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2013 Advisory Committee Meeting and ASEAN-Canada Forum

Date: 19 August, 20–21 August 2013
Venue: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Organised by: RSIS Centre for NTS Studies and Institute of Asian Research, UBC
Hosted by: Tri Viet Institute for International Studies and Exchange, Ton Duc Thang University 

The RSIS Centre for NTS Studies and the Institute of Asian Research (IAR) in the University of British Columbia (UBC) co-organised the 2013 Advisory Committee Meeting and ASEAN-Canada Forum. Hosted by the Tri Viet Institute for International Studies and Exchange, Ton Duc Thang University, the meetings was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on 19–21 August 2013.

The Advisory Committee Meeting on 19 August gathered members for updates on the 2012–13 research fellowships as well as discuss the research topic and modalities for the 2013–14 research fellowships. Calls for proposals and abstracts for the fellowships have since been launched.

As a wrap up ofthe first round of fellowships under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, the ASEAN-Canada Forum and Public Symposium: Reflections on an Inclusive and Equitable ASEAN Community in 2015 was held on 20-21 August 2013
The co-organisers delivering their closing remarks at the Symposium

The Forum and Symposium not only sought to showcase the work of the ASEAN-Canada fellows, but also provide a platform to share reflections and facilitate a candid conversation on ASEAN's community building efforts, particularly in light of the goal of establishing the ASEAN Community in 2015. The forum and symposium brought together key representatives from think tanks, the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN Foundation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Asia Foundation, the human rights community, Vietnamese University students, members of civil society and the media.

In promoting ASEAN connectivity, discussions during the event largely addressed issues related to inequality — which can be an unintended result of greater regional integration and strong economic growth — as well as explored alternative means of enhancing regional economic development. Presentations by Junior and Senior Fellows under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership examined various issues including regional economic frameworks, sub-national and cross-border cooperation on education and resource development, tensions between urban and rural development, and poverty trends in ASEAN.

In his keynote address during the public symposium, Dr Vo Tri Thanh (Deputy Director, Central Institute for Economic Management, Vietnam) noted three issues that are most important for ASEAN in foreseeable future. Firstly, on the issue of community, Dr Thanh noted that there is a gap between the rhetoric and reality of establishing the AEC by 2015. While the ASEAN Scorecard on its progress for establishing the AEC states that approximately 85% of agreements are already to be implemented, ERIA’s mid-term report however notes that much more needs to be done, such as reducing non-tariff measures and having more decisive action to develop a sense of community.

Secondly, the issue of connectivity is critical in contributing to regional integration by enhancing the effectiveness of production networks in ASEAN and harmonising standards through domestic reform. In addition, building relations with other East Asian states and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) would assist to implement connectivity and overcome the limited capacity within ASEAN. That said, Dr Thanh also noted that the key to integration is not resources or institutions, but rather political trust.

Thirdly, in terms of centrality, while there is recognition that ASEAN ought to be a central player in East Asia and the Asia Pacific, the complex relations between various powers in the region make this challenging. Dr Thanh noted that some have argued that bilateral FTAs with Northeast Asian countries and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have the potential to undermine ASEAN centrality. In this regard, it is important for ASEAN to strengthen its processes of integration and solidarity, through greater effort to address political issues, such as the South China Sea dispute.

The public symposium provided a means of facilitating interaction not only amongst research scholars and practitioners, but also with ASEAN youth. Comments and questions raised by Vietnamese university students were particularly meaningful, as they were keen to know what their role is in ASEAN community building, how to emulate the successes of the more developed ASEAN member states, how to overcome the tensions between addressing poverty and socio-economic inequality, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for them in doing so. Such rich discussions resonate with the findings of the Surveys on ASEAN Community Building Effort 2012, as mentioned by Assoc Prof Caballero-Anthony (Head, RSIS Centre for NTS Studies) in her opening remarks during the Forum. While many scholars have been focused on questions related to ASEAN’s role in the regional security architecture and ASEAN centrality, the surveys showed that the common people and business communities were concerned over how to address development gaps in the region.

These developmental concerns have also been on Canada’s radar. In her keynote address during the Forum, Ms Victoria Sutherland (Head, International Development Cooperation, Embassy of Canada in Hanoi) highlighted three areas in which Canada’s development cooperation efforts have sought to address issues related to economic inequalities in Asia. Firstly, she noted that economic growth must be complemented by social protection, and that it is imperative for countries to invest in physical as well as social capital. Secondly, governance is key to sustainable economic growth, which suggests the importance of understanding how growth is created. Giving citizens and civil society a voice is important for ensuring good governance. Social policy and protection can lessen the impact on more vulnerable segments of society. Thirdly, it is also important to include gender dimensions to development, as women play a significant role in supporting economies in Asia, despite the challenges that continue to hinder such progress.

There was certainly a sense amongst participants that the discussions have been enriching and that such exchanges amongst practitioners, scholars and the wider public should be enhanced to build regional capacity and community building. Convenors of the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership look forward to continuing the process with a 2nd round of fellowships (2013-2014) on natural resource management for sustainable growth, which will commence in January 2014.

For more details on the 2013-2014 ASEAN-Canada Research Fellowship, please click here.

Click here to read an ASEAN Secretariat news release on the event. 

The 2012–15 ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership was launched in January 2012 to mark the 35th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue Partnership. It is jointly conducted by IAR UBC as well as the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies. The RSIS Centre for NTS Studies is the Coordinator of the initiative. It also serves as the Secretariat. Information on our co-organiser, IAR UBC may be found at http://www.iar.ubc.ca/.

Posted on: 19/8/2013 9:00:00 AM  |  Topic: Other NTS Issues

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