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uni'wissen 02-2015_ENG

the decisions of ASEAN. These decisions are often difficult to understand yet have an increasing impact on the lives of all citizens, says Rüland. “If one of the greatest goals of the 18th and 19th centuries was to democratize nation states, we will need to devote considerable thought in the future to the question of how international politics can be made more democratic.” Rüland conducts his research from a compara- tive perspective: The European Union (EU) has also been accused of failing to involve the citizens of its member countries in decisions. In ASEAN, however, this tendency is much more pronounced, the political scientist says. The main points of criticism raised not only by Western observers are thus that the organization is elitist and dominated by the individual nation states. The decisions are made by a small circle of high-ranking political functionaries, while members of the national parlia- ments and actors from civil society hardly have any say at all. The cooperation is informal and non-binding, and this makes it largely inefficient. Decisions also require the consensus of all mem- ber states. Unlike in the EU, the countries do not transfer any sovereignty rights to the institution. In fact, the principle of non-intervention in inter- nal affairs is held in high regard by the ASEAN members. “The countries were, with the exception of Thailand, subjected to the colonial rule of foreign powers up until fairly recently. It would be unthinkable for them to again relinquish core areas of their authority,” explains Rüland. The Keyword Is Empowerment ASEAN has enjoyed a certain degree of success despite these limitations. It was founded in 1967 and has been developing steadily ever since into a solid partnership – albeit with a limited “The pressure from below is there and it’s real.” uni wissen 02 2015 Different realities: the business district of Singapore, a city state with great economic power, and a traditional settlement in Laos, one of the poorest countries in the world Photos: Oksana Perkins, Pascal RATEAU (both Fotolia) 25 uni wissen 022015