The complex and interconnected nature of conflicts in southeast Asia has made conflict prevention an urgent call in the region. Too often, peace is broken and development is stopped by outbreaks of unrest and armed violence in the so-called conflict areas of the region. The region remains unstable and human insecurity is high among the peoples of southeast Asia because the complex causes of these conflicts have not been addressed enough.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN is the primary official conflict prevention mechanism in the region. But ASEAN's only treaty-based instrument for pacific settlement of disputes, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, applies only to inter-state conflicts. While ASEAN prides itself in having prevented border conflicts from breaking out into open war between ASEAN states, it has no mechanism with which to confront intra-state conflicts, which are the types of conflict besetting the ASEAN states.
Repeated analyses of the region's conflicts have been able to derive some important lessons. The first is that peace is too valuable to be left entirely in the hands of governments and international government institutions. The participation of civil society especially in the grassroots level is crucial in preventing conflict and in achieving sustainable peace.
The second is the need for constructive engagements between civil society, governments and international institutions like ASEAN and the United Nations. This partnership presupposes the varied roles that civil society can play, which governments and international institutions cannot because of their specific mandates.
But for civil society to effectively engage governments and governmental institutions, it has to acquaint itself with governmental structures and behavior. Lobbying and dialogue – tools used with effect by NGOs- can only be started when NGOs know which government levels to approach, who to talk to, and how to access these offices.
This primer on “A Summary of Conflict Prevention Mechanisms in Southeast Asia” aims to guide NGO lobbyists in their initiatives to engage their national governments and the ASEAN. Owing to lack of credible information on some ASEAN states, the national mechanisms have been limited to the Philippines, Indonesia (and by relation Timor Leste) and Thailand. ASEAN-level mechanisms however are included as ASEAN is a lobby target by groups engaged in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building. Read full text.