ASEAN is considered one of the most successful regional organizations, surpassing the European Union,” Dr. Agussalim introduced his presentation.
“It cannot be denied that ASEAN has shown significant success, especially in terms of security, as its presence has helped prevent conflicts from escalating.”
Apart from fostering cooperation among Southeast Asian countries and safeguarding them from the currents of global power rivalry, according to Dr. Agussalim, establishing ASEAN was an effort to resolve conflicts between nations, such as the dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia.
Furthermore, the executive director explained that the establishment of ASEAN cannot be separated from Indonesia’s initiative, which is still considered one of the most influential countries within the organization.
“It is impossible for ASEAN to exist without Indonesia’s initiative. It must be acknowledged that we are a strong agenda setter in ASEAN, determining many things,” he stated.
One of ASEAN’s unique features, Dr. Agussalim added, lies in the declaration of the organization’s establishment, commonly known as the Bangkok Declaration, which is not legally binding like many other regional organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which applies a system of rewards and sanctions to its members.
However, it cannot be denied that ASEAN still has internal conflicts among its members. ASEAN countries also often do not speak with one voice in their responses to regional issues, including China’s claims in the South China Sea.
“ASEAN is not a perfect organization but is in the process of striving for perfection. It can be a case of one step forward, two steps back,” Dr. Agussalim expressed.
He mentioned that the geopolitics of Southeast Asia is very strategic and often becomes an arena for the struggles of major world powers.
ASEAN is very dynamic, so achieving the goals set out in the Bangkok Declaration requires hard work and effort, which are not easy. Success, Dr. Agussalim said, will depend on many internal and external factors.
Facing various future challenges, Dr. Agussalim believes that ASEAN needs to maintain regional security stability and build strategic partnerships.
As the country holding the chairmanship of ASEAN, he thinks Indonesia needs to think about how to restore the cohesion of ASEAN members and unite their strengths.
“Everyone knows that the ten ASEAN countries are strategically located geographically, not to mention their population size and economy. The geographical advantage should be a bargaining strength,” Dr. Agussalim said.
“All major world powers need ASEAN, and ASEAN also needs major countries for economic growth that requires technology, capital, and security protection.”
Photographers: Firsto and Donnie