Defining ASEAN’s role in peace operations: Helping to bring peacebuilding “upstream”?


Contemporary peace operations have evolved tremendously from the traditional peacekeeping operations of only a couple of decades ago, with peacekeeping objectives increasingly encompassed within a broader peacebuilding agenda. It is against this backdrop that this paper attempts to take stock of the current attitudes towards peace operations in Southeast Asia and to forge a way forward for ASEAN states’ more active engagement within the region and more specifically, with the broader emerging peacebuilding agenda. ASEAN States have often come under criticism for their limited engagement in peace operations. For example, it has been noted that although approximately 40% of armed conflicts have occurred in the wider Asian region, justover 10% of multilateral peace operations have been undertaken there. In the case of Southeast Asia, this is often put down to political and strategic factors – in particular, strong adherence to a traditional understanding of state sovereignty and non-interference. At the same time, however,it must be acknowledged that ASEAN countries have not been completely passive vis-à-vis involvement in regional and international peace operations. In particular, Indonesia, Malaysia andthe Philippines have substantial experience in the provision of uniformed peacekeeping personnel globally. Where ASEAN states have engaged militarily however, it is observed that it has oftenbeen in the context of traditional peacekeeping activities, rather than in complex missions that may require peace enforcement. For many other ASEAN countries, they either continue to lack the military capabilities or involvement in peacekeeping operations has simply not been a part of their military doctrines. Consequently, while overall ASEAN’s normative framework has typically engendered a degree of hesitation on the part of some states to intervene militarily – specifically within the ASEAN region and in complex operations – some countries have demonstrated a willingness to contribute militarily to peace operations.

Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony

Mely Caballero-Anthony is an Associate Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore and Head of the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies. She is also the Secretary-General of the newly established Consortium on Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia (NTS-Asia). Dr Anthony is the Principal Investigator of the Centre for NTS Studies’ projects for the MacArthur Foundation Asia Security Initiative (ASI). She leads and directs the research programme on Internal Conflict and Cross-border Challenges, and advises the Health and Human Security programme. At RSIS, she teaches courses on Non-Traditional Security, and Comparative Politics in Southeast Asia. She also lectures regularly on special topics related to regionalism and security in the Asia-Pacific at the SAFTI Military Institute. Her research interests include regionalism and regional security in the Asia-Pacific, multilateral security cooperation, politics and international relations in ASEAN, conflict prevention and management, as well as human security. Her recent publications include Political Change, Democratic Transitions and Security in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2009) and Understanding Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitization (UK: Ashgate, 2006).


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