ASEAN in 2023: What to Expect

Bottom line

  • As the 2023 chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia will dictate the organization’s priorities and regional agenda.
  • ASEAN is likely to focus on four issues: the crisis in Myanmar, sustainable development, the integration of Timor-Leste and the implementation of the ASEAN vision in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Progress on the South China Sea Code of Conduct negotiations is unlikely.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization comprising ten Southeast Asian member states. Established in 1967, it aims to promote economic and security cooperation in the region. The annual cycle of the ASEAN chairmanship sees Indonesia take the chair in 2023. The success of Indonesia’s G20 presidency last year has fueled confidence in Southeast Asia’s ability to unite to tackle long-standing challenges. After adopting the theme „ASEAN Matters: The Center for Development,” Indonesia will lead ASEAN in focusing on four key issues: addressing the Myanmar crisis, addressing emerging challenges to support sustainable development, facilitating Timor-Leste’s integration into full membership in ASEAN, and implementing an Indo-ASEAN perspective. Pacific (AOIP). On the other hand, despite the importance and pressing nature of tensions in the South China Sea, it is unlikely that Indonesia or ASEAN will actively engage in negotiations for a Code of Conduct.

Myanmar crisis

Two years later The Military coup in Myanmar, it is clear that ASEAN has failed to make any progress on this issue. It has been Mentioned Indonesia’s foreign minister, he said, “despite all efforts [previous] Chair[s] And all the ASEAN member countries have not made significant progress in implementing the 5PC [Five-Point Consensus] by Myanmar’s military junta.” The lack of progress is a significant blow to ASEAN’s legitimacy as international actors defer to ASEAN to secure stability in Myanmar. As the world examines the regional bloc’s next move, Indonesia faces an uphill battle in bringing conflicting member states together to agree on how to re-approach the issue.

The failure of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus requires a different strategy. However, as a realistic solution would require the consensus of all ASEAN member states, there are limited options. Indonesia recognizes the limitations of working within ASEAN’s mechanisms declared It has been quietly working to revive the peace process in more than sixty engagements, including key players in Myanmar’s conflict, including the military, ethnic minority forces, Myanmar’s shadow government and neighboring countries. Indonesia’s „non-megaphone diplomacy” is an approach that can build trust with stakeholders and is a step toward re-imagining a potential settlement between Myanmar and ASEAN, whether or not it culminates in concrete action remains to be seen.

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Sustainable development

Indonesia has signaled its desire to refocus ASEAN’s focus on sustainable economic development in the region, with the theme „ASEAN Matters: The Center for Development”. A Report its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 32nd ASEAN Coordination Council (ACC) Meeting, ASEAN outlined four sectors for Indonesia to focus on: „food security, energy security, health and financial sustainability” with the aim of establishing the region as a hub for sustainable economic development. Indonesia plans to hold a series of flagship conferences to roll out this agenda ASEAN Conference on Strengthening Food Security Coordinationand has pressured the regional bloc to accept several declarations including ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Building a Regional Electric Vehicle Ecosystem And ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on a Health Initiative. This is in addition to ASEAN’s reaffirmation of continued implementation of existing frameworks and roadmaps. ASEAN Economic Community Map 2025 And this ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Blue Economy. These initiatives demonstrate Indonesia’s commitment to concrete steps to achieve the goals and promote regional cooperation.

Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN

Timor-Leste is the only Southeast Asian country that is not currently an ASEAN member state. In 2011, Timor-Leste officially expressed its interest in joining ASEAN by submitting a formal application for ASEAN membership. Since then, Timor-Leste has been granted observer status and has been working to meet membership requirements, such as implementing economic reforms and diversifying its economy beyond oil and gas resources.

In 2022, ASEAN agreed in principle to include Timor-Leste in ASEAN. This year, there is Indonesia declared It plans to lead the organization to finalize a roadmap for Timor-Leste’s full membership in ASEAN. Collaboration Report Released at the end of the 42nd ASEAN Summit in May 2023, with Timor-Leste participating as an observer for the first time, it announced ASEAN’s support for the country’s efforts and their commitment to helping the nation achieve the necessary milestones for full membership.

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ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific

First of all proposed In 2019, the AOIP aims to „strengthen the ASEAN-centric regional framework” and „provide new momentum to existing ASEAN-led mechanisms”, such as the ASEAN Plus-Three Framework and the East Asia Summit, to facilitate dialogue and enhance cooperation. Indo-Pacific region. In the following years, there was Indonesia was taken Created initiative to implement AOIP ASEAN leaders Declaration Prioritizing the four priority areas of the ASEAN Perspective on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) within ASEAN-led mechanisms. The declaration outlines the main steps ASEAN should take in four priority areas: maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development goals, and economic and other potential areas of cooperation.

In several joint statements and press releases by ASEAN and the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia has reiterated its commitment to implementing the AOIP. says That would be „a sense of Indonesia’s leadership priorities.” In completion Report At this year’s 42nd ASEAN Summit, ASEAN announced the plan to host ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum: Implementing the AOIP Later this year, a concept paper on the development of the ASEAN Maritime Outlook, which will outline the first priority of the AOIP, will be developed, along with the development of concept papers on the implementation of the AOIP from a security perspective. In addition, Indonesia plans to Add up „Key events” including the Youth Dialogue on Digital Development for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Creative Economy Forum. All this points to ASEAN’s commitment to implementing the AOIP and making it a key priority by 2023.

South China Sea Code of Conduct

The ongoing disputes between China and several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea have increased tensions and increased military activity in the region. With states outside the region increasingly involved, efforts to reach a settlement are challenging. Disputes in the South China Sea have significant implications for regional stability, freedom of navigation and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. Negotiations for a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, once considered an interim measure and a buffer to disputes, have dragged on since 2002.

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one look Annual Journal Report Indonesia’s maritime border negotiation priorities include bilateral negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines and Palau, the Indonesian foreign minister said. This suggests that Indonesia may have limited confidence in the potential for multilateral negotiations on maritime disputes, may not expect significant progress to emerge from CoC negotiations, and may instead prefer fragmented negotiations on a bilateral basis. As expected, the talks between ASEAN and China in March 2023 did not yield any substantial progress. A Report The announcement by China focused on „practical cooperation projects” in the fields of marine scientific research, environmental protection and search and rescue operations, but made no mention of the CoC.


ASEAN is expected to focus on four key areas: the Myanmar crisis, sustainable development, Timor-Leste’s admission to ASEAN as a full member, and implementation of the AOIP. However, progress on the CoC for the South China Sea is not expected. As these objectives are shaped by both the priorities of Indonesia’s leadership and the issues that will feature prominently in ASEAN this year, close monitoring of these issues can provide insight into the geopolitical dynamics of Southeast Asia in 2023.

The ASEAN agenda this year intersects greatly with US foreign policy interests in the Indo-Pacific region. However, ASEAN’s progress in resolving the dispute in the South China Sea has been short. There is widespread concern among U.S. policymakers that tensions in the South China Sea could escalate into a wider conflict, including a military conflict or a heated war between the U.S. and China. Unfortunately, these worries won’t stop anytime soon.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on U.S. foreign policy and national security. Priorities.

Image: State Department (Photo by Ron Przysucha)

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