55TH anniversary celebrated
Strong ASEAN looks to future with youth
ASEAN sees youth as providing the future leaders who will steer the driving wheel to map the future. History has already seen many successful movements organised by youth, the organisation believes, and these movements played a vital role throughout the world: Young people hold on to their ideals dearly regardless of the challenges ahead, and such value is crucial in building a peaceful developed society and maintaining it, especially in an organisation of several countries.
Youth today lives in an advanced environment with exposure to modern communication facilities, a fact that ASEAN says could shape and prepare them better when assuming roles in the societies and making changes. Taking a hint from this, ASEAN through the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY) had set at least four flagship activities, which are the 1st ASEAN Youth Dialogue, the 6th ASEAN Youth Video Contest, the ASEAN Youth Photo Competition and the ASEAN Youth Debate 2022.
These efforts are hoped to jumpstart other initiatives in providing platforms for young people in the ASEAN countries, to build their potential and to be ready to play an active role in addressing current challenges, especially the ones that are unfolding throughout AEAN.
As stipulated in the Declaration of 1967, ASEAN was established with an aim to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, as well as to promote peace and stability through joint endeavours in a spirit of equality and partnership.
The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, or TAC, was signed into force in 1976, embodying fundamental principles of peaceful coexistence and friendly cooperation among the Member States. Over the years, ASEAN has gradually evolved and expanded to include Brunei Darussalam in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999, making up today ten Member States.
From a loose association in 1967, ASEAN has transformed into a rule‐based regional organisation with the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter in 2008 and earned worldwide recognition as a dynamic, inclusive and people-centred Community.
Pillars of ASEAN
The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). It started at the 9th ASEAN Summit in 2003, where the ASEAN leaders resolved that an ASEAN Community should be established. Afterwards, at the 12th ASEAN Summit in January 2007, the leaders affirmed their strong commitment to accelerate the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015, and did so with the signing of the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community.
In brief, the APSC ensures that the peoples and Member States of ASEAN live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment. The AEC aims to transform ASEAN into a stable, prosperous and highly competitive region, with equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities.
The ASCC contributes to realising an ASEAN Community that is people-oriented and socially responsible with a view to achieving enduring solidarity and unity among the peoples and Member States of ASEAN. It seeks to forge a common identity and build a caring and sharing society that is inclusive and where the well-being, livelihood and welfare of the peoples are enhanced. The three pillars are indispensable and deemed vital for the progress of ASEAN and its peoples.
ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners
ASEAN tries to address regional and global issues through various forums that allow the organisation to speak with one voice when dealing with other countries. This diplomatic architecture includes the establishment of dialogue partnerships with countries deemed important to the affairs of the ASEAN Member States. These Dialogue Partners are Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.
The ASEAN Charter itself provides in Article 44 (Status of External Parties) that in the conduct of its external relations, ASEAN Foreign Ministers “may confer on an external party the formal status of Dialogue Partner.” This system is meant to ensure ASEAN centrality in the affairs involving Southeast Asia and that its partners respect the important principles of ASEAN, such as non-interference in internal affairs and consensus-building.
The dialogue partnerships of ASEAN are also platforms of the organisation to engage these countries on equal footing on issues such as security, trade and investment, culture and even non-traditional challenges such as climate change and labour migration.
Aside from its Dialogue Partners, other ASEAN-centric mechanisms for external relations include the ASEAN Plus Three, ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit. All of these allow for dynamic cooperation among countries for the further development of Southeast Asia, as well as to serve as a model for peaceful and progressive regionalism to the rest of the world.
Achievement of ASEAN
After 55 years of establishment and development, ASEAN believes it has made remarkable achievements to become one of the most successful and dynamic cooperation organisations in the world. ASEAN has contributed to building a stable and peaceful environment in Southeast Asia, transforming the region once characterised as conflict-ridden into one that is major conflict-free.
ASEAN has also impressed the world with its outstanding economic development. Before COVID-19, with the annual average gross domestic product growth rate of 5.5% per year for a long period, ASEAN became the fifth-largest economy in the world, with the total combined GDP reaching $3.3 trillion, and the steady decline in poverty from 52% (2019) to 15% currently.
ASEAN’s position in the Asia-Pacific region and the world has continuously improved. So far, 96 non-ASEAN Member States Ambassadors to ASEAN have been accredited. ASEAN has developed partnership with 11 countries, including comprehensive strategic partnership with two countries and strategic partnership with eight countries; 43 countries/entities have become signatories to ASEAN’s TAC. Besides, many countries have increasingly attached importance to ASEAN centrality and expanded cooperation with ASEAN over many years.