Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Strengthening security community

Andi Widjajanto, Center for International Relations Studies, University of Indonesia, Jakarta

The states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) share the common recognition that the multilateral security arrangement should be an essential feature of the regional landscape. The establishment of security multilateralism is needed to address the increasingly uncertain geo-strategic landscape and to expand on regional integration derived from economic interdependence.

However, ASEAN states were not in complete agreement in selecting what kind of security cooperation should be implemented. There are two main proposals on the issue. The first proposal focused on the development of a defense community similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the former Warsaw Pact. Another proposal was forwarded recently by President Megawati Soekarnoputri on the occasion of the ASEAN 36th anniversary, which called on ASEAN states to form a security community.

The idea of a security community was generated to address the emerging challenges of transnational issues. Realism's concentrations on a state-centric and power-deterministic world allow limited scope for considering the new salience of non-state actors and the multi-dimensional nature of security. Today, the state-centric world is no longer predominant. A complex multi- centric world has emerged.

Complex, interconnected and multidimensional transnational issues are moving from the periphery to the center of the security concerns of states. This multi-centric world consists of various non-state actors such as multinational corporations, ethnic minorities, sub national governments, professional societies, social movements, non-governmental organizations, political parties, and individual actors. The proliferation of actors in world politics has not pushed states to the edge of the global arena; they are simply no longer the only key actors.

However, ASEAN had made a significant step to develop an ASEAN security community by creating the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), an initiative made by the regional grouping to move beyond its limited experience of security cooperation.

The formation of the ARF suggests although ASEAN remains reluctant to implement a more rigid European security mechanism, the ARF is the vehicle through which ASEAN hopes to have ability to shape its own security environment. For ASEAN, the ARF can be used to foster habits of cooperation and provide the catalyst for encouraging regional cooperation in the wider Asia Pacific region.

Thus, instead of developing a new institution the best policy to address security predicaments in Southeast Asia is by strengthening the ARF mechanism. It would be easier to utilize ARF than to build a new security arrangement. Moreover, the ARF has a much better chance of getting all great powers in the region in their security cooperation than any new security institution.

In the security realm, Indonesia can increase its strategic reliability by developing and publishing a strategic initiative that describes three underlying principles. The first is that Indonesia should give increased support to strengthening ASEAN's multilateral effort in resolving intra-ASEAN disputes.

This support should manifest itself in encouraging ASEAN to speed up the ARF institutional development. This is based on the necessity to establish three pillars of the ARF: Confidence building measures, preventive diplomacy, and conflict resolution. Indonesia should seek to enhance its regional roles by initiating preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping regime in the ARF. The ARF mechanisms also will foster greater security cooperation in the region since most of the security challenges in the region have a transnational character.

This new character tells us that the emerging transnational threat has elicited more interest than ever before in the idea of creating a preventive regime that tries to provide a peaceful solution as well as to anticipate future issues.

An ARF preventive regime can be strengthened by developing specific preventive procedures. These procedures consist of governmental and non-governmental actions, policies, and institutions that are taken to keep particular states or organized groups within them from threatening or using organized violence, armed force, or related forms of coercion such as repression to settle interstate or national political disputes, especially in situations where the existing means cannot peacefully manage the destabilizing effects of economic, social, political, and international change.

Indonesia could take the initiative by proposing the institutionalization of an ARF preventive regime. This regime must have a multi-layered structure consisting of the (1) ASEAN mechanism; (2) bilateral cooperation among states, and (3) Non- governmental Preventive Network.

But Indonesia should first seek to gain support for the initiative from other major powers. Indonesia should also exercise its leadership by proposing long-term mechanisms to provide resources to inter-agency cooperation and NGOs on the front lines of prevention, providing diplomatic support behind particular preventive efforts, and providing experienced individual representatives to mediate incipient disputes under multilateral auspices.