The ASEAN Regional Forum and Preventive Diplomacy: A Failure in Practice
Tan, See Seng
Date of Issue2009
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Various reasons purport to explain why the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has failed to evolve from confidence-building to preventive diplomacy (PD). These include the ARF’s large membership and weak institutional structures, its strict adherence to the sovereignty and non-interference principles as enshrined within the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) that contradict any effective implementation of PD, and contrasting strategic perspectives among its key participants. While these factors have certainly hindered security cooperation, none of these are sufficient conditions by themselves since they have not impeded other regional arrangements from engaging in PD. The claim here is that the ARF has evolved into a highly formal forum which, in combination with other oft-cited factors, has inhibited the adoption of a preventive diplomacy agenda and actionable PD measures. Indeed, the formalization of the ASEAN Way has in effect rendered the ARF a highly inflexible institution, making difficult the evolution towards PD. The problem appears less to be the ASEAN Way per se than a rigid interpretation and practice of the convention. When deliberately kept informal and flexible, the convention has in fact facilitated the adoption of PD measures, no matter how preliminary, by their host institutions.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science
RSIS Working Papers, 189-09
Nanyang Technological University