Neighbourhood Watch, ASEAN Style

Lord McConnell




The people of South East Asia are among the most friendly, tolerant and hard working people in the world. Yet, this region has been plagued with conflicts for decades. Exploited by European powers, occupied by Japan, carpet-bombed by the USA and led by hideous dictators, most of the region has suffered too much for too long.


Those conflicts involving the global powers may now be in the past, but as the countries of the region move towards more democracy old rivalries have not been forgotten.


Across ASEAN – the Association of South East Asian nations – ethnically based armed groups clash with governments and local people live in dangerous, poor and insecure communities. In Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines old grievances still run deep.


These are not the stuff of the Cold War with ideologies battling for global supremacy, or the stuff of the modern global clash between secular tolerance and Islamic extremism. They are local, they are within borders, and they are largely between the ruling elites and local identities for too long denied expression or their fair share of resources and power.


But change is possible. The differences and grievances are not impossible to overcome. And change is happening, often led by the community of states that wants to look after it’s own backyard.


Five years ago, as UK Special Representative for Peacebuilding I attended and spoke at an early ASEAN forum for peace and security. A small investment of aid from the UK conflict fund had supported the event and while there were tensions in the room – Indonesia was enthusiastic about change, whereas the continuing dictatorships and former communist states were more skeptical – it was clear to me that there was real potential for a new approach.


Much like the reconstruction of the African Union to replace the old Organisation of African States, where the principle of non-intervention had been replaced by a principle of non-indifference, ASEAN had the potential to tackle regional conflict with cultural understanding, neighbour-to-neighbour support, and capacity building to strengthen governance.


The ten ASEAN members – Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand – have since worked to create peacebuilding and security systems, and individual governments are finally sitting down with rebel movements to discuss building peace.


Last week I attended and spoke at another conference, organized by Wilton Park but in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was supported by the UK and Australian governments and attended by senior figures from government and rebel movements in Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Crucially it was set in the context of ASEAN discussing domestic conflicts within the region.


We shared experience, including with Northern Ireland, and we discussed the importance of confidence building, trust, independent reformed security institutions, economic gains and devolution to peace agreements that are sustainable.


Making peace is never easy. As we see in the Philippines just now – with the recent violence threatening the progress of their peace agreement with the Moro Liberation Front – making peace requires long term vision, leadership and sometimes patience. But it is more likely to succeed if all the neighbours are on board.


If the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030, due to be agreed in September, are to help those who live in the worst places, they need to address conflict. And if the international community is to address conflict in a meaningful way, they need to support regional efforts, building the capacity of groups of countries to prevent and stop violent conflict. ASEAN and the AU are showing the way, step by step. We need to back them.




3 comments for “Neighbourhood Watch, ASEAN Style

  1. MilesJSD
    18/02/2015 at 6:18 pm

    What might be the “new approach” you speak of ?

    As far as can be seen,
    although after the 1978 Primary Health Building* Declaration from the UN meeting in Alma Ata, the Australian Conflict Resolution International Network focused upon Indonesian villages, delivering new two-way communication and cooperative problem-solving methodologies,
    there has been a worldwide failure to institute both “Health Care Together {Johnston & Rifkin]
    and the ‘No-Lose’ Needs & Hows Recognition and Participatively-Cooperative Problem Solving methodology.
    [Dr Thomas Gordon’s “Method III” was already being published in “Leader/Teacher/Parent/People Effectiveness Training” books; and in Robert Bolton’s “People Skills”; but whilst some government departrments sent some staff to be trained in it, those staff were still required to adhere to the adversary win-lose’ old and still “growing” tradition; and not to use their new ‘No-Lose’ cooperativity training].

    So what is the “new approach” ?

    How will all parties agree their Basic Needs – let alone their various “globally-economic” luxuries ?
    * This writer’s ‘deliberate mistake’ to highlight the real intention of that UN WHO “Care” document was to enable and empower ordinary people, sometimes including ‘patients’, to start building both lone-self-care and non-medical neighbourhood wellbeing;
    one benefit would have been great reductions in illnesses having to be expensively treated by a “National Health Service”
    which in fact has always been an Illnesses, Hospitals, and Robust-Treatments Sector
    – to the exclusion of holistic-health-building and of all else except “purely clinical” foci.

  2. Senex
    25/02/2015 at 12:30 pm

    There are many such precedents but the one in mind is that of a central treasury under the control of the state itself. Berlin has recently had financial difficulties caused by external immigration and internal migration. Other German constitutional regions have come to Berlin’s aid by offering financial support.

    The inability or unwillingness of member states to redistribute wealth means that the EU desire for unfettered travel between member states is unconstitutional because it requires the EU itself to redistribute the wealth of its member states to alleviate stress.

    This establishes a framework for an AEU. Its Parliament would operate basic law and be encapsulated by an unwritten constitution. However, the vision of free travel between member states could not apply because of precedents operating or that have operated in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

    China has dominated the region for thousands of years and operated the ‘Huji’ system. It has fallen into decline because those countries operating this system have witnessed what amounts to human rights abuses caused by the freedoms of global migration. China is suffering from a huge influx of foreign workers that are ‘locked’ out of welfare support. This area is complex and a very real worry for the Chinese government which is committed to the happiness and wellbeing of its people.

    From an AEU perspective China would likely insist that the ‘Huji’ system apply because AUE member states would not surrender sovereignty of their treasuries to oversight and control by political forces operating within an AEU Parliament.

    Ref: Family Registers and the Xia Dynasty (2100BCE – 1600BCE)

  3. Senex
    26/02/2015 at 7:04 pm

    The first part of my post has gone missing.

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