With its 50th anniversary occurring this year in 2017, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has transformed the political, economic, social, and cultural landscape of the region. Once formed as a result of geo-political security concerns, ASEAN has been a major mechanism in promoting and maintaining regional peace, security, and stability, spurring economic growth and development, and cultivating a habit of dialogue. Many institutions around the world have taken notice of the emerging significance of ASEAN; dozens of research and academic centers spanning the globe that focus on Southeast Asia, and in particular, ASEAN, have been established in order to critically analyze current events, examine bilateral and multilateral relations between ASEAN and other nation-states, and conduct research on a variety of ASEAN-related topics.
However, there is no formal global network to link and connect the over 70 institutions in more than twenty countries, and consequently there is a lack of cooperation and collaborations among like-minded institutions. Therefore, The University of Cambodia, based in Phnom Penh, has launched the Global Network of ASEAN Study Centers (GNASC). A Cambodian initiative, the GNASC acts as the central coordinating organization of worldwide research and education centers that focus on Southeast Asia, specifically ASEAN, in order to connect stakeholders around the world, promote and facilitate cooperation and shared learning among researchers and institutions, and disseminate information and research about ASEAN and the activities and research of its members.
The objectives of GNASC are as follows:
1. To provide ASEAN Study Centers worldwide the opportunity to network and foster collaborations with other stakeholders
2. To connect researchers and other individuals interested in ASEAN with formal institutions
3. To highlight and promote cutting-edge research related to ASEAN
4. To facilitate collaborative research efforts
5. To serve as a forum for dialogue, exchanging ideas, and sharing information and ideas
6. To promote ASEAN awareness
7. To foster a culture of dialogue, research, and learning by organizing a yearly conference
8. To support ASEAN community development
9. To act as a bridge between top-level officials and the community
GNASC was founded to help fill the gap in ASEAN-related research, and there is currently a lack of teaching materials for information related to ASEAN, especially in the ten country region itself. GNASC will provide an abundance of materials for teachers, instructors, and professors to educate their students. The annual conference of GNASC members and supporters (entitled the ASEAN Global Forum) will provide countless networking opportunities between universities, research centers, and like-minded institutions worldwide, as well as enhance people-to-people connections, and will help avoid the duplication of research efforts and projects, as Centers can see what others are doing. Thus, research efforts would be streamlined and made more efficient. GNASC aims to act as the most practical approach for pulling funding and resources together, thus allowing ASEAN-related centers to be more influential and dynamic than by working individually.