The full implementation of the ambitious goal to create the ASEAN Community is only four years ahead, but up to now the involvement of civil societies and key stakeholders in the regional grouping is still insignificant, a senior ASEAN official warned on Friday.

ASEAN Foundation head Makarim Wibisono acknowledged the leaders and the governments of the 10-member organization have boosted their efforts to ensure the goal of creating the ASEAN Community, but they have not intensively engaged society in making the group a single community by 2015.

“A community is shaped from intensive and quality communications among social, economic, cultural and political leaders, not only the interactions of government officials,” said the former senior Foreign Ministry official.

When problems arise between two countries in ASEAN, government officials must stay calm because they regularly interact and communicate with each other. They know what to do to solve problems.

“But this is not the feeling of most people. So, it is important to intensify contact among the mass media, political parties, militaries and NGOs in ASEAN,” he added.

Citing the theory of political scientist Karl Deutsch, Makarim said government is only one factor, while community is motivated by many elements, such as lawyers, engineers and business people.

“Like in the European Community, they think of Europe. Do we think of ASEAN in the same way?”

Makarim, who was also involved in drafting the ASEAN Security Community, underlined that the most important factor is to raise a common identity of “we feel”. It is not an Indonesian feeling or Malaysian feeling, but “we feel.”

“For example, if an Indonesian migrant worker is abused, we feel that it will affect ASEAN. So far, we haven’t had such feeling,” said Makarim, who was once tipped to head the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

According to Makarim, people still feel ASEAN has not brought significant benefits or impacts to their lives.

They say Brazil had developed economically, not because of Mercusor, but because of the hard work of Brazil itself. This also has happened with India.

The South Asian country has reached its current level of economic growth largely by its own efforts, not because of the SAARC regional grouping. -Yohanna Ririhena, The Jakarta Post, Manado