AIPA: Bridging the Gap Between ASEAN and the Peoples of ASEAN

Aspiring to become the true voice of the peoples of ASEAN, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) promotes the principles of human rights, democracy, peace, security and prosperity in ASEAN

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) is the sole regional parliamentary organization associated with ASEAN. Established on 2 September 1977, AIPA aims to encourage understanding, cooperation and close relations among the Parliaments in ASEAN. With the headquarters located in Jakarta, AIPA represents over 3,500 Parliamentarians of all ASEAN Parliaments; Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Since its founding 51 years ago, ASEAN has seen greater integration among its members, but it still faces major challenges in its goal to move towards becoming a true community. In reality, there is an indifference towards ASEAN from the peoples of ASEAN, and there is a wide gap between ASEAN and the peoples. AIPA is here to connect the peoples of ASEAN so that we can help bridge that gap. So that we can finally become a true ASEAN Community,” said Isra Sunthornvut, AIPA Secretary General.

The highest policy-making body in AIPA is the annual General Assembly (GA). It allows AIPA Members to propose parliamentary initiatives and inputs for policy formulation to the respective governments of ASEAN. The resolutions produced by the GA are considered as a policy recommendation to ASEAN countries’ respective governments.

Other noteworthy AIPA activities include; Model AIPA, a Joint Seminar with ASEAN-ASEANSAI, and a project-based initiative to combat the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT) in the ASEAN region.

Model AIPA

Model AIPA is an educational simulation exercise of the General Assembly of AIPA. The 1st Model AIPA was launched in 2017 with 70 university students participating in JABODETABEK.

The 2nd Model AIPA was expanded and involved 73 university students from 8 ASEAN countries, namely; Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

“AIPA believes that students are a transformative agent of change, and the future of ASEAN. The goal of Model AIPA is to help students immerse themselves in culture, ideas and experiences, and develop both an understanding, and more importantly, an appreciation of diversity. We hope that this exposure can make the students become more well-rounded candidates for further education and employment in their own countries, or in other ASEAN countries as well,” said Isra Sunthornvut.

For this year, AIPA will once again work with the International Relations Department of BINUS University to mobilize students from all across ASEAN. Participating university students will play the roles of delegates of different AIPA Member Parliaments (MPs) in a typical AIPA GA. They will discuss current issues shared by the 10 ASEAN Member States, such as harmonizing drugs trafficking law and border conflict resolution.

Joint Seminar with ASEAN and ASEANSAI

Organized on 26 February 2019 in Jakarta, the ASEAN-ASEANSAI-AIPA joint seminar recognized the need to build connections beyond the government level to promote accountability and transparency in ASEAN.

100 senior officials and representatives of the three organizations, identified good practices in their work to promote transparency and accountability of the public sector. The three organizations managed to develop concrete proposals for collaborative action in the future, with the goal toward better transparency and accountability in the region.

“An indicator of the success of a country is not only through GDP, infrastructure, economic development or political development but what is more important is the willingness to be accountable; and the transparency of the government to their peoples,” stated Isra Sunthornvut.

Project-Based Initiative

The AIPA Secretariat has engaged in a joint study to assess the effect of rapid tourism growth in Southeast Asia. The study proves that challenges has arisen from the rapid development of the tourism industry, especially its negative consequences against children. This situation has become a common concern shared by all ten ASEAN Member States. The growth in travel and tourism has increased the opportunities for child sex offenders to exploit ASEAN children.

“Travel and tourism in ASEAN is experiencing tremendous growth. As the industry continues to boom, it presents a sinister reality that warrants more attention and action, which is the exploitation of our beloved ASEAN children. Embarking from that point, AIPA has decided that the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT) should be a corresponding pilot issue for the project based initiative. Together with ECPAT and UNICEF, AIPA aims to develop a strong and comprehensive legal framework to prosecute traveling offenders, who travel from one country or region to another,” closed Isra Sunthornvut.

The initiative resulted in two workshops: cross-sectoral and international workshops. In addition, together with Indonesian influencers, AIPA has recently launched a video that will be utilized by MPs to raise awareness about this issue.

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