Association Of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Part I

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in  Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand

Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and  Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten  Member States of ASEAN. 

  • 8th  August is observed as ASEAN Day. The body is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia. 
  • Secretary-General: Lim Jock Hoi 
  • Official Languages: Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil,  Thai and Vietnamese 
  • Working Language: English
One Vision, One Identity, One Community


As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN are: 

  1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to  strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian  Nations; 
  2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule  of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles  of the United Nations Charter; 
  3. To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields; 
  4. To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres; 
  5. To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of their agriculture and  industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of  international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and  communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples; 
  6. To promote Southeast Asian studies; and 
  7. To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.


In their relations with one another, the ASEAN Member States have adopted the following  fundamental principles, as contained in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia  (TAC) of 1976: 

1. Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and  national identity of all nations; 

2. The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference,  subversion or coercion; 

3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another; 

4. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner; 

5. Renunciation of the threat or use of force; and 

6. Effective cooperation among themselves. 


  1. The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders on the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN,  agreed on a shared vision of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward-looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies. 
  2. At the 9th ASEAN Summit in 2003, the ASEAN Leaders resolved that an ASEAN Community shall be established. 
  3. 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 signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015. 
  4. The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security  Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Each  pillar has its own Blueprint, and, together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI)  
  5. Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015. 


The ASEAN Charter serves as a firm foundation in achieving the ASEAN Community by providing legal status and institutional framework for ASEAN. It also codifies ASEAN norms, rules and values; sets clear targets for ASEAN; and presents accountability and compliance. 

The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008. A gathering of the ASEAN Foreign  Ministers was held at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to mark this very historic occasion for ASEAN. 

With the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN will henceforth operate under a new legal framework and establish a number of new organs to boost its community-building process. 

In effect, the ASEAN Charter has become a legally binding agreement among the 10 ASEAN  Member States. 

Genesis of ASEAN 

  • 1967 – ASEAN was established with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok  Declaration) by its founding fathers.  
  • Founding Fathers of ASEAN: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and  Thailand. 
  • 1990s – Membership doubled after the changing conditions in the region following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the Cold War in 1991.  
  • Addition of Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and  Cambodia (1999). 
  • 1995 – Members signed a deal to create a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia.
  • 1997 – Adoption of ASEAN Vision 2020.
  • 2003 – Bali Concord II for the establishment of an ASEAN Community. 
  • 2007 – Cebu Declaration, to accelerate the establishment of the ASEAN Community by  2015. 
  • 2008 – ASEAN Charter comes into force and becomes a legally binding agreement.
  • 2015 – Launch of ASEAN Community. It’s comprised of three pillars:  

∙ ASEAN Political-Security Community 

∙ ASEAN Economic Community 

∙ ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community 

Institution Mechanism 

  • Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States. 
  • ASEAN Summit: The supreme policy-making body of ASEAN. As the highest level of authority in ASEAN, the Summit sets the direction for ASEAN policies and objectives.  Under the Charter, the Summit meets twice a year. 
  • ASEAN Ministerial Councils: The Charter established four important new Ministerial bodies to support the Summit.  

o ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) 

o ASEAN Political-Security Community Council 

o ASEAN Economic Community Council 

o ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council 

  • ASEAN Secretariat: The ASEAN Secretariat was set up in February 1976 by the Foreign  Ministers of ASEAN. It was then housed at the Department of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia in  Jakarta. The existing ASEAN Secretariat at 70A Jalan Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta was established and officiated in 1981 by the then President of Indonesia, H.E. Soeharto. 

o The ASEAN Secretariat’s basic function is to provide for greater efficiency in the  coordination of ASEAN organs and for more effective implementation of ASEAN projects  and activities 

o The ASEAN Secretariat’s mission is to initiate, facilitate and coordinate ASEAN  stakeholder collaboration in realising the purposes and principles of ASEAN as reflected in the ASEAN Charter. 

o The Secretary-General of ASEAN is appointed by the ASEAN Summit for a non-renewable term of office of five years, selected from among nationals of the ASEAN  Member States based on alphabetical rotation. 

  • The Secretary-General of ASEAN shall be assisted by four Deputy Secretaries-General (DSGs). The four DSGs shall be of different nationalities from the  
  • Secretary-General and shall come from four different ASEAN Member States.  
  • The DSGs shall comprise: 

▪ two DSGs are nominated by the Member States on a rotational basis for a non-renewable term of three years, and

▪ two DSGs are openly recruited based on merit for a term of three years, which may be renewed for another three years. 

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor