• Sarah Frohmüller

Setting Guidelines for Sustainable Urbanization – The ASEAN

Updated: Jul 7

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created on August 8th, 1967 by the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Between 1984 and 1999 Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia joined the ASEAN. Aiming to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, the member states intensified their cooperation with i.e. industrial projects.


Reacting to the Vietnam War, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) was signed in 1976, stating ASEAN’s commitment to resolve all differences, disputes and conflicts peacefully. Especially the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of one another has been an important rule until today, but the current coup of the military in Myanmar caused a debate about this aim. In December 2008 the ASEAN Charter came into force, turning ASEAN into a legal entity and aiming to create a single free-trade area in the region.


The “ASEAN Way” stayed the most important rule, prioritizing a consensus-based, non-conflictual way of dealing with problems. With its ten member states, ASEAN had a population of about 655 million people in 2019, which grows approximately 1.1% per year. Resulting from that the ASEAN is often called a global powerhouse with huge potential, projected to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2050.


Influenced by the growth, the topic of the ASEAN at the OLMUN 2021 was “Setting Guidelines for Sustainable Urbanization”. The Chairs of the ASEAN were Rasmus Conrad and Younes El Guernaoui and the committee was held in-person.


About 50 % of all people living in the ASEAN member countries live in urban areas. They make roughly 330 million people and it is prognosed that an additional 70 million will join them by 2025 and 175 million by 2050. Due to urban growth the urban population grows by 3 percent every year and has a big impact on the middle weight cities with populations between 500.00 and 5 million inhabitants. Issues like income inequality, the establishment of slums, uncontrolled urban sprawl, air pollution and environmental damage have a massive negative impact on the sustainability of cities. But the rapid urbanization could also offer the chance to build more sustainable, resource efficient and inclusive infrastructure for future cities.


The first committee session on Wednesday started with an icebreaker and a game of guessing national anthems was played. After that policy statements were presented and although the committee consisted of many first-timers, many took this chance. The lobbying session followed in which 2 resolutions by the delegations of Cambodia and Vietnam were drafted, which included many details and had much potential. In conclusion the first day was both productive as well as funny. Furthermore, the situation of being together in person offered the chance for many great punishments.


On Thursday morning the committee welcomed a guest speaker, Sebastian Schmidt from the TU Braunschweig of the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism. He has worked as an architect in Southeast Asia for many years and in his presentation, he talked about the history of urbanization in the region in the past 1000 years until today. He further informed about the problems and possible solutions on how to develop modern projects for the cities to ensure sustainable urbanization. Hearing about his first-hand experience was a great input for the delegates and their debate.


In the afternoon the first resolution, main-submitted by the delegation of Cambodia, was discussed. The resolution already included many great points, which were widely supported by the delegations and only few amendments, some inspired by the guest speaker Sebastian Schmidt, were added. In the end, the resolution passed.


On Friday the second resolution by the delegation of Vietnam was debated. In the beginning there was some skepticism among the delegates, because many points of the resolution could already be found in the first resolution. Consequently, about half of the resolution was taken out and the rest of the resolution passed.


In general, the committee was quite fun due to many energizers and punishments, not only for the delegates but also for the Chairs. Even with many first-time delegates the committee had many intense debates and the delegates were willing to resolve the committee’s issue.