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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The wild, wild web : explaining variation in ASEAN member-state cyber policy Yau, Justin


Cyberspace, as a global commons not under the jurisdiction of one actor alone, requires regional or global coordination in its governance. With respect to the former, regional organisations comprising multiple state actors have been active in taking a leadership role in governance. However, compliance is not always observed, for various reasons. As such, why might some states comply with the regional organisation’s policy strategy while others do not? This paper focuses on this question by means of examining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has been active in prescribing policy recommendations that its member-states ought to follow. Indeed, there exists a variation in member-state compliance with these policies, and this paper seeks to elaborate on two distinct explanations at separate levels of analysis on why this is the case. The first explanation approaches the question from a state-level perspective, and posits that external leverage exerted by a state actor in China is responsible for creating fluctuations in compliance. The second takes an organisational-level approach and hypothesises that it is ASEAN’s own foundational principles of (1) non-interference in sovereign affairs, and (2) consensus-based decision-making which cause the variation observed. Using qualitative methods of process tracing in examining state documents and case studies of ASEAN’s history in regional governance, this paper concludes that the linkage between external leverage and variation in compliance is weakly seen, and cannot be conclusively verified. On the other hand, through the case study of ASEAN’s governance of regional pollution, it can be seen that variation in compliance can be traced to ASEAN’s inability to do more in regional governance than recommend best policies and use moral suasion to convince its member-states to comply.

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