APOSS 104 - Norashiqin Toh

Columbia University
June 6, 2023 8-9PM EDT
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Coauthors and affiliations
ASEAN, International Cooperation, International Interventions, Legitimacy, Southeast Asia
What determines when an International Organization acts, and when it does not? IOs are often evaluated for their performance and effectiveness, which requires that action be taken by an IO in the first place. Yet all international organizations have limited resources and bandwidth, and cannot feasibly address every issue that concerns its member states. Rather than evaluating IO action based on issues that they have selected, my focus is instead on the decision-making processes that determine how issues are selected for further action. My paper examines this question in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), by focusing on its responses to domestic crises faced by its member states. Combining archival work at the National Archives of Singapore, elite interviews, fieldwork at the ASEAN Secretariat, and a qualitative comparative analysis, I find that ASEAN tends to act under two conditions – 1) when it believes it has legitimate grounds to do so, either through invitation by the state in crisis, or in the absence of legitimate domestic actors, 2) when there is a risk of external intervention, but only when the member state’s government does not feel like its legitimacy is being threatened by the crisis. While the role of rotating Chairmanships and IO bureaucrats have increasingly been raised as potential explanations for IO-related phenomena, I do not find evidence to support this in the case of ASEAN.
To Act or Not To Act: ASEAN (Non-)Intervention in Domestic Crises