(IPS Asia-Pacific) – Although it is six years old, few know what the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) does. It has been called toothless, though its creation was seen as a step forward given the principle of non-interference in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
When his father drove back to pay the 47 Malaysian cents they owed to the food stall they had just left, then nine-year-old Anis Yusal Yusoff, today president and chief executive officer of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, learned the meaning of standing firm by one’s values.
A regional agreement on managing transboundary haze caused by fires raging in Indonesia’s forests and peatlands appears all but buried in the embers of frustration of its neighbouring countries.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) started as a cooperation bloc in 1968. Founded by five countries - Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines - ASEAN has since evolved into a regional force which is slowly changing the landscape in global politics.
It has been apparent for some time that we are in the midst of a historic shift of the centre of gravity of the global economy from the trans-Atlantic to what is now becoming known as the Indo-Pacific.
Last year, the Philippines brought a complaint against China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal. It was a master stroke by the Philippine government.
Since his rise to power in late 2012, China’s President Xi Jinping has managed to consolidate his control swiftly over the three pillars of the Chinese political system, the state bureaucracy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the military. In response, many neighbouring countries cautiously welcomed a more self-confident and stable leadership in Beijing, hoping the new Chinese president will display greater flexibility on outstanding regional issues.
For years, it was the power chamber at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva - the Director General’s Conference Room, more popularly known as the Green Room, where a handful of delegates would gather for important discussions and meetings.
In June, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were enveloped in haze as hundreds of forest fires burned across the island of Sumatra, in the worst pollution crisis to hit Southeast Asia in more than a decade.
As the U.S. struggles with a weeks-long government shutdown which has threatened the country’s economic recovery and forced President Barack Obama to cancel a series of high-stakes visits to Asia, China has instead taken the centre-stage, boosting ties with Asian neighbours and promising multi-billion trade and investment deals.
With territorial tensions in the South China Sea entering a new phase of confrontation, there are signs of growing Indian involvement in regional affairs.
As the United Nations continues to intensify the promotion of South-South cooperation among member states, Asia plans to take a great leap forward in regional economic integration during the next decade.
The victory of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the recent Japanese elections, with Shinzo Abe coming back as prime minister after five years, will probably mean an escalation of tensions with China. Both countries are embarking on a fresh burst of nationalism, but for different reasons.
With newly re-elected President Barack Obama having chosen Southeast Asia as his first foreign destination, where he also attended the much-anticipated pan-Pacific East Asia Summit, the U.S. has underscored its commitment to its so-called strategic ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific region.
For a brief moment last month, mainstream international media turned the spotlight on Cambodia, one of the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), as a high-level visit from U.S. President Barack Obama and the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gave this country of 14.3 million people a glamorous edge.