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Overview Report, January–June 2004

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 January-June 2004. For a full explanation of the scope and process please refer to the notes.

Overview Report | Track 1 Meetings | Track 2 Meetings | Reserve | Research
Publications
| July-December 2004 Preliminary Inventory

Overview

1. Continued increase of Asia Pacific regional dialogue and research

Closely following the trend registered in the previous Monitor, which reported on the entire year of 2003, Track 1 and Track 2 dialogues have clearly increased during the first half of 2004, covering the months January through June. Information on approximately 50 Track 1 policy dialogue programs conducted in this period was included in this Monitor as compared with 75 for the entire year of 2003, and 80 Track 2 programs held in the six months were considered relevant, as compared with 150 programs over the entire previous one year period. An increase in Track 1 dialogues is particularly noteworthy, and this may reflect a growing number of negotiations and policy consultations related to regional issues that the governments in the region have had to undertake. Reading through the Track 1, governmental level dialogue programs and Track 2 policy dialogues listed in this report, one is struck by the increasing number of complex regional issues that have to be dealt with on both the governmental and non-governmental levels.

In terms of policy research programs in this region, though only 26 projects were identified for this period, they were predominantly undertaken through the collaboration of institutions in Asia Pacific dealing with various regional issues. It was found that many of the dialogue projects were organized in conjunction with research projects, either to bring the researchers from multiple countries together to discuss interim and final findings or to draw in more experts and broader participation from diverse sectors. The reverse, that research projects are kick-started after dialogue programs determine the need to further examine a particular topic, can also said to be true. In any case, there is a clear correlation between trends in policy dialogue and policy research projects.

2. Distinct growth of ASEAN-centered dialogue and research

The ASEAN-centric growth of regional dialogue, obvious in the previous Monitor of 2003, is even more pronounced during the period covered in this report. On the Track 1 level, ASEAN-related programs constituted more than 20 percent of the total dialogue programs, clearly the largest regional focus in the dialogue activities. An even more striking phenomenon identified in this Monitor was the fact that, adding entries related to ASEAN in some way, such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN+1, and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN-related activities made up close to 90 percent of the all regional dialogue activities. ASEAN was also central in the increasing number of dialogues with diverse regional partners such as China, Japan, and Korea. This again seems to reflect the increasing number of governmental forums focused on ASEAN+3 issues that have become prominent in recent months. It is noteworthy that countries such as India and Russia have become increasingly important dialogue partners of ASEAN, and their names appear several times in this Monitor, in both Track 1 and 2 programs.

Though less pronounced, a strong emphasis on ASEAN was also observed in Track 2 dialogues. The ASEAN-related dialogues accounted for almost 20 of the approximate total of 80 Track 2 dialogue programs. Further adding those programs related to ASEAN plus various partners, such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN+1 and CSCAP, it was found that close to 45 percent of Track 2 activities in the first half of 2004 contained significant ASEAN components.

3. Increasing emphasis on issues related to East Asia community building

One recent trend in the patterns of Track 1 and Track 2 regional dialogues is a growing emphasis given to regional community building in East Asia. There were seven Track 2 dialogues specifically dealing with the topic of East Asia community building in this monitor report. There were no Track 1 dialogues or research programs whose central theme or purpose was East Asia regional community building, however, the topics of East Asian Community and an East Asian Summit were raised amongst the discussions in Track 1 meetings on five and four occasions respectively, according to the survey.

On the other hand, as indicated by an increasing number of ASEAN+3 and other programs addressing broader regional issues, there appears to be a growing interest in regional community building in Asia Pacific on the part of the governments in the region. Governments are normally more preoccupied with issues immediately at hand and are not generally capable of performing analytical explorations of the future evolution of socio-political or economic developments. However, the movement toward community building in the Asia Pacific seems to have growing policy implications requiring the governments in the region to address it seriously. It should be noted also that a predominant number of research projects identified during this period were focused on issues related to East Asia, and they included research on various forms of regionalism and free trade agreements, regional integration and other related issues such as labor migration.

In this connection, there have been some recent developments within the Asia Pacific region, particularly among the ASEAN nations, that have given rise to Track 1 dialogues that are likely to enhance a sense of community in the region. Following on from the Bali Accord signed at the ASEAN Summit held in Bali in October 2003 and the subsequent ASEAN-Japan Special Summit in December 2003, Track 1 dialogues paid special attention to new regional community-related initiatives. According to this monitoring effort for the first half of 2004, out of approximately 50 Track 1 programs, eight programs had to do with the ASEAN Security Community, and a combined total of 16 programs were related to the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

One other noticeable trend observed in this period related to the rise of an East Asian regional community is the commonality of challenges that the nations in this region are facing with increasing intensity and seriousness. SARS, which received significant attention in 2003 Track 1 dialogues, has been successfully contained. However, it, followed by the outbreak of avian influenza in 2004, served as a wakeup call to many governments in the region of the imminent danger of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and the need for closer region-wide cooperation to address the challenges that transcend national boundaries. As will be further discussed in the section dealing with the emerging importance of human security issues both regionally and globally, there clearly are increasing needs and opportunities for Track 1 and Track 2 dialogue and cooperation in diverse fields including health, environment, and migration. Such regional cooperation seems to be strengthening a sense of regional community particularly when such cooperative schemes involve broader participation, including civil society organizations.

It is often assumed that regional community building requires a shared sense of values and purpose among leaders in government and civil society of the nations in that region, as well as citizens in general. Thus it is significant to note that monitoring the agendas of Track 2 dialogues in the first half of 2004 revealed that some 38 counts of value-oriented issues were addressed, including governance, corruption, democracy, human development, human rights, and failed states.

4. Traditional security and human security

As was observed in the 2003 Monitor report, there are divergent trends in Asia Pacific with respect to security issues. Emphasis is continually placed on traditional security issues but growing attention is given to non-traditional security issues, or those issues that are increasingly regarded as human security issues that directly affect the safety and well-being of individual citizens. It is generally understood that issues of traditional security require a military response by nation states, whereas human security issues require participation of non-state actors, often in cooperation with the public sector. At the same time, it is increasingly difficult to determine whether certain issues fit into the category of traditional security or human security. Transnational terrorism certainly seems to require military intervention by the states, but the root causes for its emergence may not be effectively stemmed without broader participation of civil society organizations. Some of the trends identified through this dialogue and research monitor for the first part of 2004 reinforce these general observations.

One distinct trend identified both for Track 1 and Track 2 dialogue and research in Asia Pacific during this period is the prominence of terrorism and the North Korean nuclear issue. This, not surprisingly, is a continuing trend from the previous year. Following these two topics, "transnational crimes" scored next highest in Track 1 dialogues. Related to the threat of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was addressed in several programs. China was a very frequently discussed issue among security-related dialogue programs on the Track 2 level, a significant portion of which was discussed in the context of the rise of China and the region's security as a whole.

Noticeable in Track 2 dialogues, and mirrored to a certain extent in Track 1, was the centrality of energy security and maritime security as themes in eight and nine programs respectively. Prolonged conflict in Iraq and its implications for the Middle East may have triggered the apprehension over stable and affordable oil supply. One can also speculate that the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) which itself became the main subject of five Track 2 activities may be a cause for the heightened attention on maritime security.

Another significant trend is a growing intersection between development issues and human security issues. The Track 1 dialogues and some research programs on development issues seem to be discussed increasingly in connection with issues such as health, poverty eradication, and capacity building, all of which can be regarded as human security issues. In fact, attention to capacity building was common to both Track 1 and Track 2 in the first half of 2004 being taken up six times in Track 1 programs and four times in Track 2.

Human security issues are, by nature, transnational in character, and require the collective response of the public sector and civil society in the countries concerned. As noted above, communicable diseases such HIV/AIDS are typical of human security issues, which are becoming critical and require joint efforts in the Asia Pacific region.

5. U.S. unilateralism and U.S. regional engagement

There is a general perception in the Asia Pacific that the U.S. is unilateralist in its approach to international relations including its involvement in this region, and as a result, it is not forthcoming in its efforts to be a part of the emerging Asia Pacific regional community. The two previous trend reports of the Dialogue and Research Monitor endorsed such a perception. Statistical analysis of participation, however, seems to contradict such past trends, and Americans were represented in 26 out of 80 Track 2 projects identified for the first half of 2004.

As discussed later, U.S. institutions, though perhaps a limited number of them, took the initiative in organizing Asia Pacific related dialogues, second only to Japan during the period covered by this Monitor. On the other hand, it is generally observed that major policy research institutions in the U.S. do not seem to be as active as they used to be in getting involved in policy research and dialogue with Asia Pacific.

Perhaps reflecting the general perception of U.S. unilateralism held by East Asian intellectual leaders, there has been a significant number of dialogue and research programs on American hegemonism and unilateralism as well as on the sustainabililty of multilateralism and the role of the United Nations in global governance.

6. Organizers and sponsors

It is useful to explore the intellectual and organizational initiatives behind these Asia Pacific related dialogue and research projects in order to find ways to further promote such activities. It was found that institutions from Japan and the U.S. continued to occupy the number one and two positions as the organizers of 24 and 20 dialogue projects respectively, followed by Singapore with 14 projects. In terms of research projects also, Japan and Singapore were the key organizers, followed by the U.S. Funding for these projects comes predominantly from American sources.

More impressively, collecting all the programs organized by individual ASEAN country institutions, ASEAN as a group proved to be the largest geographic bloc among Track 2 organizers, initiating a total of 44 projects. This again underscores the importance of ASEAN in the intellectual network in the region. Diverse institutions from China organized or co-organized a total of seven dialogues which seems to indicate the Chinese leaders' wishes for more positive engagement in the Asia Pacific region. It should also be noted that Taiwanese institutions were the co-organizers of four Track 2 projects. India was responsible for three.

There was also an increasing trend for European institutions to pay attention to the emerging East Asian regional community and carry out dialogues and research activities on this matter. The Council for Asia Europe Cooperation (CAEC) as well as the Trilateral Commission are two major international forums which regard the Asia Pacific group as a natural counterpart to North America and Europe. Such external dialogues solidify a collegial spirit among leaders from diverse sectors in the Asia Pacific.