What a week it’s been. The great heavyweights of International Affairs have trouped in and out of little Brunei for various summits, meetings, photo calls and off-site diplomacy.
Brunei has, in a very focused two or three days, played host to the leaders of the half billion inhabitants that make up ASEAN, of China, India and Japan and the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Though the President of the United States was due to come, he was side-tracked by pressing domestic issues. It should be said that a shutdown of the Federal Government does not necessarily mean that the U.S. cannot pay for jet fuel for Air-Force One, as Secretary of State John Kerry did attend.
As usual, from my point of view at least, even though it seems that the whole world and their cousin were here, the organisation seems to have gone without a hitch. Even though the aprons of the Brunei International Airport have resembled a rush hour jam, and despite the daunting road closures, I am happy to note that chaos did not ensue.
I can only imagine the months of planning, the weeks of stress and the days of utter focus that goes into getting it all right. From diplomatic planning, security details, hospitality, media outlets, and logistics.
If anything, it is all testament to the fact that despite having limited human resources, if a small country like ours puts her mind to it, much can be achieved.
So what has come about?
All week long there have been reassuring words from China on the need for security and stability in the South China Sea, topped by a renewed commitment to come to some agreement on working on a code of conduct in relation to the South China Sea. On this, if a measure of success is to do better than the previous year, it would appear that this year’s Summit succeeded at least.
In making the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children, ASEAN leaders expressed their commitment to the look after women and children, of all ages, in all spaces, better.
The “hot” news is that Singapore appears to have come away with an agreement on the sharing of information to deal with open burning and to combat haze.
There was a report card of sorts in relation to developments on a socio-cultural integration. Tellingly, what appears to need improvement is the dissemination of information. One could say that the average Nyugen on the Street in Hanoi, Ahmad in Kuala Lumpur and Ramon in Manila really needs to be impassioned about the aims and direction of their leaders, that is- to ultimately bring them all a lot closer together.
There were renewed commitments to the integration of the 10 ASEAN economies in two years, by 2015. Though this great project may end up being side-lined by the various Free Trade Agreements being separately negotiated such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and the ASEAN Trade Agreement with China.
I have to admit though, to being but a dilettante in such hefty matters of state. I would much prefer really to tweet about Prime Minister Ying Luck's smile, or the helmet hair sported by some of the VIP wives. What I can say is that upon a perusal of the various media reports of last weeks’ activities, is that everyone seems to have come away with their own spin on events. In a sense, each country and their attendant media have at least something to be happy about.
At the end of the day though, the true measure of the effectiveness of ASEAN and its attendant dialogues and meetings is whether and how, as a group, it is capable of changing and beneficially effecting the everyday lives of the half billion people that live within its borders.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
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