The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is generally viewed as the most successful inter-governmental organization in the developing world. This association has grown over the year to include all the countries in Southeast Asia, except the newly independent East Timor. Today, the ASEAN region has a population of about 500 million, a combined gross domestic product of almost 700 billion dollars and a total trade of about 850 billion dollars. The fact remains, however, that multilateral projects have progressed slowly. According to many commentators and analysts, despite ASEAN's undeniable success in international forums, regionalism appears to have fossilized at the initial stages and some hopeful beginnings have even decayed.
[...] In other words, ASEAN have committed to do nothing which could limit their national prerogatives, which, in the context of a regional organization, means to do hardly anything. A weak sense of community within the region and consequently little on which to build institutions tends to make matters worse. This situation is attributable to a wide array of historical factor that have for long divided the region and contributed to undermine any sense of a shared destiny. The experience of colonialism oriented the colonized countries, politically and economically, towards European nations rather than each other. [...]
[...] And on 12 December 2005, ASEAN leaders adopted the landmark Kuala Lumpur declaration, which “recognizes the importance of having an appropriate institutional framework that is able to meet the challenges of realizing an ASEAN community”. However, as in the past, these commitments seem to derive from pious declarations that do not imply any legal commitment. The new mechanisms do not result from a treaty voted by national parliaments and have not yet been tested. Many analysts argue that it is early days to forecast a positive or negative evolution, but assert that complete de-politicization of the mechanism will be hard. [...]
[...] This is a major difference between ASEAN and the EU. The role of the institutional set-up is paramount in a regional organization. For the time being, ASEAN doesn't have an independent, supranational body and therefore the common positions can only be developed through consensus with the lowest common denominator. Three main reasons can explain this institutional weakness: 1. The particular motivations of the Founding father and their commitment to loose consensus- based mechanisms when they built ASEAN An apparent lack of political will from the different regional governments over the past 40 years Uneven economical developments alongside with huge differences of political regimes. [...]
[...] Lastly, the level of political will to achieve integration amongst ASEAN members is influenced by the development gap between them, which has grown with the inclusion of the least developed countries of Laos, Cambodia and Burma into the organization. The differences between the priorities of these countries on the one hand, and those of the more developed economies of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand on the other hand, have underpinned common goals and make the task of mustering political will to integrate more difficult. [...]
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