The Role Of Civil Society Organization In Shaping An Asean Identity

Dao Nguyen


ASEAN is a gathering of 10 countries with diverse political, developmental, religious and ethnic backgrounds, hence, it is hard for this Association to find its identity. If the EU has three common identities, including Christianity, democratic principles and free economic institutions, ASEAN has only one thing in common, which is anti-communism. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this common point has come to an end. Now, ASEAN must build on its new identity. ASEAN leaders have chosen to build the “we” feeling by building ASEAN Community. It is believed that besides economic and institutional progress, any community must build an open society that must ensure social cohesion. It is also necessary to build a society where people have confidence, always participate in the process of development and policy-making. ASEAN now has not achieved it yet, although ASEAN is oriented towards people-oriented and people-centered communities. The tool to make this possible is the civil society because civil society always deals with grassroots problems where the government is sometimes helpless and at the same time reflects the immediate response of public needs. This paper focusing on tackling the research question is: “Why engaging civil society in ASEAN is necessary for enhancing the intra-integration and the shaping of identity, although ASEAN still operates primarily as an elite club?”. This is an important issue as civil society is playing an increasingly important role, whereas previous studies have only assessed the role of civil society at the national level rather than the regional level. Besides, a proper assessment of the role of civil society can help policymakers find appropriate coordination between civil society and ASEAN in the future.

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