Organization: ASEAN

Event: AMMUN 2002

Student: Abdullah Al Asousi

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The ASEAN Anthem (by Steely Dan)


Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

"Today, ASEAN is not only a well-functioning, indispensable reality in the region. It is a real force to be reckoned with far beyond the region. It is also a trusted partner of the United Nations in the field of developmentÖ"


Kofi Annan

Secretary-General of the United Nations

16 February 2000

I. Brief History of Region

After the withdrawal of the colonial powers, there was a power "vacuum" in South East Asia which was considered a threat and a big problem for the South East Asian countries because this would attract many powers to control the region, so from then the idea of a regional organization in South East Asia was born. Another reason the helped give birth to the ASEAN was the experience from the failure of many organizations. The SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) is an obvious example. It consisted of Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan (until 1973), the Philippines, Thailand, and the USA. It dissolved in 1997 showing the many problems of regional co-operation with far away, separated countries. Another organization that dissolved was the ASA (Association of Southeast Asia). It was a mini organization was only three members. It also dissolved soon after its establishment in 1961 because of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and Indonesia on the one hand and Malaysia on the other. In 1966, another organization was formed, the ASPAC (Asian Pacific Council), but it had the same destiny as its formers. It consisted of a larger group with East Asian nations like Japan and South Korea as well as Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Vietnam and Thailand. It failed in 1975 because of many international issues such as the admission of the People's Republic of China and the eviction of the Republic of China or Taiwan which made it impossible for some of the Council's members to sit at the same conference table.

Reasons other than the failure of may organizations and the strive for a strong regional organization is that most of the South East Asian countries voices weren't globally heard, thus a regional organization between them could lead to one strong voice that would be heard. However, one of the most important but unspoken reason was that the South East Asian members aren't militarily strong, especially against China which frequently uses military threats in the region, such as in the Spratley's islands. Therefore, the South East Asian countries needed a strong united form of cooperation between them that would make them regionally strong. No doubt that all of the five original member countries all wanted this organization. It would help their economies and would ensure a kind of safety for them. However, Indonesia played a significant role in creating the ASEAN because of in 1967 General Suharto started his rule and he wanted to shift his country from the communist Asia that his successor, Sukarno strived for. Thus with all these factors, the ASEAN, on 8 August 1967, was born by the "Bangkok Declaration".


II. Members and Structure

The ASEAN is a regional organization that united five countries in a joint effort to promote economic co-operation and the welfare of their peoples. These five original Member Countries were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand (Brunei Darussalam joined on 8 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Laos and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999).

The ASEAN Summit is held every year with the meeting of the Heads of State and Government. The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (Foreign Ministers) is held on an annual basis. The voting procedure is normal as most regional organizations with one vote for each member country. They discuss many fields and common interests between the ASEAN member countries including agriculture and forestry, economics, energy, environment, finance, information, investment, labor, law, regional haze, rural development and poverty alleviation, science and technology, social welfare, transnational crime, transportation, tourism, and youth. Supporting these ministerial bodies are 29 committees of senior officials and 122 technical working groups. The secretary general is H.E. Redolfo Certeza Severino, JR. from the Philippines. The secretary general serves for a 5 year term and is responsible in initiating, advising, coordinating, and implementing ASEAN activities. The last ASEAN summit was the eighth summit in Cambodia from the forth to the fifth of November.

The ASEAN has several specialized bodies and arrangements promoting inter-governmental cooperation in various fields including: ASEAN University Network, ASEAN-EC Management Centre, ASEAN Centre for Energy, ASEAN Agricultural Development Planning Centre, ASEAN Earthquake Information Centre, ASEAN Poultry Research and Training Centre, ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, ASEAN Rural Youth Development Centre, ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Center, ASEAN Tourism Information Centre, and ASEAN Timber Technology Centre. In addition, ASEAN promotes cooperative activities with organizations with related aims and purposes: ASEAN-Chambers of Commerce and Industry, ASEAN Business Forum, ASEAN Tourism Association, ASEAN Council on Petroleum, ASEAN Ports Association, ASEAN Vegetable Oils Club, and the ASEAN-Institutes for Strategic and International Studies. Furthermore, there are 53 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which have constant relations with ASEAN. In addition to that and in order for it to strengthen its external relations, the ASEAN has established committees composed of heads of diplomatic missions in the following capitals: Brussels, London, Paris, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Canberra, Ottawa, Wellington, Geneva, Seoul, New Delhi, New York, Beijing, Moscow, and Islamabad.


III. Function

The ASEAN Declaration states that the aims and purposes of the Association are: (i) to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations, and (ii) to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. In order to rule on the ASEAN as a successful organization or a failure, one must look at its achievements according to the objectives stated in the ASEAN Declaration (above) in the two main fields: economic, human and social development, and political cooperation with strong external relations.


IV. Budget

The ASEAN covers an area of 45 million square kilometers with a population of 550 million. The combined GDP of the member countries is 737 billion dollars with 720 billion dollars of trade. The budget of the member countries are:

1. Indonesia: revenues: $26 billion, expenditures: $30 billion
2. Philippines: revenues: $10.9 billion, expenditures: $13.8 billion
3. Malaysia: revenues: $20.3 billion, expenditures: $27.2 billion
4. Singapore: revenues: $27.9 billion, expenditures: $19.5 billion
5. Thailand: revenues: $19 billion, expenditures: $21 billion
6. Brunei Darussalam: revenues: $2.5 billion, expenditures: $2.6 billion
7. Vietnam: revenues: $5.3 billion, expenditures: $5.6 billion
8. Laos: revenues: $211 million, expenditures: $462 million
9. Myanmar (Burma): revenues: $7.9 billion, expenditures: $12.2 billion
10. Cambodia: revenues: $363 million, expenditures: $532 million


V. Strengths and Weaknesses

The ASEAN has had many great achievements. First regarding the economic development, the ASEAN significantly strengthened the economies of the member countries. With huge resources of oil, gas, fertiles, building materials, wood, rubber, swan, coffee, and agricultural crops (bananas, pineapples, mangoes) the ASEAN countries were expected to have a big trade and a strong economy. However, when ASEAN was established, trade among the Member Countries was insignificant. Estimates between 1967 and the early 1970s showed that the share of intra-ASEAN trade from the total trade of the Member Countries was between 12 and 15 percent. Thus, some of the earliest economic cooperation schemes of ASEAN were aimed at addressing this situation. One of these was the Preferential Trading Arrangement of 1977, which convened tariff preferences for trade among ASEAN economies. Ten years later, an Enhanced PTA Program was adopted at the Third ASEAN Summit in Manila further increasing intra-ASEAN trade. Another framework to help in economic development is the Framework Agreement on Enhancing Economic Cooperation, adopted at the Fourth ASEAN Summit in Singapore in 1992. It included the launching of a scheme toward an ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA. The strategic objective of AFTA is to increase the ASEAN regionís competitive advantage as a single production unit. The elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers among the member countries is expected to promote greater economic efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness. The Fifth ASEAN Summit held in Bangkok in 1995 adopted the Agenda for Greater Economic Integration, which included the acceleration of the timetable for the realization of AFTA from the original 15-year timeframe to 10 years. In 1997, the ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020, which called for ASEAN Partnership in Dynamic Development aimed at forging closer economic integration within the region. The vision statement also resolved to create a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN Economic Region, in which there is a free flow of goods, services, investments, capital, and equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities. The Hanoi Plan of Action, adopted in 1998, serves as the first in a series of plans of action leading up to the realization of the ASEAN vision.

With all these agreements and frameworks, the ASEAN achieved great economic developments. Within just three years from the launching of AFTA, exports among ASEAN countries grew from 43.26 billion dollars in 1993 to almost 80 billion dollars in 1996, an average yearly growth rate of 28.3 percent. In the process, the share of intra-regional trade from ASEANís total trade rose from 20 percent to almost 25 percent. Tourists from ASEAN countries themselves have been representing an increasingly important share of tourism in the region. In 1996, of the 28.6 million tourist arrivals in ASEAN, 11.2 million, or almost 40 percent, came from within ASEAN itself.

Other achievements of the ASEAN come in the field of humanitarian and social development. Desiring to build a community of caring societies, the ASEAN resolved in 1995 to alleviate functional cooperation to a higher plane to bring shared prosperity to all its members. The Framework for Elevating Functional Cooperation to a Higher Plane was adopted in 1996 with a theme: "Shared prosperity through human development, technological competitiveness, and social cohesiveness." Functional cooperation is guided by the following plans:

ASEAN Plan of Action on Social Development;
ASEAN Plan of Action on Culture and Information;
ASEAN Plan of Action on Science and Technology;
ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment;
ASEAN Plan of Action on Drug Abuse Control; and
ASEAN Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime

It also has many other programs for other social fields including AIDS, rural development, and poverty eradication but the above mention programs and action plans are the more successful.

Regarding political cooperation, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) stated that ASEAN political and security dialogue and cooperation should aim to promote regional peace and stability by enhancing regional flexibility. This flexibility would be achieved by cooperating in all fields based on the principles of self-confidence, self-reliance, mutual respect, cooperation, and solidarity. 

Some of the major political accords of ASEAN are as follows:

ASEAN Declaration, Bangkok, 8 August 1967;
Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality Declaration, Kuala Lumpur, 27 November 1971;
Declaration of ASEAN Concord, Bali, 24 February 1976;
Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, Bali, 24 February 1976;
ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea, Manila, 22 July 1992;
Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, Bangkok, 15 December 1997; and
ASEAN Vision 2020, Kuala Lumpur, 15 December 1997.

In 1992, the ASEAN Heads of State and Government declared that ASEAN should intensify its external dialogues in political and security matters as a means of building cooperative ties with states in the Asia-Pacific region. Two years later, the ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, was established. The ARF aims to promote confidence-building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution in the region. The present participants in the ARF include: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

Through political dialogue and confidence building, no tension has escalated into armed confrontation among ASEAN members since its establishment more than three decades ago.

There are no much weaknesses in the ASEAN. However, the only thing to state about the ASEAN is that East Timor asked the ASEAN to be a member of it, but it still isn't. That is more of an advantage rather than a weakness because East Timor is a small country with a not very strong economy so it won't greatly help the ASEAN. However, the most important reason is that East Timor just recently gained its independence from Indonesia, a member country, after several bloody clashes, so the ASEAN might fail as the past organizations because of tensions between member countries.

Another thing that may arouse in speaking about the weaknesses of the ASEAN is the Economic Crisis of Asia in 1997. Briefly, the 97 Financial Crisis was because of the East Asia currencies unofficially pegging with the dollar and having great investments Japan, so when the Yen started to raise in value, these countries had a big problem of going in great debt. There were two ways to deal with this, either peg with the Yen which would collapse the economy or keep pegging with the dollar and have even greater debts. However, there was a very low costing solution for these East Asian countries and it was for Japan to help by either canceling the debts or controlling its currency. Because this choice didn't cost the East Asian countries much loses, the ASEAN intensely pressured Japan to help. However, neither Japan nor China, the two biggest economies in Asia, agreed to help. That was logical because any help would worsen their economies. Thus, the IMF involved but the ASEAN as a major regional organization also offered funds for countries affected by the financial crisis only if they get the IMF fund and it is inadequate. Adding to that, on December 1997 the heads of state endorsed the Manila Framework, efforts of the IMF, decided to develop a regional surveillance mechanism that would emphasize preventive efforts to avoid financial crises, and reaffirmed their commitment to maintain an open trade and investment environment in ASEAN. Now you are thinking why didn't the ASEAN make such kinds of prevention methods from before, and the answer is that no one predicted that this would happen. There were very few indicators of any financial crisis, so few that even the IMF in the beginning of 1997 predicted a 7.5% average growth!

In general, the ASEAN has succeeded in the fact that no war or tension has happened between ASEAN member countries. Although Myanmar has a military rule and doesn't enjoy good relations with the U.S. (U.S. continues to call it Burma), however this is an internal affair of Myanmar and it shows why the ASEAN has succeeded because it doesn't interfere in internal affairs. The ASEAN stands strong and it's enough to say that it succeeded because it didn't dissolve as its former organizations.


VI. External Relations and Political Allies

Moreover to reaching regional stability, the ASEAN has made major strides in building cooperative ties with states in the Asia-Pacific region. Cooperation with other East Asian countries has accelerated with the holding of an annual dialogue among the leaders of ASEAN, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. In 1997, a joint statement between ASEAN and each of them was signed providing for framework for cooperation towards the 21st century. In November 1999, the leaders of ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea issued a Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation outlining the areas of cooperation among them. The ASEAN Summit of 1992 stated that "ASEAN, as part of an increasingly interdependent world, should intensify cooperative relationships with its Dialogue Partners." Dialogue between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners are held at the Foreign Ministersí level on an annual basis. ASEANís Dialogue Partners include Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, and the United Nations Development Program. ASEAN also promotes cooperation with Pakistan on certain sectors. Most ASEAN Member Countries also participate actively in the activities of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and the East Asia-Latin America Forum (EALAF).

It is of great importance here to mention the relations of the ASEAN with three major countries: United States, Japan, and China. ASEAN enjoys very warm relation with the U.S. and the EU. They are major trade partners, investors, and loaners. The U.S. is very pleased with the ASEAN and keeps on supporting it to the extent that many U.S. officials have denied responsibility of the ASEAN in the Asia financial crisis. As with Japan and China, the Manila Framework presented clearly the strength of ASEAN in trying to strengthen cooperation between Asian economies. Japan and China are key partners and the ASEAN greatly focuses and tries to maintain good relation with them because of the size of their economies in the region. Japan is the major trade partner to the ASEAN. China has strong competition with ASEAN in export markets. Thus it is in the benefit of both sides to keep the good relation between them. As stated above, major economic cooperation is practiced, such as by the Manila Framework that lead to a stronger ASEAN.

With all these achievements in the main fields stated in the objectives (economic and social development, and political and external stability) the ASEAN is regarded to as a very successful organization. It didn't brake up as the former
Asian regional organizations, it maintained stable and peaceful relations between its members along with external countries, and it succeeded in greatly developing in the many fields show above. On top of all that, it stayed as a strong, heard, and united organization as it Hymn states:














Abdullah Al-Asousi, 11A



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