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National and Regional Obligations, the Metaphor of Two-Level Games, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community



This article draws on ideas associated with “two-level games” to focus on the continuing difficulty within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of reconciling national responsibilities and regional commitments. Using this perspective to examine three areas included in the remit of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community—migrant workers, “haze”, and disaster management—it disaggregates some of the complex domestic and international pressures that can lead to varying regional outcomes. Whereas problems with regional cooperation are often simply laid at the door of recalcitrant governments or inadequate regional institutions, this lens foregrounds a different source of difficulties, in which significant domestic constituencies severely constrain what governments can offer to the region. Conceptualizing the national/regional interface in this way, however, also suggests ways through some of the sticking points. This lens therefore has implications for policy, advocacy, ASEAN's communication efforts, and its routine collaborative undertakings.