The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

10 Things You Didn’t Know About ASEAN

1-ASEAN will be 50 years old in two years’ time. It started with five founding member countries in 1967 – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei joined it in 1984. ASEAN’s membership further expanded with Viet Nam joining in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999.

2-ASEAN did not have a secretariat until 1976, nine years after its creation. It is based in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and is headed by a Secretary-General. There are about 300 employees in the secretariat.

3-The ASEAN charter entered into force in 2008. The charter gave ASEAN, after more than 40 years of existence, a legal personality and profiled it as a rules-based organisation.

4-Each ASEAN Member State has appointed a Permanent Representative to ASEAN with the rank of Ambassador based in Jakarta. All of them collectively constitute the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR). The CPR is chaired by the ASEAN Member State holding the ASEAN Chairmanship. The CPR supports the work of the ASEAN Community Councils and ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies, coordinates with the ASEAN National Secretariats, liaises with the Secretary-General of ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat on all subjects relevant to its work and facilitates ASEAN cooperation with external partners.

5-Eighty-three non-ASEAN countries have appointed ambassadors to ASEAN.

6-ASEAN has 10 Dialogue Partners. These are Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. ASEAN has also established a Comprehensive Partnership with the United Nations. More countries are keen to be Dialogue Partners, including from as far as Latin America and Europe.

7-If ASEAN were a single country, it would be the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world by GDP. At current trends, it is projected to be the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050.

8-The ASEAN chair – and host of annual ASEAN summits and meetings – rotates yearly among member states, going by alphabetical order. But at times, the order can differ from this pattern. For instance, this year’s Chair is Malaysia, to be followed by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 2016. This is because Lao PDR switched chairmanship slots with Myanmar, which had requested 2014. The Philippines will chair ASEAN in 2017, during its 50th Founding Anniversary.

9-The 8th of August is observed as ASEAN Day, marking the day of its creation through the ASEAN Declaration in 1967. Various activities are held to mark it at the national and regional levels.

10-ASEAN is keeping the momentum of regional integration and community-building through the next 10 years, after the launch of the ASEAN Community in December 2015. ASEAN’s Vision 2025 is a bold, visionary, progressive and forward-looking document to reflect the aspirations of the next generation of ASEAN nationals. It will realise a politically integrated, socially responsible, and a truly people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN.

…And On to ASEAN 2025

ASEAN has just launched the ASEAN Community, but has already put in place the path to ensure that the momentum of the integration process continues over the next 10 years. ASEAN Leaders declared the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community on 31 December 2015 at their 27th Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November. But they also put in place the next phase of its consolidation, further integration and stronger cohesiveness.

Through the ASEAN Leaders’ Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, ASEAN Member States resolved to implement their vision of ASEAN 2025 in a timely and effective manner to push forward their desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress, as well as promote ASEAN interests, ideals and aspirations.

The outcome of a year of planning and intense discussions, ‘ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together’ is a forward-looking roadmap that articulates their vision of ASEAN 10 years from now – one that is “politically cohesive, economically integrated, and socially responsible” and a consolidated community across its three pillars - political-security, economic and socio-cultural. In sum, ASEAN 2025 reaffirms the commitment towards the continuation and consolidation of ASEAN Community-building. ASEAN Leaders have adopted the specific Blueprints for ASEAN Community Vision 2025 in the three pillars. These have action lines/strategic measures that seek to complete, within a specific and limited timeframe, key measures. Community-building over the next decade will build on the experiences and expertise acquired in the preceding 10 years to tackle new challenges, harness new technologies and ensure opportunities for all.

Through the ASEAN Community building process, ASEAN demonstrates to its partners and the world that it is determined to maintain ASEAN’s role in dealing with challenges that affect peace, security and stability in the region.

The broad goals of ASEAN 2025 include putting more emphasis on the peoples of ASEAN and their well-being; the increased awareness of ASEAN; more engagement with the peoples of ASEAN Member States; commitment to fundamental freedoms, human rights and better lives; strengthened capacity to deal with challenges while maintaining ASEAN centrality; remaining an outward-looking and global player; implementing the ASEAN agenda while pursuing national aspirations that contribute to ASEAN Community-building; and strengthening ASEAN organs and the ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN 2025 lays out a vision of an interlinked, thriving community not only for ASEAN peoples, but for ASEAN’s partners.

For ASEAN peoples, ASEAN 2025 means that they will continue to live in a more united, secure, peaceful and cohesive region; enjoy the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, be better prepared against pandemics and natural disasters, enjoy greater prosperity, and benefit from greater job opportunities and connectivity.

For ASEAN’s partners, ASEAN 2025 means engaging with a Community that is committed to and has the capacity to contribute to a peaceful, secure and stable region; can respond effectively to existing and emerging challenges, and is committed to working with external partners to address issues ranging from drug-related crimes to trafficking in persons and people smuggling. Engaging with the ASEAN Community offers more economic, trade and investment opportunities and linkages with an ASEAN that has a greater role and voice in global economic fora and contributes to global economic governance.

FAQs: The ASEAN Community

1 How would you describe the ASEAN Community in brief?

The ASEAN Community will bring the 10 Member States of ASEAN even closer together, as we will be bound by the shared vision of a durable, peaceful, stable and prosperous region. Community-building has three pillars - in the political-security, economic and socio-cultural areas. The establishment of a Community is a significant milestone in ASEAN’s continued evolution as an organisation with a common regional identity, one that is home to some 620 million people aspiring for ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community’.

2 The Community is in place on Dec. 31, 2015. What changes can we expect in the new year?

ASEAN Community-building is an ongoing process, not an overnight transformation. To prepare for its launch, ASEAN Member States have undertaken initiatives under the three ASEAN Community blueprints, aimed at deepening and widening integration. ASEAN Leaders have also adopted the ‘ASEAN Community Vision 2025’ which charts our continued integration and consolidation over the next 10 years.

3 How will the ASEAN Community affect my everyday life? The primary goal of regional integration through the ASEAN Community is to improve the lives of ASEAN’s citizens. The 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on The Establishment of The ASEAN Community, issued by ASEAN Leaders at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015, speaks of their aspiration to establish “a truly rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred Community where our peoples continue to participate in and benefit fully from the ongoing process of ASEAN integration and community-building.” For an ASEAN citizen, the Community will offer opportunities such as a bigger, more open and rules-based market for business, more trade, and increased people-to people interaction through commerce, travel and education, among others.

4 Will I be able to travel freely in the region or work in another ASEAN country?

Various agreements and initiatives within ASEAN have eased travel among ASEAN nationals’ countries, and more are underway.

In the area of employment, the Mutual Recognition Arrangements within ASEAN Community provide for the freer movement of skilled professionals – engineers, nurses, architects, land surveyors, medical doctors and dentists, accountants, and tourism professionals.

5 Some ASEAN members have differences with each other. How will the ASEAN Community help in these?

Like in any family, ASEAN Member States may have differing views on a range of issues, and a number have pending border issues. ASEAN Member States are committed to the ASEAN Charter as their guiding principle, which includes resolving any disputes through peaceful means. Among others, the ‘ASEAN Way’ is about Community and consensus-building, non-violence over confrontation, moderation over extremism, and a peaceful settlement of disputes.

ASEAN has a number of agreements for promoting regional peace, cooperation and solidarity. This includes the 1971 Declaration on the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the 2004 Protocol for Enhanced Dispute Settlement Mechanism for resolving economic-related disputes. The ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea (1992) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002) also play a key role in maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea. A third example of how ASEAN manages cross-border challenges is the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.