The idea behind the formation of the Research Councils within the committee structure was born purely from the motive of engaging our delegates intellectually. We believe this is crucial, since the topic at hand which is the development of ASEAN, particularly with regards to the potential that the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 would create for the region has not been discussed extensively and also conforms to the fundamental objective of this conference, which is to initiate the ASEAN dialogue amongst youth. We believe being able to present large amounts information in manageable sizes through the research done by the members of these councils are indeed paramount.
Made up of the Economics, Political Security and Socio-Culture Councils, the members identify and read articles which are most relevant and important to the topics that will be discussed during the session on the conference day itself, and summarises these via infographics which are regularly posted on our Facebook page. The Research Councils are also in the midst of producing a short publication of around 10-15 pages for the delegates to read before coming to the conference itself, hence being able to prepare appropriately to ask questions which are most relevant to the field that our speakers specialize in, apart from being able to discuss the issues in greater depth with other delegates during the conference.
With the theme, “Road to ASEAN Economic Community 2015: Integration and Impact,” the research councils will be able to provide interesting insights for the topics that will be further elaborated by the speakers during the conference. The research publications will be uploaded to the website as well as the Facebook page soon, and will also be distributed via our Warwick ASEAN Conference University Ambassadors, so stay tuned!
ASEAN has strong fundamentals attributed to it, with a youthful population and rising middle class providing the consumer market for entrepreneurial activity, with internal capital flows which can contribute to growth. The diversity of member states present different business opportunities, and some members at lower stages of economic development present high growth opportunities, able to leap-frog by utilising practices across member states and having markets for the output of their nascent industries.
1. Drivers of ASEAN growth and development
We expect to see regional economic growth driven primarily through (1) outsourcing (2) improvements in productivity from the relaxation of work permit rules (3) strong domestic demand and (4) influx of foreign investment. With 10 member states, opportunities vary across ASEAN countries. For example, Thailand has significant opportunities in food, energy and communications, while Malaysia has opportunities for companies in large-scale infrastructure products such as power plants and trains.
2. The significance of free trade and possible further integration
Free flow of goods will allow scale economies to be achieved, improving welfare for consumers as variety is increased and the best resources in the bloc utilised. On an example of a competitive advantage, Vietnam, Indonesia and other ASEAN countries are benefiting from the a free trade agreement with China by being able to offer lower wages, and as such are attracting foreign investment both for the Chinese market, but also from global destinations such as the EU and United States.
3. ASEAN and the world
Where does the AEC stand amongst giants such as the EU and NAFTA? Already an export base, there is large scope for moving up the ladder of comparative advantage as productivity is improved and workers generally become more skilled. The themes we will explore are whether the AEC will displace other trade blocs or for a niche economic powerhouse at the doorstep of Greater Asia.
The AEC is due to commence this year (31st December 2015) and the growth of ASEAN member states are showing positive signs before the community is officially established.
4. Doing business in ASEAN
ASEAN has an Increasingly well educated workforce, abundant natural resources, and a favorable geographic location and integration will be a key boost to the region’s economic growth . It is the third largest Asian trading partner with the US and is comprised of a population of over 600 million and a nominal GDP of $2.31 trillion, providing a large consumer market.
ASEAN nations such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand are becoming drivers of global economic growth. With China and India decelerating ASEAN is becoming a more attractive destination for investment. ASEAN is already receiving more FDIs than China, receiving a total of $128 billion of investment in 2013. With the AEC planned to launch in December 2015, ASEAN nations hope to replicate all the positive attributes and economic outcomes of the EU while avoiding the impact of a common currency.
How can ASEAN manage security challenges in the 21st century?
The development of ASEAN has been underpinned by the “ASEAN Way” which emphasises informal rules, consensual decision-making, loose structure and conflict avoidance instead of conflict management (Acharya 1995). Once described as the ‘Balkans of the East’ and a ‘region of dominoes’ (Acharya 2001), the region is on the whole peaceful and stable. This has provided a solid platform for economic development and the AEC. However, a number of security issues persist which could have spill-over effects on regional stability. How ASEAN can overcome, or at least mitigate, these security concerns. Are these challenges necessitate some forms of political integration i.e. close cooperation among member states and the pooling of decision-making power to ASEAN institutions; or the ASEAN Way can adapt to the 21st century?
Can ASEAN sustain its non-interference stance?
- ASEAN has not prevented occasional border clashes, such as Thailand-Cambodia fighting over the Preah Vihear temple complex, and domestic insurgencies, such as the Southern Thailand conflicts, Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia etc.).
- The disappointing performance of ASEAN in these situations raises concern to the ASEAN Way of non-interference.
- Other issues like transnational crime and terrorism are likely to exacerbate in a border-free ASEAN.
- In 2014, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that transnational crime in Southeast Asia generated about USD $100 billion per year, and the poppy cultivation in the ‘Golden Triangle’ was rising.
- Although ASEAN does not directly launch offensive against the IS, its members must be cautious with homegrown grievances that may be exploited by terrorist groups and veteran militants returning from Iraq and Syria.
- As ASEAN moves towards greater integration, there is an urgent need for more robust mechanisms to deal with actual or potential conflicts that could affect the interests of the region as a whole. Does ASEAN’s non-interference contribute or hinder the effective political and security architecture?
ASEAN and Asia-Pacific regional security
- The economic success of ASEAN rests upon regional peace and stability which, in turn, depend on major powers, particularly the US and China.
- ASEAN’s informal and inclusive approach has involved external states in ASEAN-led security institutions including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.
- The South China Sea dispute will test the efficiency of the ASEAN Way as China is pressing its claim over the disputed areas against 4 ASEAN members and seeks to increase its naval power in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Will a militarily-weak, but strategically-important ASEAN need to pursue political integration to forge a common foreign and security policy? Or can it maintain solidarity and balance the interests of external powers in the region with the ASEAN Way?
“How has the creation of the AEC affected the sociocultural community in ASEAN?”
The ASEAN Leaders adopted the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) in Bali, Indonesia on 7 October 2003 to establish an ASEAN Community by 2020. The ASEAN Community shall be established comprising three pillars, namely political and security community, economic community, and socio-cultural community that are closely intertwined and mutually reinforcing for the purpose of ensuring durable peace, stability, and shared prosperity in the region.
The primary goal of the ASCC is to contribute to realizing an ASEAN Community that is people-centered and socially responsible with a view to achieving enduring solidarity and unity among the nations and peoples of ASEAN by forging a common identity and building a caring and sharing society which is inclusive and harmonious where the well-being, livelihood, and welfare of the peoples are enhanced.
The ASCC will address the region’s aspiration to lift the quality of life of its peoples through cooperative activities that are people-oriented and environmentally friendly geared towards the promotion of sustainable development. The ASCC shall contribute to building a strong foundation for greater understanding, good neighborliness, and a shared sense of responsibility.
Hence our panel will attempt to answer this issue through the lens of education, migration and addressing the question of inequality in the formation of a sociocultural community. Through these discussions we seek to answer how the ASCC respects the different cultures, languages, and religions of the peoples of ASEAN emphasizing their common values in the spirit of unity in diversity and adapt them to present realities, opportunities and challenges.
Topics for Discussion
THEME: “How has the creation of the AEC affected the sociocultural community in ASEAN?”
The ASCC represents the human dimension of ASEAN cooperation and upholds ASEAN commitment to address the region’s aspiration to lift the quality of life of its peoples. In 2007, the ASEAN Leaders adopted the ASEAN Economic Blueprint at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore to serve as a coherent master plan guiding the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015. Our panel attempts to find out whether the implementation of the AEC would affect the human aspect of our region.
Hence the sociocultural research council seeks to provide readers with a better understanding of the key themes affecting the sociocultural community in ASEAN.
- Issues of Migrant Workers and Labour Mobility (under the ASEAN Economic Community Framework)
According to a report by the International Labour Organization, migration within ASEAN currently focuses on low and medium skilled workers, a flow which is likely to increase in response to demand, particularly in the construction, agricultural and domestic work sectors. It also notes that the free flow of skilled workers that will
come in with the AEC affects less than 1 per cent of total employment on average and will not satisfy demand. The fact that the AEC targets the free movement of ‘skilled’ labour across ASEAN member countries and does not include provisions for unskilled labour migration means that its short-term impact on improving labour conditions will likely be limited. Besides, the AEC will only allow the temporary movement of skilled workers across companies within the region. Permanent workers’ relocation is not permitted. The issue of trade in domestic workers- i.e. groups of workers that were excluded from AEC agreements on labour mobility will also be discussed.
- The introduction of the AEC in 2015 could generate 14 million additional jobs and improve the livelihoods of 600 million women and men living in the region.
- The AEC will allow for a freer flow of skilled labour, services, investment and goods among the ten ASEAN Member States.
- By 2015 high skill jobs are projected to grow by 41 per cent, or 14 million, (medium skilled jobs will grow by 22 per cent or 38 million and low-skilled by 24 per cent or 12 million)
- It is predicted that skills shortages and skills mismatches are likely to worsen, due to inadequate availability and quality of education and training.
- On labour migration, the report found that migration within ASEAN currently focuses on low and medium skilled workers, a flow which is likely to increase in response to demand, particularly in the construction, agricultural and domestic work sectors.
- If countries are to reap the benefits of labour mobility they will need to prioritize three critical areas: ratifying, implementing and enforcing international Conventions; extending the coverage and portability of social security; and implementing the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
2. Social Welfare and Development
For this issue we are interested in how ASEAN addresses issues regarding alleviating poverty, ensuring social welfare and protection and building a safer environment for their people. We are also interested in answering how committed is ASEAN in promoting social justice and mainstreaming people’s rights its policies and all spheres of life, including the rights and welfare of disadvantaged. Hence we will look at issues form social welfare for female workers, the homeless and poverty alleviation
- There are less female workers than male workers in these countries, noting that women receive lower wages than their male peers while traditionally having to take care of their families.
- Many participants proposed that ASEAN member countries promote the exchange of experiences in labour management while promoting equality including gender equality in the workplace.
- Establishments of most soup kitchens are not just about giving meals. There is also much counselling, guidance and support given to the poor.
- Most of establishments would also certainly benefit from government assistance. The welfare bodies need much more aid, whether from private or public sectors.
3. Education: Improving access and learning outcomes
ASEAN seeks to enhance the wellbeing of its community with equitable access to human development opportunities by promoting and investing in education and life-long learning, human resource training and capacity building, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. We believe that an efficient way would be to improve access to education.
By advancing a prioritizing education and ensuring the integration of education priorities into ASEAN’s development agenda and creating a knowledge based society this would certainly improve the outcome of many lives in ASEAN.
- Technology could accelerate and scale up efforts to build more inclusive education systems and if it is deployed effectively, it could play a role in solving the fundamental challenges of access and consistent, high-quality teacher training
- Before undertaking large-scale investment, policy makers need to carefully address transparency in procurement, integration into the curricula, teaching training, security and replacement policies and ongoing evaluation of learning outcomes
- Many of these technologies can also be extended to vocational education, where simulated learning systems can be effective. The use of immersive learning software, virtual reality displays, and motion sensors can help bridge the skills gap by enabling students to practice skills and be evaluated in a risk-free environment. These systems can be used to train larger cohorts of students than traditional one-on-one training programs.