It's been a tough year for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as tensions over China's incursions into the South China Sea have challenged its long-running practices.
Asean was originally founded on August 8, 1967, through the signing of the Bangkok Declaration by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand to promote economic cooperation and regional stability. Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia joined later.
The organization has long drawn flak for its adherence to the "Asean way," which entails decision-making by consensus and a non-interventionist approach.
That's dented its ability to respond forcefully to tensions in the South China Sea. China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, a massive body of water that stretches about 1,200 miles from the Chinese mainland; many countries have objected to those claims. Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Indonesia all claim territorial rights there.
Last month, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case over the U.N. Convention on the law of the sea, rejecting China's claims.
But Asean's response to the Hague ruling had been considered weak, with Beijing-ally Cambodia blocking a stronger statement.
"It cannot be denied that decision-making by consensus degrades Asean's ability to act on controversial issues," Bilahari Kausikan, the ambassador-at-large at the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during a speech on August 4 at a private Asean-related event at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center.