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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Promoting sustainable food systems and achieving food security require regional cooperation. The reason is that addressing all these issues cannot be solely done by a single country. Various issues are interrelated, cross-border, trans-boundary in nature. And therefore one should recognise the need that while focusing effort in respective country there is a need to enhance regional cooperation. But despite attempt of promoting regional cooperation, we recognise that there are challenges and limitations. This is, for example, in terms of capacity of government officials who have been over the past number of years focusing on domestic issues without having a proper understanding of regional context. They may not be equipped with proper data, information and capacity to promote cross-border collaboration.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds The issues of lack of coordination arrangement, harmonised approach, where they can act together in order to address cross-border trans-boundary issues is still remain to be seen. All of these limitations should be considered as part of the implementation of ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework (AIFS) and see how best this should better address domestic interests with regional impact. Perhaps it is best to explain deeper in a few examples. The first example is over the issues of water scarcity. Water scarcity over the past number of years [is] becoming an extreme concern due to water multiple resource use– for consumption, for industry, and also for agriculture.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds Addressing water scarcity, we need to look into a better understanding of water regime, the trend of the water availability, and putting in place governance systems where stakeholder concern– not within the country, but the country involved– to understand how water should be shared and managed. Putting in place such a system requires a lot of political commitment. And we do hope that our political leaders will continue to exert the effort to really put in place a proper framework so that water scarcity can be better addressed for the purpose of food system and food security in the region. Another example that I can mention is about the aquatic resources.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds As we all know, that aquatic resources– fish and other seafood– disrespect all political boundaries. Fish aquatic resources migrate from country to other country. To really properly manage food system for fisheries and aquaculture, not only putting in place management in respective countries. But they need to really understand the need to properly manage resources that migrate across the countries. This is also implying that they need to understand about harmonisation of management measures, sharing information about the fishing activities, so that what problem occurs in one country will not be shifted to the other country. And ASEAN collectively can manage cross-border resources, trans-boundary resources, in a sustainable manner so that fishery aquaculture will continue to contribute to food security.

Challenges to regional cooperation

Major themes in this course have included the alignment of food policy and natural resource objectives, the sharing of information by actors in food systems, and the need to think and interact across sectors. In this video, Suriyan Vichitlekarn, of GIZ, discusses some of the challenges to cooperation among ASEAN Member States.

The obstacles to cooperation are many, and complex in themselves. Managing transboundary, common pool resource issues, such as the Mekong River, is complicated in times of plenty, and more so in times of scarcity. Despite these challenges, the obstacles must be overcome if the region is going to prosper in the long run. The drought that the region has been facing has put ASEAN to the test, and regional cooperation will be crucial.


What are the main obstacles to governments being able to come together to collaborate on common issues and take action towards mutually beneficial outcomes? Are there any opportunities or platforms that you have learned about in this course that could be particularly useful for addressing this issue?

Where are the divides?

Resource management is clearly a significant challenge, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in its 2014 regional rice strategy report, also identified several other areas in which ASEAN countries need to cooperate. It distinguished between easier and more difficult areas:

Relatively less divisive issues (relatively easier to cooperate)

  • Sharing of technology and knowledge
  • Infrastructure and connectivity
  • Food safety and harmonization of standards
  • Information systems
  • Reserves for emergencies
  • Rice futures market (ASEAN region)

  • Relatively more divisive issues (relatively difficult to cooperate)

  • Trade liberalization – rice is on the sensitive list and has many non-tariff barriers (NTBs)
  • Bilateral supply/price assurance agreements (e.g. government-to-government sales of rice)
  • Policy coordination (effective ASEAN Rice Trade Forum)
  • Positions on the World Trade Organization
  • Source:

    FAO (2014). A regional rice strategy for sustainable food security in Asia and the Pacific. Food and Agriculture Organization, Bangkok.

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    This video is from the free online course:

    Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

    Stockholm Environment Institute