Banking on Knowledge: The Genesis of the Global Development Network

By Diane Stone | Go to book overview

10

Southeast Asian research institutes and regional cooperation

Helen E.S. Nesadurai and Diane Stone


Introduction

Think tanks, or policy research institutes, have long acted as policy entrepreneurs. First, through their advocacy of preferred policy positions, think tanks have played a key part in policy thinking in national and international affairs by seeking to set agendas, define problems and establish the language of policy. Second, these organisations potentially contribute to governance by supplying information and expertise, and by encouraging exchange between official and other private actors. Third, in global and regional politics think tanks can act as agents of second-track diplomacy. In particular, the leading think tanks of ASEAN 1 countries, which will be the main focus of this paper, have been key initiators in the creation of new formal intergovernmental arrangements involving the wider Asia-Pacific region. Accordingly, this chapter adopts a network frame of analysis. Not only does this kind of analysis recognise the role of informal actors in decision-making processes, it also accommodates the idea that think tanks can be characterised as 'agents of change' that provide a propeller for policy learning and innovative policies.

The focus is on elite or mainstream institutes that have good working relationships with their governments. Some of their network arrangements have come to be regarded as significant precursors to governmental involvement in regional intergovernmental associations such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and, in the field of security, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF; Khong 1995). Although the focus here is on economic cooperation, there are important organisational and individual relationships overlapping into the security field, most particularly but not exclusively through ASEAN's Institutes for Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS). A broader research community of think tanks, university centres and business actors has been involved in non-governmental efforts to promote economic cooperation through regional bodies such as the Pacific Trade and Development Conference (PAFTAD) and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC).

These think tanks have been embedded in networks at three interrelated levels: first, they operate in policy networks within their national constituencies; second, they have formed their own networks, such as ASEAN-ISIS; and third, think tanks operate within regional and international policy networks. We

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