Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Pacific Basin Law Journal Vol. 29:234 (2012), pp. 234-280.


Copyright 2012 Tarik Abdel-Monem. Used by permission.


The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is entering an interesting and important new phase in its evolution. Having survived the cold war and Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Association remains a uniquely successful, yet enigmatic organization comprised of ten major Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN nations have successfully obtained rapid levels of economic and human development in the face of the region's political difficulties, yet at the risk of causing significant environmental degradation. Now, ASEAN is implementing two new structures that have major implications for the state of civil society among its member nations-the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). This Article examines ASEAN's overarching framework for environmental governance, its normative culture of decision-making, and how the Charter and AICHR could potentially offer significantly divergent paths for the Association in light of its environmental and human rights challenges. It particularly examines how the limitations of ASEAN's elite governing and decision-making norms constrain the possibilities for an expansive civil society under the Charter and AICHR in these areas, and the challenges of integrating environmental and human rights paradigms within this context. Finally, this Article outlines some procedural reforms that ASEAN should adopt that might address its developmental concerns from a participatory standpoint in light of the parameters that constrain the Association's normative realities.