National sovereignty has been and will remain an essential value in security considerations in Southeast Asia, and thus states, rather than people, continue to be at the centre of the security discourse. Yet, it is obvious that national sovereignty as a value is being contested in the current era of globalization. ASEAN’s emphasis on people-oriented values and a people-centred approach, as discussed in Chapter 2, necessitates shifting the main referent object of security from the state to the people. Eﬀorts to achieve a people-oriented approach and human security can be seen in various attempts undertaken by ASEAN, which pledged in its Charter to become a ‘people-oriented’ association and to eﬀectively respond to “all forms of threats, transnational crimes and trans-boundary challenges” (ASEAN 2007: Article 1-8, Chapter 1). Human security issues are, in fact, relevant to all three pillars of the
ASEAN Community – Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Security. The Economic Community focuses on, among other things, narrowing the development gap within the region by helping new members in the areas of poverty, literacy, and health (Morada 2006: 68). The priorities of the Socio-Cultural Community are health, labour, environment, social welfare, gender issues, disaster management, and the harnessing of information and communication technology. The Security Community targets human security issues, such as the promotion of human rights, conﬂict prevention, and post-conﬂict reconstruction. ASEAN will continue to be an important platform for shaping common views and identifying areas of cooperation needed to achieve human security in Southeast Asia. The present chapter explores the fundamental challenges that ASEAN
countries currently face in attempting to achieve human security in the regional context. As discussed in Chapter 2, the discourses of ASEAN and some member states on human security are closely linked to human rights and international humanitarian law. Since the 1990s when ASEAN achieved a membership of ten countries, more attention has been paid to its potential to ameliorate the longstanding human suﬀering resulting from conﬂict, transnational crimes, and human rights violations in the region. Exploring how ASEAN tackles these issues will illustrate the challenges the region faces in its attempt to achieve human security. On the one hand, there is an
on-going eﬀort to establish an ASEAN human rights body that symbolizes the achievement of a people-centred ASEAN. Yet on the other hand, ASEAN has been criticized for having taken little tangible action regarding the situation in Myanmar, where human rights violations run rampant. This chapter, therefore, focuses on the association’s eﬀorts to set up an ASEAN human rights body, address the situation in Myanmar, and handle transnational problems.