S. Rajaratnam Endowment – ASEAN Community Forum
During the 27th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together document as the reference for the next chapter of ASEAN community building efforts. The document contains the blueprints of the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) 2025, ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2025, and ASEAN Social Cultural Community (ASCC) 2025 which essentially serve as the roadmap towards an ASEAN Community 2025. As surmised in ASEAN 2025 at A Glance, the focus of the ASEAN community building in the next 10 years will be, among others:
- Greater emphasis on the peoples of ASEAN and their well-being;
- Enhance awareness of ASEAN and its Vision of a politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible Community;
- Engage all nationals of ASEAN Member States through effective and innovative platforms to promote commitment and identification with ASEAN policies and regional interests;
- Ensure fundamental freedoms, human rights and better lives for all ASEAN peoples.
The above goals are in principle shared and understood by ASEAN at the institutional level, but limited at the community and grassroots levels. It remains to be seen whether peoples of ASEAN know about them, really understand and share what is being envisioned and captured in the ASEAN 2025. As pointed out in ERIA report (2015), there are two distinctions of ASEAN identity, i.e. institutional identity and communal identity. The former is reflected by all ASEAN institutions, programmes and initiatives, and processes; while the latter is about peoples’ participation in the initiatives and processes, and about the sentiments of the “we feeling”, the “ours feeling” and “we are in this together”. Nevertheless, as stated above, the disconnection between these two identities unfortunately remains a challenge.
Responding to such challenges, the ASEAN Foundation has been mandated to perform as a platform to forge more people-to-people engagement outside the circles of the inter-governmental institutions. In this regard, through the support from S. Rajaratnam Endowment, the ASEAN Foundation has organised three S. Rajaratnam Endowment - ASEAN Community Forums, within the period of March 2017 – April 2018, that all aim to assist in narrowing the gaps between ASEAN’s institutional identity and ASEAN’s communal identity. The Forums not only evolved around forging people-to-people engagement, but it has done so in a manner that also contribute concretely to the ASEAN’s key issues and blueprints that matter for the well-being of the ASEAN peoples.
The forum targeted participants from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) which were one of the primary stakeholders of ASEAN. Their involvement were central to ensure that the ASEAN integration/community building process benefits all as well as to get the genuine feeling and sentiments of ASEAN peoples towards the implementation of ASEAN 2025.