SOAS University of London

SOAS Director highlights challenges and opportunities for ASEAN region in RSIS keynote

31 October 2017

Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Director of SOAS University of London, gave a speech at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore on the challenges and opportunities for the ASEAN region.

Baroness Amos spoke of the crisis of public confidence in social democracy in the west and post-1945 international and multilateral order, asking whether the countries of ASEAN can champion a bold but distinctly south-east Asian approach to multilateralism.

She said the world faced an “unprecedented set of global challenges, threats and unsolved crises” where we are “struggling to make sense of conflict, mass migration and refugees flows, inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, threats to civil liberties, religious fundamentalism.”

Describing the current climate in the west where “political populists sell simplistic answers to complex problems” she said voter apathy, cynicism and loss of confidence in traditional democratic processes has been exploited for political gain.

Looking at the ASEAN region, Baroness Amos asked: “Can ASEAN learn the lessons of other regional organisations, particularly the EU where it's member states have lost touch with their citizens and failed to be accountable - and, the US which has lost moral authority?”

Baroness Amos gave a view on the challenges and opportunities which included getting the balance right between public spending, regulation and stimulating the private sector to create innovation, jobs and growth, and free trade and freer movement of labour, which needs to be fair to people and the environment. She added that human rights, rule of law and democracy are all big issues which also need to be considered in a region with mixed political systems and outlooks.

Ending her talk Baroness Amos said: “I take comfort from the sustained interest and engagement from young people in the state of the world…  It is our young people who will make the difference. They are the global leaders of the future and I sincerely hope that they will learn from the painful lessons of the past and present.”

Baroness Amos gave the speech at the RSIS as part of an official SOAS visit to Singapore.

A full article reflecting on her speech is due to be published in The Business Times next week.