The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) needs to enhance its regional communication efforts before it can effectively establish its proposed economic community in 2015, the results of a survey showed.

“The overall level of understanding for both businesses and the general public is still low due to a lack of interest and ineffective use of available communication channels,” the conclusion of the Survey on Asean Community Building Efforts wrote.

According to the poll, while over 80 percent of the populations living in the capital cities of the regional consortium are familiar with the Asean name, 76 percent of people lack a basic understanding about what the group actually does.

However, the challenge now is for Asean to intensify its imprint and understanding among its citizens in capital cities and rural communities alike, the survey said.

It blamed the ineffectiveness in communication between the organization and its citizens — which has resulted in low levels of understanding and awareness in the Asean community — mostly on language barriers and differences in educational levels among member states.

It recommended the creation of a more unified and simplified understanding of the community, including in local languages, alongside the official group language, English.

To enhance the communication strategy, the survey said that three key elements needed to be considered. The first issue mentioned was to make unfamiliar issues more familiar.

Communication should also move from a conceptual message to a concrete one and be able to demonstrate the real cost and benefit of a single community, according to the survey.

It said, however, that communication messages needed also to be adapted to different audiences, with the key targets being businesses and the general public.

The survey recommended that for businesses, a clear policy on the free flow of goods and services, the differences in competitiveness among members states and the impact of the anticipated free movement of skilled labor should be addressed.

For the general public, the focus should be on the organization and community’s ability to bring peace and security to all Asean citizens, improve its economic situation and create more job opportunities.

The survey also singled out the social media and partnership with civil society organizations and industry associations as the recommended platform to promote interaction among Asean citizens.

Asean was established in 1967 by five states — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand — but its membership has since doubled to include, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. –Jakarta Globe