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ASEAN Community

At the 9th ASEAN Summit in 2003, ASEAN Leaders resolved pursue greater regional cooperation and integration through the establishment of an “ASEAN Community”. The Community is structured around three pillars of cooperation: security, economic, and socio-cultural, with the security pillar later being expanded to include political cooperation.

The creation of the ASEAN Community is primarily aimed at improving ASEAN’s global political and economic bargaining position, addressing cross-border and regional security threats, and reducing the development gap between ASEAN Member States.

In 2007, ASEAN Member States agreed to accelerate the establishment of this single ASEAN community to 2015, instead of 2020 as originally planned.

The Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015) outlines the steps that ASEAN Member States will take towards establishing the ASEAN Community. The Roadmap includes a “Blueprint” or plan of action for cooperation on each of ASEAN’s three pillars.  Elements of this Roadmap are summarized below.

ASEAN Political-Security Community Blue Print
ASEAN Political-Security Community Blue Print

This Blueprint contains the majority of ASEAN’s policy commitments to human rights and democracy and is the Blueprint under which the ASEAN Intergovernment Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) sits. It aims to establish:

  • A Rules-based Community of shared values and norms
  • A Cohesive, Peaceful, Stable and Resilient Region with shared responsibility for security
  • A Dynamic and Outward-looking Region in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world

A Rules-based Community of Shared Values and Norms

This part of the Blueprint covers a wide range of objectives such as: promoting the rule of law, good governance, democracy and peace and stability in the region; promoting and protecting human rights; combating corruption; adjusting ASEAN’s structure in line with the ASEAN Charter; and creating an effective code of conduct to diffuse territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Measures proposed to achieve the above aims tend to be general, including research, educational activities, dialogue, workshops, seminars, networking and “sharing of best practices.” Only in some areas are specific steps outlined such as encouraging ASEAN Member States to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Body by 2009.

A Cohesive, Peaceful, Stable and Resilient Region with Shared Responsibility for Security

Creating a peaceful and secure region involves military exchanges within the region and an early warning system to prevent the escalation of conflicts. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – a security forum comprised of the 10 ASEAN Member States and 17 other nations – is considered a key part of ensuring regional stability. Counter terrorism efforts are highlighted, as well as developing the capacity of individuals and institutions within ASEAN to resolve conflict.

A Dynamic and Outward-looking Region

This part of the Blueprint also commits ASEAN to enhancing its ties with external actors such as the United Nations and regional organizations like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The Blueprint also proposes increased collaboration between the ASEAN Permanent Missions to the United Nations and other international organizations to further ASEAN interests within these forums.

ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint
ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint

The Economic Blueprint is by far the most developed of the three blueprints and contains specific steps towards integrating the economies of the ASEAN Member States. The Blueprint aims to establish:

  • A Single Market and Production Base
  • A Highly Competitive Economic Region
  • A Region of Equitable Economic Development
  • A Region Fully Integrated into the Global Economy

A Single Market and Production Base

The free flow of goods, services, investment, capital; and skilled labor will be facilitated though the elimination of trade tariffs within ASEAN; standardizing and digitalizing trade and customs procedures; harmonizing investment rules and procedures, relaxing restrictions on capital flows; and facilitating work permissions for skilled ASEAN workers involved in cross border trade.

ASEAN is focusing on the integration of 12 priority economic sectors. Each sector has its own integration “roadmap”. The Blueprint provides for an annual review of these roadmaps and identifies agriculture, fisheries and forestry as priority industries.

A Highly Competitive Economic Region

ASEAN’s economic competitiveness will improved through; introducing a competition policy into all ASEAN Member States by 2015, strengthening consumer protection and intellectual property rights, developing key communication, energy and transport infrastructure and improving collaboration on air and maritime transportation. The Blueprint also commits ASEAN to improving its E-Commerce legal framework.

A Region of Equitable Economic Development

Equitable economic development within ASEAN will be achieved through supporting small – medium business enterprises and encouraging the exchange of technical expertise between ASEAN Member States.

A Region Fully Integrated into the Global Economy

ASEAN integration into the global economy will be achieved by Member States ensuring that all their economic relations are “ASEAN Central;” adopting international-standard production and distribution methods; and providing technical assistance for the less developed ASEAN Member States to keep up with the more advanced ASEAN economies.

ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint
ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint

This Blueprint seeks to create a more “People-Centered ASEAN.” The Blueprint’s goals include improving the position of vulnerable social groups, including migrant workers, and reducing the development gap between ASEAN Member States. Specifically, the Blueprint aims to promote:

  • Human Development
  • Social Welfare and Protection
  • Social Justice and Rights
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • An ASEAN Identity
  • Narrowing the Development Gap

Human Development

Improvements in education, skills and business training and access to science and information technology are seen as key to human development in ASEAN. Universal access to primary education has been set as a 2015 goal and efforts will be undertaken to facilitate access of disadvantaged groups to education. Building the capacity of ASEAN Member States’ public servants is also identified as a priority area.

Social Welfare and Protection

This includes a commitment for ASEAN Member States to intensify efforts to reduce poverty in their respective countries, this includes strengthening social safety nets, improving food security and access to healthcare. Disaster preparedness and risk reduction are also seen as key to social protection.

Social Justice and Rights

This includes steps to protect the rights of women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and migrant workers. Specific actions include: establishing an ASEAN Commission on Women and Child rights, implementing State obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, creating ASEAN-wide networks of social workers, and supporting the work of the Committee on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers to develop a binding ASEAN instrument on the migrant worker rights. Engaging the private sector in improving social justice via Corporate Social Responsibility also identified as a strategy.

Environmental Sustainability

The Blueprint contains a general commitment to addressing global environmental issues and more specific commitments towards managing trans-boundary haze and the movement of hazardous waste and natural resources. Promotion of sustainable development will be done through the use of more environmentally sound technology, environmental education and the harmonization of environmental policies and data.

An ASEAN Identity

An ASEAN identity will be developed by promoting the different cultures of Member States throughout the region. People-to-people exchanges will be increased, particularly amongst the youth. Engagement with civil society, however, is still restricted to “ASEAN affiliated” organizations.

Narrowing the Development Gap

This will be done through the existing Initiative for ASEAN Integration, which forms a part of the 2009-2015 Roadmap.