asean countries flags Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Can ASEAN Turn Geostrategic and Technological Disruption into Opportunity?

Individually, ASEAN’s members have little global clout; collectively, they represent 10% of the world’s people and nearly 5% of its GDP. At a time when large powers and global trends are reshaping the regional environment, the only way for ASEAN countries to advance their interests effectively is by working together.

GENEVA – Is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations resilient enough to thrive amid the regional and global transformations taking place today? While the global economy continues its broad-based expansion, disruptive economic, geostrategic, and technological forces may threaten ASEAN’s gains of recent years. To survive, ASEAN members must make important decisions about the role of their community in regional affairs. With the right choices, the region can convert disruption into an opportunity for a resilient future.

ASEAN has undergone an impressive turnaround in the past five decades. A region of turbulence, disharmony, and underdevelopment in the 1960s is today one of relative peace and economic success. Much of the credit belongs to the community-building efforts of the countries under the ASEAN umbrella. But the region also benefited strongly from the post-World War II global architecture and institutions that promoted inward flows of investment and outward flows of exports.

Today, this global backdrop is in a state of profound transformation. The benefits of free and open trade are being questioned, international institutions are being challenged, new geopolitical powers are rising, and – despite ups and downs – the global economy continues to tilt further toward emerging markets. All of this creates an opportunity for new and competing visions of how the world should be organized and run.

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