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Overview Report, 2003

This overview report looks at the trends in Track 1 meetings (governmental meetings) and Track 2 meetings (nongovernmental meetings, sometimes including government officials in their private capacities), as well as dialogue and research activities pertaining to Asia Pacific security and community building for the period of 2003. For a full explanation of the scope and process please refer to the notes.

Overview Report | Track 1 Meetings | Track 2 Meetings | Reserve
Research
| Jan.-June 2004 Preliminary Inventory

Overview

While this survey overview attempts to capture what we consider to be significant trends in policy research and dialogue in East Asia during the period of 2003, such trends are often found to be an extension of evolving patterns of the past few years as reported in the previous versions of the Dialogue and Research Monitor. In fact, some of the characteristics of dialogue and research activities identified in the compilation for the period of 2003 reflect some of the description of trends described in "Trend Report 2002" by Paul Evans. Yet, even in such continued trends, we can detect signs of evolution of new patterns of dialogue and research activities. These continuing trends are summarized below with an emphasis on the indication of the new direction of activities.

1. Continued expansion of dialogue and research in the region

What was described in Trend Report 2002 as consistent growth of the volume of Track 1 and Track 2 activities over the previous 3-year period is also clearly discernible for the 2003 period. As pointed out in previous trend reports, diverse regularized institutions and consultation mechanisms such as ASEAN, the ARF, ASEM, PECC, APEC, and ASEAN-ISIS account for the high volume of research and dialogue activities. There was a significant increase of these activities in the 2003 period.

For the 2003 compilation, we were able to collect information on approximately 75 programs in Track 1 and 150 Track 2 activities. Dialogue and Research Monitor (DRM) 2002, contained 45 Track 1 programs and 113 combined Track 2 and Track 3 programs. Different methods used to collect and arrange data prohibit us a simple comparison of these figures. We believe, however, that these are impressive numbers for incidents of policy and multilateral dialogues within a region.

On the Track 1 level, in addition to fairly regularized dialogues, particularly those centered on ASEAN, 2003 witnessed (1) an impressive increase of discussions on the themes of terrorism and SARS, perhaps two of the most outstanding non-traditional security threats of the year, as elaborated below; (2) a few governmental meetings specially organized to discuss the North Korean issue including the Six-Party Talks; and (3) the beginning of a series of counter-terrorist dialogue under the name of Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which met five times in 2003.

On the Track 2 level, we also found a number of additions mostly on newer issues including terrorism, SARS, the North Korean issue, and regional cooperation/integration.

2. Increasing multi-professional structure and role for civil society

An overwhelming majority of dialogue and research programs we were able to monitor was multilateral in terms of participants as well as in the scope of dialogue. Moreover, an impressive proportion of dialogues were multi-professional in terms of participants, including not only scholars, researchers, and policy makers but also subject matter experts, and experts representing various NGOs and other civil society organizations.

One of the terms which was frequently repeated throughout Track 1 and Track 2 was the "essential role of NGOs" and "cooperation with NGOs and the civil society". NGO representatives were invited as equal partners to a considerable number of Track 1 dialogues on such issues as small arms proliferation, HIV/AIDS, confidence building, peace building, and counter-terrorist measures, making it difficult to demarcate Track 1 activities from Track 2 by solely looking at the participants. The need for governments in the region to enhance cooperation with NGOs was repeatedly put forward in these meetings. In the case of Track 2, where NGOs special role was discussed in 19 programs in 2003, the essential role of NGO/ civil society as proactive partners appears already to be widely recognized, particularly in such fields as security dialogue, human security issues, regional development and cooperation, and other non-traditional security issues.

3. Growing importance of non-traditional and human security issues

One of the most conspicuous phenomena in the intellectual dialogues in 2003 was the sudden emergence of SARS, which claimed the life of hundreds all over Asia, and took its place as a serious regional security issue. We found 11 programs in which SARS was among the major topics of discussion in Track 1 and another 5 in Track 2. Half of them were specifically devoted to discussions on SARS, and the remainder dealt with SARS as one of the new security threats or non-traditional security issues commonly facing the region, along with other issues such as transnational crime, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, environmental issues, and other human security issues. All of these were frequently discussed on both Track 1 and Track 2 levels in 2003. In these dialogues, SARS was either a symbol of regional cooperation vis-à-vis a common threat or a reason and, in a certain sense, an opportunity to enhance regional cooperation.

In quantitative terms both as the title of meetings and an agenda item, the topics of non-traditional and human security continued to occupy an important position, being discussed in more than a quarter of all the Track 1 and Track 2 programs. Indeed, there were a significant number of dialogues addressing transnational crimes including piracy, trafficking and small arms proliferation in both Tracks 1 and 2. This trend is more conspicuous in Southeast Asia than Northeast Asia, Trans-Pacific or Asia-Europe. The most common topics continued to be terrorism, trafficking in drugs and people, energy supply and security, the environment, HIV/ AIDS and other communicable diseases.

Aside from on the issue of international terrorism discussed in the next section, it became obvious that Track 1 initiatives, compared to the efforts of Track 2, did not give much priority or primacy to these specific non-traditional issues, with the possible exception of HIV/AIDS and transnational crimes. (These led to the adoption of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crimes and the ARF Statement on Cooperative Counter-Terrorist Actions on Border Security). It is symbolic that there was only one Track 1 dialogue whose agenda directly referred to human security.

In contrast, non-traditional security issues were treated in most of the Track 2 dialogues as a salient threat that requires serious regional cooperation. There were at least nine conferences or symposia specifically devoted to the discussion of human security, the majority of which were proactive in orientation, trying to deal with root causes of human security issues and translate the theory into practical programs. It may be worth noting that Japan was a key actor in most of the Track 2 activities in this field.

4. Divergent approaches to the issue of terrorism

While terrorism is considered both a non-traditional issue and one aspect of human security, it is dealt with separately here as it was among the most talked about issues in 2003. International terrorism continued to attract the attention of policymaking and intellectual circles in the region. It was a major part of agendas in approximately twenty percent of Track 1 and 2 programs including several that were specifically devoted to this issue.

In Track 1, six conferences were devoted entirely to the exchange of views, experiences, and countermeasures vis-à-vis terrorism, while it was treated as one of the most important, if not the most important, non-traditional security issues threatening the Asia Pacific region in other meetings. It is worth mentioning that such major dialogues as the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, ASEAN Special SOM, ARF SOM, ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, and ASEAN+3 Summit all addressed the issue of terrorism as one of the major security issues. Their approach to terrorism was almost without exception short-term in scope and very much confined to regional cooperation to work out effective countermeasures rather than the more long-term approach of responding to the root causes.

On the other hand, one unique feature of discussions on terrorism on the Track 2 level was that quite a number of them tried to approach the issue from a longer-term perspective, analyzing root causes including factors such as poverty, social injustice, and Islam (5 cases). If the short-term approach prevalent in Track 1 was more clinical and reactive, Track 2's longer-term approach could be characterized as more pathological and proactive and with an emphasis on human security in terms of needed responses. What seemed to be common between Track 1 and Track 2 was a view that the issue of terrorism presents yet another cause for regional cooperation.

5. Continued attention to traditional security issues

Despite a great increase in the number of dialogues on non-traditional and/or human security issues, traditional security issues in which the nation state is the principal actor, including proliferation issues, heightened tension on the Korean peninsula, the war in Iraq, the Middle East, weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. security role, great power relations, peace issues, and confidence building measures, still occupy a central place in security dialogues on both Track 1and Track 2 levels, accounting for approximately half of the cases in both instances.

6. ASEAN-centered growth

A continued trend which was made even more pronounced in 2003 was the active role played by ASEAN institutions in promoting regional dialogues and research. Combining programs organized by the institutions in individual ASEAN-ISIS member countries with those organized by ASEAN-ISIS and CSCAP, the total overtakes that of Track 2 dialogues organized by Japan. In addition, ISIS Malaysia took the initiative in 2003 with other ASEAN-ISIS members to inaugurate yet another regular, multilateral and multi-professional Track 2 dialogue - the East Asia Congress - to address the emerging challenges of East Asian community building. Other ASEAN-ISIS institutions are also putting more emphasis on the theme of the regional community building.

Comparing the scope of each dialogue on the Track 1 level, ten percent of the programs dealt generally with the Asia Pacific, while the vast majority of programs were found to be related to ASEAN and ASEAN plus its dialogue partners (ASEAN+3, ARF, and ASEAN + individual dialogue partners), reinforcing a trend from previous years. On the Track 2 level, though we found a more balanced distribution, with twenty percent of the programs dealing with Asia Pacific and a further twenty percent focusing on East Asia, one third of research and dialogue activities were on ASEAN and various combinations of ASEAN plus its dialogue partners. These figures seem to underscore the special position that ASEAN occupies in policy and intellectual dialogue in the Asia Pacific. Coupled with a great number of dialogue activities which dealt with regional integration and community building, as discussed later, these figures seem to point to a general expectation of ASEAN being one possible nucleus of community building in this region.

Among ASEAN countries, Singapore overwhelmed others by far in terms of the number of dialogue programs it organized, as well as in the variety of institutions involved. In the case of other ASEAN countries, contribution and sponsorship tends to be concentrated in one particular institution, pointing to the desirability of a broader institutional base.

7. Regional intellectual leadership

Turning attention to organizers and sponsors of Track 2 activities, a general trend has continued in the patterns of institutional initiatives, sponsorship, and participation. Geographical distribution of organizers is important because it would more or less indicate where the intellectual leadership and initiatives were originated. In 2003, Japanese institutions organized or co-organized about one-third of Track 2 activities recorded in this volume and of the approximately 50 programs organized by Japanese institutions, nine of them were organized by local (non-Tokyo) institutions located in Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto, Okinawa, Osaka, and Shizuoka.

American organizations organized a quarter of all Track 2 meetings. It is noteworthy that American sponsorship was so diversified that 40 Track 2 dialogues were organized by about 30 different institutions, showing the wideness of the base of American institutions interested in Asia Pacific affairs. This is despite the observation that Americans may not be participating in as many meetings as before, noted in their absence from a conference among NGO representatives and a dialogue among think tank representatives in the region, the kinds of conferences in which American civil society used to take the initiative and their participation was a matter of course. This seemingly contradictory trend appears to indicate the strength of the well developed intellectual infrastructure in the United States as evidenced by the number of policy research institutions equipped with professional staff and enduring contacts with foreign institutions and groups, including those in Asia Pacific, and by the sustained strength of philanthropic institutions with their presence in Asia.

Organizations that are frequently noted as funding sources include Japanese and American governments and foundations, the Canadian government, various UN organizations, the EU and European foundations. In 2003 this picture essentially remained unchanged with Japanese and American government agencies/foundations/corporations occupying number one and number two places within the information we were able to gather. It is notable that European institutions and foundations, mostly German and French, made significant intellectual contributions, particularly in comparison to "regional" countries like Australia and Canada, whose presence was almost invisible in 2003. It is notable, however, that Canada seems to be emphasizing human security issues, funding at least five of these Track 2 meetings, in addition to providing either sponsorship or intellectual support for a number of the ASEAN-ISIS meetings. German foundations' financial contributions remained generous in 2003, particularly in the cases of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

8. New emphasis on East Asian community building

Partly because the 2003 compilation tried to include dialogue and research which seemed relevant to the objective of community building in the region, it was only natural that we came across with quite a number of them which made reference to such terms as "regional cooperation", "regional integration", and "regional community". Indeed, regional cooperation was among the most frequently used key words in both Track 1 and Track 2 dialogues recorded in the current compilation. A closer look at individual programs, however, revealed quite a difference in orientation between Track 1 and Track 2 in terms of a spectrum between a mission-specific cooperation, on one hand, and integration and community building, on the other.

In Track 1, mission-specific "regional cooperation" vis-à-vis terrorism, transnational crimes, and infectious diseases as well as regional economic cooperation were by far more prevalent than more general and fundamental integration or community building activities. One may infer that non-traditional security issues have provided additional motivation to enhance regional cooperation among nation states. Still there were some references to integration and community including ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Security Community, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, Initiative for ASEAN Integration, and East Asian Community, which were all obviously heavily ASEAN-oriented.

While Track 2 also had its own share of regional economic cooperation and mission-specific cooperation elements, we found an increasing number of discussions on East Asian community building and integration. In contrast to Track 1 programs, where references were largely dominated by ASEAN, in Track 2, references to East Asia exceeded those to ASEAN among programs related to "regional cooperation/integration/community". In fact, some Track 2 dialogues referred to closer cooperation between ASEAN and various combinations of its dialogue partners (ASEAN-Japan, for instance) as a building block and/ or stepping stone toward an East Asian community. In addition, several Asia-Europe dialogues included in their main agenda discussions the possibility of using European experiences in community building as a model in Asia. Aside from the term "East Asian Community", reference was also made to "Asia-Pacific Community", "Pacific Asian integration", "Asian Cooperation Dialogue economic community", "East Asian Security Community", "ASEAN integration", "ASEAN Economic Community", "Northeast Asia Regional Community" and others, which were almost all non-existent in Track 1 dialogues.

Incidentally, there were as many as 15 cases of ASEAN-Japan "bilateral" dialogues in Track 2 (and 8 cases in Track 1) in 2003, indicating that discussions are moving away from Japan's role in regional cooperation and towards a more collaborative and multilateral approach. Undoubtedly, the amount of dialogue was in part due to the fact that 2003 happened to be the ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003 as designated by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it may have a longer-term positive implication toward East Asian community building.

In summing up, we found that discussions on East Asian community building were increasingly in vogue in 2003, particularly in the Track 2 circle. This seems to be partially urged by new challenges presented by international terrorism and other transnational crimes, as well as infectious diseases. However, we came out with the newly invigorated conviction that greater efforts are called for in order to consolidate the network of intellectuals and like-minded institutions and thus further advance the community building process.

Two additional points pertain to China and Japan. Firstly, despite the greatly increased presence of China and Chinese individuals and institutions in policy-related and intellectual dialogues in the region, it is still difficult to obtain relevant information. This is a challenge that China should not fend off. Secondly, even though the contributions and intellectual leadership provided in the area of East Asian community building by Japanese institutions should be acknowledged, it has been pointed out by some that there is a proliferation of once-off public symposiums and that more sustained research efforts should be emphasized. This is true for the whole region. Efforts in creating more dialogue should be buttressed by more substantial research programs. This will serve to ensure that proposals and outcomes emerging from the dialogue are followed up, evaluated and implemented.