“…ASEAN is evolving—therefore, ASEAN also needs to be better prepared and more responsive to the transformative shifts and mounting uncertainties in the external environment…”, thus remarked Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu of the Office of ASEAN Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs as he welcomed the participants to the Mabini Dialogue organized by the Foreign Service Institute on 27 January 2022.
With the theme Beyond the Text: Revisiting the ASEAN Charter´s Impact on the Region, the Mabini Dialogue aimed at examining the challenges to the effective implementation and strengthening of the Charter. Through the lens of three experts, different points were raised:
As a prologue to an assessment of the Charter, Dr. Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, highlighted the importance of identifying what constitutes an effective implementation in gauging ASEAN´s effectiveness vis-à-vis the purpose of its establishment and in the context of contemporary international relations. These include the substantial and procedural/institutional considerations of the Charter. For Dr. Desierto, the challenges to the Charter lie in the harmonization of the legal pillars of the ASEAN Member States, given the differences in the implementation and interpretation of international law in their respective jurisdictions.
The future of the Charter is the future of ASEAN. But more than amending the Charter, the greater concern is how to make the existing ASEAN mechanisms work, particularly in view of several political security issues such as the Rohingya issue, Myanmar crisis, and South China Sea dispute. This was how Prof. Herman Kraft, Chair of the Department of Political Science of the University of the Philippines Diliman, summed up his reflections on the topic. For Prof Kraft, reviewing the Charter entails addressing commitments to compliance.
Ambassador Noel Servigon, Philippine Representative to the ASEAN Mission, agreed on the need for a feedback mechanism for those involved in the regional organization, especially from the Track 2 and 1.5 networks. For Amb. Servigon, pushing for amendments is not the only course of action to resolve present problems. The ASEAN Coordinating Council must be empowered to adopt Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedures when the doctrine of consensus hampers the formation of a decision.
Overall, the Mabini Dialogue provided an avenue for a deeper understanding of the Charter in line with current political security concerns. Participants were personnel from the Department, foreign service posts, the diplomatic corps, members of the Military, other government agencies, and the academe.