After serving as a career diplomat and an Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Ethiopia, Hor Nambora, deputy secretary-general for the Cambodian government, has his eyes set on promoting ASEAN growth and inclusion through the ASEAN Foundation. The Post’s Kali Kotoski sat down with him to discuss his vision for promoting the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
What is the purpose of the ASEAN Foundation?
The ASEAN Foundation is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and its primary goal is to promote inclusive development and form regional bonds and cooperation. It was initially established in 1997. In my view they created this foundation to bring awareness of ASEAN not just to member states, but for around the world. It is like the right arm of the ASEAN Secretariat. But I believe that the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN Foundation should be working on the same level to promote economic growth. While the ASEAN Secretariat is the political hand of the 10 countries, the ASEAN Foundation should be used to build relationships through soft power.
What is your vision for the ASEAN Foundation?
First, there are so many meetings about ASEAN in a political sense, but little is being done to show its advantages to the rest of the world. I would change the structure of the organisation and push for a revolving location for the chairmanship. Also, I would go to places like the European Union and the African Union and promote the region’s growth. If you look at the EU and AU they have strong delegations to help promote them. That is something ASEAN Economic Community is lacking. When you want to promote ASEAN, you need to promote all countries.
What economic value can promoting the ASEAN Foundation bring to the region?
It is simple. First you have to develop the relationships and then the businesses will follow once they see the opportunities. And with Cambodia being the last country to join ASEAN, given the chance or the opportunity, it would be able to lead the ASEAN Foundation in a new dynamic direction.
What are some tangible goals that the ASEAN Foundation could accomplish?
The biggest one is that it could push for a single visa for foreign travellers. When you fly into an ASEAN country you should be able to travel easily between the member states like in the EU. The benefits to tourism would show that this really is an inclusive mandate and ASEAN is connected. The other thing that it should promote more is the transferring of knowledge and providing more scholarships so that the community can develop skills together.
How important is to strengthen the bounds between ASEAN countries?
Cambodia very much wants to be a part of ASEAN, but even in many countries nobody knows about. You go to the Cambodian countryside and nobody is aware that we are part of one economic community. And this goes the same for many of the countries in the region. There is a statistic that shows that the potential of ASEAN is unknown. My vision is to go deeper and promote and campaign for ASEAN.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.