Multilateralism and regional security : can the ASEAN Regional Forum really make a difference?

Naidu, G.V.C.
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Honolulu: East-West Center
Continuing political uncertainty in the Asia Pacific region following the end of the Cold War led to the formation, in 1993, of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). The first security institution created just for the region, the Forum's original aim was to facilitate constructive dialogue among its members. But it soon elevated its goals and now, despite formidable obstacles, the Forum aspires to resolve regional conflicts. Chief among the obstacles it faces are addressing the divergent expectations of its members, reconciling the perceived tensions between multilateral and bilateral relationships, assuring that the interests of weak as well as strong states are represented, balancing the agendas of its great power members, and becoming a relevant player in Northeast Asian regional politics-all while operating in the "ASEAN way" of consensus politics. Most recently, the Forum's failure to respond to regional crises has dulled enthusiasm for the ARF, though many of its critics and supporters alike hope that more substantial and effective actions are in its future.
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