A 'people-oriented' ASEAN: rhetoric and reality

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In the period of reform following the regional financial crisis of 1997, ASEAN officials committed to widening participation in ASEAN’s policymaking practices. This rhetorical shift gained more concrete forms from the mid-2000s when ASEAN established new participatory mechanisms for civil society organizations (CSOs), and officials also began interacting with CSOs through external forums. This appeal to widen participation signalled an abrupt shift from ASEAN’s previous style of regional governance, characterized by closed-door meetings and tacit agreements among leaders. This shift in ASEAN practice mirrors developments in other regional/global governance institutions where officials have increasingly engaged CSOs in policymaking. It comprises one aspect of an ongoing reform agenda that has seen ASEAN substantially increase its regional integration activities. However, despite ASEAN’s commitments to more inclusive political structures, CSOs remain largely ineffective in their efforts to influence official processes. Missing from studies of ASEAN-CSO relations as well as the broader literature is recognition that different systems of structuring civil society participation produce varying opportunities for CSOs to influence official processes. Consequently, this thesis applies the modes of political participation framework to explain why ASEAN has engaged CSOs and the form that this engagement has taken. The thesis argues that ASEAN’s shift to engage CSOs functions as a political technology by harnessing support for ASEAN’s reform agenda through its promotion of an inclusive approach to policy formation, while including those interests that are amenable to its reform agenda and marginalizing noncompatible interests. These findings suggest that the broader shift to engage CSOs in regional/global governance institutions should be viewed as creating sites for contestation rather than having an implicit democratizing function.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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