The ASEAN heads of government participating in the World Economic Forum on ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh in May have endorsed a proposal to study new ideas for the ASEAN organization on its 50th anniversary.
The Forum’s ASEAN Regional Strategy Group (RSG) – consisting of 26 ASEAN chief executive officers, government ministers and academics – presented the plan to the President of the Philippines and the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.
All four welcomed the proposal, and Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Philippines and Chair of ASEAN in 2017, invited the RSG to present the study and the ideas it contains at the next ASEAN Heads of State meeting in Manila in November.
“On its 50th anniversary, the ASEAN organization has made significant progress, not least in fostering a region of peace and stability that is nurturing rapid economic development,” said Nazir Razak, Chairman, CIMB Group in Malaysia, and Chair of the ASEAN RSG.
“But new challenges, especially the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, suggest that regional integration in South-East Asia – and the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community in particular – should be accelerated to boost economic resilience.”
Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum, added: “The study will be produced under the leadership of the World Economic Forum. The idea is to examine different regional integration models around the world, such as the EU, NAFTA, Mercosur, GCC and others, with a view to identifying novel ideas for the ASEAN regional grouping. The study will also examine closely how the technological disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution change the imperatives for, and character of, regional cooperation. Issues such as how the ASEAN organization makes decisions, how it is funded and how it implements policy will all be considered.”
Also during the meeting in Phnom Penh, the RSG shared the results of a survey of 23,700 ASEAN young people between the ages of 18 and 22 for their views on ASEAN and their prospects.
Among the key findings:
69% of ASEAN youths expect to have a better life than their parents. (Only 13% expect the opposite.)
90% of ASEAN youths are aware of the Association of South-East Nations (ASEAN) and understand its goals
64% of ASEAN youth believe that being part of ASEAN will improve their career and job prospects (only 5% think being part of ASEAN will make their lives worse)
"The results suggest that the countries of ASEAN have done a great job in building awareness around regional integration,” said Nazir.
“It also suggests that now is the time for policy-makers to shift gear away from awareness and towards action. It is time to go beyond awareness-building, towards accelerating integration. The next generation wants it."
The survey was conducted online in partnership with Sea Group, a Singapore-based internet company, and included responses from six ASEAN countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Half of the 23,700 respondents had tertiary education, the other half were educated to high-school level.
Some 70% were male and 30% were female.