The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region will play host to global leaders later this year with the ASEAN Summits in Cambodia, B20 and G20 Leaders’ Summit in Indonesia and APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Thailand, all happening back-to-back.

  • All eyes will be on ASEAN this year as it hosts several key global summits, including the G20 in Indonesia.
  • The region is well positioned to pursue its ambitions to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030.
  • Ahead of Davos 2022 it’s clear the region has an increasingly critical role to play in tackling global problems.

With the changing face of geopolitics and the global economy, these meetings and the preparations in the lead up, will shed light on where ASEAN stands in its on-going recovery efforts from COVID-19 and how it’s coping with the economic implications of global inflation and supply chain disruptions. In addition (and perhaps more importantly) they will also reveal the state of affairs on regional collaboration, as well as its role in mediating between global powers to solve common challenges.

A few months ago, ahead of Davos Agenda week, I co-authored an opinion piece highlighting the region’s opportunities towards more inclusive post-pandemic growth. Building on the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), and leveraging the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with accelerated digital transformation seen across the region, I advocated that ASEAN was not only well placed to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030, but also to harness opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and bridge some of the vulnerabilities that have surfaced during COVID-19.

The world has changed significantly in those four months. However an optimistic outlook for ASEAN remains intact, and its balancing role has been further highlighted with intensifying conflict and tensions between superpowers.

ASEAN can harness collective action

Although the region will be reluctant to cross certain boundaries or join any particular side – for instance against Russia, even though many countries in ASEAN have spoken out in support of Ukraine and the need for a peaceful resolution – in the face of dire consequences of inaction, many hope that Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia can exercise leadership to find ways to bring key stakeholders together to solve some of the most urgent common challenges and restore faith in multilateral collaboration mechanisms.

In recent years, ASEAN has also experienced increased turmoil back home, with the crisis in Myanmar and continued political uncertainty in a number of its Member States. However, despite these challenges, the region’s unique geoeconomic positioning, with strong ties to all major powers, together with the diversity in its economic make-up, enabling the block to advocate for both developed as well as developing economies, are some of the reasons why ASEAN can and should assume a greater role in the global stage at this critical turning point in history.

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