In the poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” John Godfrey Saxe explains how six blind men viewed a single elephant as six different objects. They looked at it as a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, or a rope.
Likewise, in the Asia-Pacific region, states and institutions differ in the way they see the successes and failures of public administration and governance. They differ in profiles, priorities and commitments in governance. The diversity of political systems has engendered varying levels of democratization in the region. Ethnic and territorial conflicts threaten sovereignty and security among and within states.
In the era of globalization, where we all are “sailing in one boat,” Asia-Pacific region faces greater demands for better infrastructure, transportation and communication systems. This alone is a daunting task for countries that harness limited infrastructure, human and institutional resources. But what poses a more important concern for the region is how its states and institutions can reconcile their differences in interests and commitments towards a public sector that works efficiently.
By 2015, two goals are set to be achieved by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). One is the creation of a fully integrated regional common market. The other is for it and all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to clinch a new climate deal. Although these tasks seem to be unrelated, they are inextricably linked.
On one hand, the outcome of the UNFCCC negotiations will chart the destiny not only of Southeast Asia but also of the entire planet in this era of indubitable climate change. On the other hand, how ASEAN countries extract, utilise and trade their natural resources and power their industries for economic development will bear upon any UNFCCC effort to mitigate and cope with the impact of climate change.
For example, the expected expansion of energy supply infrastructure in the context of economic integration would increase ASEAN’s share of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. The latter is forecast to increase by 5% by 2030 up from 3.5% today. In terms of energy use, ASEAN’s final energy consumption will grow at an annual average rate of 4.4%, from 375 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) to 1,018 MTOE. (Institute of
Energy Economics Japan)
In the field of forestry, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports a total of 43.6 million hectares deforested in the main forest countries of the region between 1995 and 2005, corresponding to a release of about 3.45 million tonnes of carbon.
Globally, without drastic reductions in CO2 emissions, the earth’s temperature could rise by as much as six degrees Celsius by the end of the century [UN IPCC] that could lead to a potentially irreversible catastrophic scenario.