Coordinator of Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma) Debbie Stothard said the fourth pillar would serve as a critically needed dynamic platform to enable leaders to address the greater climate change issues adequately.
"Climate change and its impacts to Asean countries have changed tremendously and can no longer be viewed as environmental damage only. It is now affecting the daily lives of people in the entire region," she told Bernama ahead of the Asean Summit, slated from April 26 to 27 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.
The current three Asean community pillars are political and security co-operation, economic integration and socio-cultural co-operation.
Last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had proposed the creation of the fourth pillar to address important cross-sectoral issues such as environment and governance issues that cut across the existing three pillars of the 10-nation grouping.
At the opening session of the National Colloquim on Malaysia's chairmanship of Asean, Najib said through the creation of another pillar, Asean would have a new platform for focused discussions on critical issues such as climate change and the transboundary haze problem.
Although the third pillar also include focus on environmental and climate change concerns, Stothard noted that it was important for Asean to establish a specific body to address new challenges, which, unless tackled, could lead to serious consequences for the region.
Universiti Malaya's Department of International and Strategic Studies senior lecturer, Dr. S. Balakrishnan said the idea of creating the fourth pillar indicated the seriousness to safeguard the environment to ensure that the future generations inherited a healthy environment.
"This will augur well for Malaysia and Asean in line with the post Rio+20 frameworks and the Millennium Development Goals. It’s a good strategy and in long run, it will promote the region well.
"That's the way Asean as an organization of the developing Asia will evolve," he told Bernama.
Joycee A.Teodoro, a foreign affairs research specialist from the Philippines, said Asean would be sending out message that it was ready to assume a more significant role with the proposed fourth pillar on environment.
In an article written by her last year, she however warned that Asean needed to thresh out the parameters and discern how changes would affect the existing set-up, particularly vis-à-vis the existing three pillars, in terms of mechanisms and procedures.
"It is crucial to ensure that there is no duplicity. With an additional pillar, the number of meetings will increase and budget constrained, but the more pressing concern are that needs to be raised," she said.
Beyond these issues, Teodoro noted while the proposal offers a new alternative for discussions, it should not merely provide or serve as a platform, but a platform to strengthen the organization.
Source: My Sinchew | 22 April 2015