chapter  2
30 Pages

Human security in Southeast Asia at a turning point

One of the vital questions when discussing human security in Southeast Asia is that whether countries in Southeast Asia themselves recognize the notion of human security. Since the 1960s, they have undertaken considerable changes in terms of political and social transformations as well as economic growth. However, the region has been at the centre of human security concerns, such as poverty, transnational crimes, refugees, human and drug trafficking, environmental degradation, spread of fatal diseases, political instability, and social injustice. Moreover, even obvious security concerns, including inter-state and internal conflicts, political violence, terrorism, and insurgencies, have overwhelmed the region for decades (Acharya 2007: 16-19; Moon and Chun 2003: 120-21). Over last several years, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

(ASEAN) has emphasized the rhetoric of becoming a ‘people-oriented ASEAN’ and in its attempt to create an ‘ASEAN Community’. The phrase ‘peopleoriented ASEAN’ indeed appears in the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN Charter) signed during the 13th ASEAN Summit held in Singapore in 2007 – the year that marked ASEAN’s fortieth anniversary. The attempt to achieve ‘ASEAN Community’ is now one of the important objectives of ASEAN, as proclaimed in the Charter, which entered into force in December 2008 (ASEAN 2007: 3-5). The emphasis on ‘people-oriented’ ASEAN in its Charter is timely and promising, which increases expectations towards the region’s intention to address some of the longstanding human suffering and human security issues. The question now is whether the notion and approach of human security have come into play in Southeast Asia. This chapter, therefore, explores how the notion of human security has come into the region and how the notion is perceived by individual states and also in the regional context. In so doing, it attempts to examine what human security is really defined as in Southeast Asia.