The evolution of the “ASEAN Way”: Embracing human security perspectives

Brendan Howe, Min Joung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


“Human security” is rather a new concept in ASEAN’s security discourse. Unlike the EU that was confronted with intense pressures to adopt human security in the late 1990s, ASEAN has made virtually no reference to human security in its official documents. Instead, it relied on concepts such as “people-centeredness” which can be interpreted with multiple meanings. From the Vientiane Action Programme 2004–2010, the idea of a people-centered ASEAN has been emphasized and introduced as one of the three pillars of ASEAN Community building. In the discourse on ASEAN, the notion of people-centred tends to be employed in connection with certain types of threat, for example, disaster, poverty, environmental issues, diseases, transnational crimes, and trafficking, which are also prominent in the human security literature. Thus, this paper argues that the state-centric, non-interference “ASEAN Way” has been evolving to embrace human security perspectives to an unprecedented degree. It demonstrates that this transformative change has resulted from three main catalysts: transnational challenges in the region, the influence of Japanese development aid, and the role of multilateral “tracked” diplomacy. It concludes that human security is certainly compatible with the new interpretation of the ASEAN Way as the notion of “people-centricity” may be integrated into a strategy to make the public more responsive to the execution of ASEAN policies and to demonstrate the direct benefits for the citizen from cooperation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAsia-Pacific Social Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by De La Salle University.


  • Human security
  • Regional governance
  • The ASEAN way


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