The ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and Its Role in Preventing Crises

 

 

In addressing the question of the role of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) in preventing crises, one must look beyond the confines of its mandate and examine the issue in practical, albeit indirect, terms.  In so doing, one should not separate the role of AIPR in preventing crises from the unique position afforded by its traditional governance structure.

The ASEAN AIPR is the institution of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for research activities on peace, conflict management and conflict resolution.  As outlined in its terms of reference (TORs), adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in 2012, AIPR is mandated to undertake a number of activities, including research, capacity-building, developing a pool of expertise, networking and information dissemination.

In terms of research, AIPR compiles ASEAN experiences and best practices on peace, conflict management and conflict resolution, as well as post-conflict peacebuilding. These research activities are with a view to providing appropriate recommendations to ASEAN member states and bodies, at their request.  AIPR is also mandated to undertake studies to promote gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding, peace processes and conflict resolution, as well as to study and analyse existing dispute settlement mechanisms in ASEAN with a view to enhancing regional ones for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In regard to capacity-building, AIPR holds workshops on peace, conflict management and conflict resolution; on advancement of work in the area of interfaith dialogue; and on building knowledge among relevant government officials, scholars and think tanks.

With respect to developing a pool of experts, it is envisioned that this pool would be tapped by ASEAN member states to serve as resource staff for conflict management and resolution activities, including providing policy recommendations on the promotion of peace and reconciliation.

As for networking, AIPR is envisioned to serve as a knowledge hub, by establishing linkages with relevant institutions and organizations in ASEAN member states, as well as with similar organizations at the regional and international levels. Finally, with regard to information dissemination, AIPR is expected to raise awareness and understanding of the topics within its ambit.

Pending the establishment of a permanent secretariat, which is expected in 2017, AIPR, through its Governing Council and Advisory Board has, in the past five years, organized a number of workshops and symposia, covering a broad range of peace-related topics, such as Peace and Reconciliation Processes, Strengthening Women’s Participation in Peace Process and Conflict Resolution, the Plight of Women and Children in Conflict Situations, and Principles, Mechanisms and Practices of Peace and Reconciliation Processes, held in the Philippines and Myanmar. The results and recommendations of these initiatives have been published and disseminated to relevant stakeholders, and they serve to enrich the body of knowledge that underpins in-the-field efforts of international peace practitioners.

As laid out by its ToRs, AIPR is composed of a Governing Council, Executive Director and an Advisory Board. The latter advises the Governing Council on specific priority research topics that AIPR may focus on. On the other hand, the Governing Council is responsible for carrying out the AIPR mandate described above.  At present, 8 out of 10 Permanent Representatives to ASEAN serve as members of the Governing Council. This places the Governing Council in a unique position as the Jakarta-based Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR) is at the frontlines of strengthening ASEAN dialogue and relations with external partners. In ensuring that the best interests of ASEAN are served in the context of its external relations, CPR develops road maps for cooperation that serve as guides in the relationship between ASEAN and the respective dialogue or external partner. These road maps usually take the form of a plan of action (PoA), which maps out strategic areas for cooperation spanning multiple years. Currently, ASEAN has 10 dialogue partners, namely: Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.  Other external partners are Germany, Norway, Pakistan and Switzerland.

Herein lies the unique position of the AIPR Governing Council. In the past, in the discharge of its own functions, CPR (concurrently donning the hat of the AIPR Governing Council) ensured that the specific topic areas of peace, reconciliation and conflict prevention are embedded into the different PoAs or other similar documents.

Similarly, when speaking of the role of AIPR in the greater context of preventing conflicts, one cannot separate it from the framework of the ASEAN Political- Security Community (APSC) under which it serves. AIPR was established under a Provision (B.2.2.i) of the 1 March 2009 APSC Community Blueprint (2009-2015), as a follow-up to the ASEAN Leaders’ Joint Statement on the Establishment of an ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation of 8 May 2011. It is important to note that the mandate of AIPR also includes the promotion of activities under this APSC Blueprint.

The APSC Blueprint 2025, adopted on 22 November 2015, together with similar Blueprints of the Economic and Socio-Cultural Pillars, provides action lines that aim to complete, within a specific time frame, key measures towards the vision of a politically cohesive ASEAN Community.  One of the key elements of the APSC Blueprint 2025 is its vision of a peaceful, secure and stable ASEAN region.  It is primarily this element to which AIPR contributes.

AIPR is still in its formative stage. In the coming years, it has the potential to play a significant role in promoting knowledge sharing and policy recommendations to help foster peace and reconciliation and the prevention of crises in ASEAN.