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ASEAN Cannot Get Too Excited (OPINION)

By The Jakarta Post at 11:17 AM 5/31/2020 (PDT)

Indonesia’s position on a global scale is not clearly defined. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, in a committee like ASEAN, Indonesia and less developed countries in general are often pushed aside to accommodate bigger countries like China.

As the delegate for Indonesia in ASEAN said in response to a question about whether there are struggles in ASEAN because of the variety of countries: “Yes, definitely. The difficulties that arise because of this in regards to public transportation infrastructure is that it is difficult to address all countries with the exact same solution. Instead, solutions must be tailored specifically to different clusters of countries (such as countries who have well-developed public transportation infrastructure and those who do not).Other difficulties are that different countries have different levels of fiscal support as well. We can tackle this through asking countries that have higher GDPs and economies for help such as western countries such as the U.S. as well as uniting countries within/related to the ASEAN such as China and Singapore.” There are certainly nations that are strangled with poverty and in some cases violence. Such nations will inevitably struggle to find common ground with nations like Singapore (Singapore is literally internationally famous for its public transportation).

Delegates in ASEAN have so far been (mostly) good about not taking over the conversation. However, we cannot celebrate too soon. It is concerning that there was an unmoderated caucus with everyone in it and yet there was still discussion on whether the committee should split. Whatever happens, ASEAN needs to make a decision and stick to it.

It may simply be too hard to find a solution that suits all nations to the same extent. ASEAN is currently trying very hard to preserve sovereignty, but not only does sovereignty mean something different to each country, it also leaves a lot of room for flaking on the resolution. This cannot happen. We must accept that it is difficult to accommodate everyone. It is not the fault of one delegate or nation, but until we recognize it, no progress will be made.

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