Emerging democratic aspirations and human rights concerns in Southeast Asia could change the regional organisation ASEAN over the long term. The new issue of the Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs examines the potential and limits of this development.
© Reuters/Nguyen Huy Kham
Southeast Asia has been undergoing a transition to more democratic forms of governance over the last two decades. The 2007 Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stated that henceforth ASEAN would pursue democratic forms of governance, the rule of law and the attendant fundamental human rights, which are the hallmark of liberal democratic states.
This major normative evolution is one chapter of ASEAN’s post-Cold War efforts to deepen its members’ interactions in the economic, politico-security and socio-cultural realms. ASEAN has been engaging in "community-building" in these areas. A community presupposes the development of common values among its member-states and among all of their citizens.
It has been argued by constructivist scholars, for example, that in the politico-security realm a security community has been forged via a diplomacy of accommodation, or the "ASEAN Way", that respects the core principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
An ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) envisages a liberalized economic space through free trade and the creation of an integrated production platform. The new democracy and human rights order aims to create a more "people-centred" ASEAN. Given the intimate linkages between democracy, the rule of law and human rights, authors in this volume examine the state of democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia from a regional perspective.
A number of broad questions are broached here: 1) What is the democratic framework within ASEAN? 2) How did that framework shape the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism in ASEAN? 3) What theoretical approach may be most appropriate to study the motivation of states and the condition of human rights in ASEAN member states? [...]
Read the complete introduction: James Gomez and Robin Ramcharan: Democracy and Human Rights in Southeast Asia
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