democThe ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC) represents the clearest and most comprehensive response by ASEAN member states to the need for deeper regional cooperation in managing political-security challenges. The “ASEAN Political-Security Community” is designed to promote political and security cooperation among the ASEAN member states and seeks to make it possible for the member states to “live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment.” In this context, what is Indonesia’s contribution to form APSC and the national interest behind it?

For Indonesia, APSC concept is based on “a fundamental, unambiguous and long-term convergence of interests among ASEAN members in the avoidance of war”. One of Indonesia proposed measures is to promote political development within APSC through democracy, establishment of ASEAN Human Rights Commission, and good governance. Then the concept was formally adopted at ASEAN’s Bali Summit in October 2003. APSC was never intended to be a “projection of Indonesian hegemonic power”.

Challenging Efforts

Indonesia played significant role in the introduction of the subjects of democracy and human rights in ASEAN discourse through the APSC. For Indonesia, the ‘democratization’ of ASEAN, while naturally occurring at different speeds, has been essential to ensure that there is no ‘disconnect’ between regional level developments and Indonesia’s national level democratization since 1998.

Indonesia’s leadership in strengthening ASEAN’s democratic architecture has not been limited to the building of norms and principles, through documents such as the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, as well as institutions such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Indonesia has also made significant strides in promoting certain practices, such as transparency around internal sovereign developments at ASEAN meetings, in the hope that they will generate a ‘demonstrative spill-over effect’ elsewhere. It is noteworthy, for instance, that the acceleration of reform in Myanmar in 2011 took place during Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN. This was the result of, among other things, a judicious combination of policies, formal and informal, regional and bilateral, which in total helped create conditions conducive for further reform.

Indonesia’s achievements in the process of democratic transition through the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections and unconditional respect for human rights becomes the modality to be dispersed to the region. But the process has certain challenges. Although Indonesia attempts to incorporate norms such as democracy, respect for human rights, good governance and rule of law into the ASEAN Way, some countries insisted on retaining older norms such as the non-interference norm.

In 2007, Indonesia succeeded in enshrining the new norms of the Bali Concord II in the ASEAN Charter but it still retained the sovereignty-based norms of the ASEAN Way. Indonesia proposed in the Charter negotiations that ASEAN members eventually agreed on forming a regional human rights mechanism. However, the terms of reference for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was able to promote, but not to protect human rights in the region.

Indonesia was singled out as the only fully fledged democracy in Southeast Asia by international democracy rankings such as the Freedom House indices, legitimized Indonesia’s active promotion of democracy in the Southeast Asian region and beyond. To this end, the Indonesian government inaugurated the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), which convened for the first time in 2008 and sought to promote democracy through publicizing best practices.


Indonesia has already shown its commitment in democracy and it has applied in the formulation of foreign policy, especially in the era or reformation. Foreign policy that starts at home has been practiced by Indonesian diplomat to interact with other foreign diplomats. Moreover, foreign policy practice in the new era was no longer an exclusively executive affair. Some experts portrayed Indonesia’s foreign policymaking as a multi-stakeholder process, in which non-state actors were also afforded ownership. In this regard, it is highly recommended that foreign policymaking activity like monthly foreign policy breakfasts as regular consultations with stakeholders could be held regularly.

At the next level, bigger activity like Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) should be strengthened by focusing on the exchange of views and commitment by countries to implement democracy as significant part in their policies. The Government should place the forum as a strategic objective for Indonesia to pursue the continuation of peace and stability in the region.

Indonesia should operate the benefit of current democracy system to get maximum result for its national interest. The implementation of democracy through the transparency system in all economic life could open many new opportunities especially in economic life. It is necessary for Indonesia to demonstrate that democracy is not only the norm but it has already been in the heart of the people.

 Democracy promotion should become a major element in Indonesia’s quest to accumulate “soft power” and to be recognized as a major voice in regional and global affairs.



Donald K Emerson. “Security, Community, and Democracy in Southeast Asia: Analyzing ASEAN”, Japanese Journal of Political Science 6 (2), Cambridge University Press 2005.

Jürgen Rüland. “Democratizing Foreign Policymaking in Indonesia and Democratization of ASEAN: A Role Theory Analysis”. Occasional Paper N° 28 (December 2015). Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Freiburg (Germany).

The Habibie Center, ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC): Influence of Democracy in ASEAN Integration, Discussion Report, No. 04/November 2014.


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