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What is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations?

Michael Linn
Michael Linn

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967 to promote economic, cultural, technical and political cooperation and advancement of Southeast Asian nations. ASEAN started with five member nations — Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. These five nations' prime ministers met in Bangkok, Thailand, and ratified the organization’s founding declaration, known as the Bangkok, or ASEAN, Declaration, which consisted of five articles and included a provision that the group would be open to all Southeast Asian countries.

At the core of the Bangkok Declaration, the five original articles stipulated the aims and purposes of the association. Some of the main goals of the declaration were to foster peace and stability within the region through collaboration and respect for the internal sovereignty of Southeast Asian nations. Born out of a regional dispute between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was partially created as a way of alleviating further conflict. Another motivation for forming the association was to unite the disparately separated and fragmented Southeast Asian economy to stimulate economic growth and end reliance on highly industrialized nations.

The flag of Indonesia, which is a member of ASEAN.
The flag of Indonesia, which is a member of ASEAN.

As of 2010, with the addition of Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Brunei, 10 member states make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Member states meet on a regular basis for an organizational meeting called the ASEAN Summit, during which they work to solve regional issues. The region also hosts larger meetings, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) that includes the leaders of 16 East Asian nations, and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which seeks to increase ties between Asia and Europe.

ASEAN membership started with five member nations in 1967, but has grown considerably.
ASEAN membership started with five member nations in 1967, but has grown considerably.

During the ninth ASEAN Summit in 2003, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations resolved to adopt a blueprint for a comprehensive ASEAN community that was based on three pillars: economic community, the socio-cultural community, and the political-security community. These three pillars are defined by a planned road map that outlines a time table for completion. Goals of the community blueprint reflect the founding principles of the Bangkok Declaration.

ASEAN includes Malaysia.
ASEAN includes Malaysia.

The programs implemented by the Association of Southeast Nations include a regional time standard, called ASEAN common time, and the Blue Card System, which is a regional motor vehicle insurance plan that instituted coverage across ASEAN member nations. Another program devised by the association in cooperation with China and South Korea was the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI). The CMI created a currency reserve, denominated as an Asian monetary unit that could be used to alleviate short-term financial liquidity problems of participating nations.

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    • The flag of Indonesia, which is a member of ASEAN.
      By: Carsten Reisinger
      The flag of Indonesia, which is a member of ASEAN.
    • ASEAN membership started with five member nations in 1967, but has grown considerably.
      By: Chuck Hagel
      ASEAN membership started with five member nations in 1967, but has grown considerably.
    • ASEAN includes Malaysia.
      By: Iryna Volina
      ASEAN includes Malaysia.