ASEAN seems to be stepping up to the plate on regional leadership.
In previous blog postings, I have mentioned my research with Josh Kurlantzick on ASEAN's relationship with Japan and China. One big question is whether ASEAN can play a role in the formation of a regional identity. The answer will depend on whether the grouping can consolidate its power, construct a strong charter this fall, codify universal values, and avoid being restricted by the noninterference principle. Good news today on those fronts:
During ASEAN's meeting in Manila, the group reached consensus on including provisions in the ASEAN charter for the establishment of a human rights commission. Read the Associated Press article here.
The AP reporter quotes a Singaporean official:
"We have agreed that there will be a human rights body," Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said after the ministers met for four hours to discuss the draft. "There was a consensus."
Yeo said details will be settled later but that the foreign ministers hoped to have everything worked out by the time that ASEAN leaders hold their annual summit in November, when they plan to approve the charter.
"I'm very optimistic," Yeo said.
And on the noninterference principle?
Some ASEAN countries fear any scrutiny of their human rights, and the group has traditionally held to a cardinal policy of noninterference in each other's affairs. Human rights groups complain that this noninterference principle fostered undemocratic governments in the region.