On 7 and 8 March 2013, the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP), with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA), organized an international symposium on “Building ASEAN Identity on a Transnational Dimension”. The symposium was opened by Shotaro Yachi, Special Advisor to the Cabinet of Japan, and UNU Rector David Malone.
Experts from all 10 ASEAN countries as well as from the ASEAN Dialogue Partners (Australia, China, the EU, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States) presented papers and engaged in discussion with the audience. Keynote speeches were delivered by Shinsuke Sugiyama, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of MOFA, and by Yasushi Kikuchi, a Visiting Professor at UNU-ISP.
The symposium addressed the question of how cultural characteristics in South-East Asia have developed over many decades, revealing linkages between local and transnational dimensions and debating both points of difference and aspects of similarity. Participants offered diverse views towards understanding national identities in ASEAN countries, and all emphasized the benefits of forming an integrated ASEAN community by 2015 built on three central pillars: political and security, economic, and socio-cultural.
Participants from the Dialogue Partners joined in acknowledging that ASEAN had been one of the regional organizations that had made the most significant progress in the last decade.
A key message of the symposium is how essential it is to bring together the aspirations and the energy of local people and communities — in addition to those of governments — in order to achieve common goals. Because politicians may not always agree, in particular when it comes to hard security matters, it therefore is important to have additional entry points for engagement and participation among non-governmental organizations, think tanks and professional associations.
Many of the speakers placed particular emphasis on the role of young people and women in this process of realizing transnational commonalities and shared interests and visions. In delivering the closing speech, Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Senior Vice-Rector of UNU and Director of UNU-ISP, congratulated the participants for their informative in-depth analysis and the important outcomes of the symposium.
A programme is available on the UNU-ISP website.