US People-to-People Engagement with ASEAN

Participants in the Brunei-U.S. English Language Program for (Click on image to enlarge)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry singled out the Brunei-U.S. English Language Enrichment Program for ASEAN, an initiative that is cooperatively administered by the East-West Center and the University of Brunei Darussalam, in his opening remarks at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brunei. Secretary Kerry explained that the United States places great emphasis upon “deepening our people to people ties with ASEAN nations” which he referred to as “the foundation of our long term relationship.”

The Brunei-U.S. English Language Enrichment Program for ASEAN was officially launched by then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2012, with the goal of strengthening ASEAN integration through the promotion of English language proficiency and the enhancement of cross-cultural interaction.

The East-West Center welcomed the second class of officers, diplomats and teacher-trainers from all ten ASEAN countries to Hawai‘i on July 1 for a four-week intensive English language course, part of the eleven week program in partnership with the University of Brunei Darussalam. This program, along with the Fulbright Exchange of U.S.-ASEAN Scholars, is another example of U.S.-led people-to-people engagement with ASEAN member states.

Secretary Kerry also reiterated U.S. support for the establishment of the ASEAN economic community by the end of 2015. A key goal of the Brunei-U.S. English Language Enrichment Program for ASEAN is to facilitate the use of the English language as a medium of communication between ASEAN government and institution officials as they work towards implementing the ASEAN economic community. He further highlighted that by 2020 nearly half of Southeast Asia’s 600 million people will be defined as middle class, and the economic opportunities that this presents both for the United States and ASEAN.

Secretary Kerry further confirmed that the United States is “committed to ensuring a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Southeast Asia” across a broad range of traditional and nontraditional security issues including human trafficking, nonproliferation, humanitarian assistance, wildlife trafficking and disaster relief, and he singled out maritime and cyber security as “two issues of particular concern.” Secretary Kerry explained to his audience that “a significant part of the 21st century will be written right here in Asia, and much of that history will be driven by what happens in Southeast Asia. This is why the United States believes that our relationship with ASEAN is of the highest importance.”

The full range of U.S. political-security, economic, and socio-cultural engagement initiatives with ASEAN can be found here: The ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting Fact Sheet