Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date November 2012
In a region largely bereft of regional organizations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been the most significant multilateral group in Asia for the past forty-five years. Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has largely achieved its initial purpose of preventing Southeast Asia from further outbreaks of war following the Indochina Wars, and has also accomplished several notable acheivements in the economic and nonproliferation realms. Yet ASEAN today lags woefully behind its full potential. Unlike other regional institutions, ASEAN does not maintain a peacekeeping force, have the authority to enforce human rights, or posses a formal mechanism for conflict resolution. Most Western leaders and even many of Southeast Asia's top officials do not consider the organization capable of handling serious economic or security challenges, including disputes in the South China Sea. In this International Institutions and Global Governance program Working Paper, Joshua Kurlantzick analyzes the major obstacles facing ASEAN today and prescribes recommendations for the both the United States and ASEAN that will enable ASEAN to firmly establish itself as the essential regional organization in Asia.