The ASEAN Charter – Bulleted Summary

It is finally available for download as an ISO Standard PDF file, the official and final “The ASEAN Charter” with signatures of all member states.

Get your own copy by downloading free-of-charge: The ASEAN Charter. (If you haven’t noticed, written on the PDF document is the not-so-new official URL: www.asean.org.)

So for an ordinary citizen like me, what are the interesting bits and sections of the ASEAN Charter? Read on to know what interests me most. (Note: I did not include Human Rights sections.)

First things first, if you want the book itself, its code is ISBN 978-979-3496-62-7. First published on December 2007 and first reprint on January 2008. Second, my comments are in red, like so.

The first bolded words of the ASEAN Charter:

  • We, the Peoples
  • Noting – with satisfaction the significant achievements and expansion of ASEAN…
  • Recalling – the decisions to establish an ASEAN Charter…
  • Mindful – of the existence of mutual interests and interdependence among the peoples and Member States of ASEAN… which are bound by …, …, and shared destiny
  • Inspired – by and united under One Vision, One Identity, and One Caring and Sharing Community
  • United – by a common desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security, and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress…
  • Respecting – the fundamental importance of amity and cooperation, …, equality, …, non-interference, consensus, and unity in diversity
  • Adhering – to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, and good governance, respect for, and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Resolved – to ensure sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations…
  • Convinced – of the need to strengthen existing bonds of regional solidarity to realise an ASEAN Community…
  • Committed – to intensifying community building through enhanced regional cooperation and integration, in particular by establishing an ASEAN Community comprising the ASEAN Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community
  • Hereby Decide – to establish, through this Charter, the legal and institutional framework for ASEAN
  • And to this End, the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of ASEAN, assembled in Singapore on the historic occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN, have agreed to this Charter

Interesting enough? Here are the next more interesting parts:
Article 1: Purposes

  • #3: “to preserve Southeast Asia as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction; (ok, still safe for us)
  • #5: “to create a single market and production base which is stable, prosperous, highly competitive and economically integrated with effective facilitation for trade and investment in which there is free flow of goods, services and investment; faciliated movement of business persons, professionals, talents and labour; and freer flow of capital;(One ASEAN Passport? One ASEAN Visa? ASEAN citizens open-border policy? I sure hope!)
  • #13: “to promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building;
  • #14: “to promote an ASEAN identity through the fostering of greater awareness of the diverse culture and heritage of the region;

Article 2: Principles
#2 “ASEAN and its Member States shall act in accordance with the following Principles:

  • (e) non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN Member States; (in a way, good enough, the peoples of ASEAN and its respective governments are not yet ready to be meddled with by its neighbors. Until then, we really should maintain non-interference.)
  • (f) respect for the right of every Member State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion and coercion; (If I understood this correctly, then the ASEAN must not interfere, subvert, or force Myanmar to go back to a democratic form of government, that is if this Charter takes into force. If for this alone, Myanmar has every reason to ratify the Charter.)
  • (h) adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government;
  • (i) respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice; (Many Filipinos are in favor of the Charter mainly because of this.)
  • (l) respect for the different cultures, languages, and religions of the peoples of ASEAN, while emphasising their common values in the spirit of unity in diversity; (A long way to go, trust me. Through my conversation with our brothers and sisters from Lao, Cambodia, and Viet Nam, I learned how much “religion” can affect ASEAN. For someone who is living in a country where there are lots of religion and as such, we are so used to “scams”, “pretenders/fakes”, “using religion for business”, “hostile/forceful conversion to their faith”, “conversion tactics”, you get the idea, we took these for granted. In the countries I mentioned, the situation is very different, not that they are not used to it, but some religious leaders have a strong view against the other religions (I’m referring to all sides). Something ASEAN must put an attention to and spend an effort if we truly want respect for each other.)

Article 5: Rights and Obligations

  • #2: Member States shall take all necessary measures, including the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation, to effectively implement the provisions of this Charter and to comply with all obligations of membership;

Article 6: Adminission of New Members
#2: Admission shall be based on the following criteria (again only those that is interesting to me)

  • (a) location in the recognised geographical region of Southeast Asia; (This only means one thing: Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste will never be part of ASEAN unless they are geographically recognized as part of “South-East Asia”. If you are not aware, these two are have shown interest in joining the ASEAN.)
  • (b) recognition by all ASEAN Member States;

#4: An applicant State shall be admitted to ASEAN upon signing an Instrument of Accession to the Charter

Article 7: ASEAN Summit
#3: ASEAN Summit Meetings shall be:

  • held twice annually, and be hosted by the Member State holding the ASEAN Chairmanship; (We will hear more of ASEAN every year, a positive thing, helping in the awareness of ASEAN.)
  • convened, whenever necessary, as special or ad hoc meetings to be chaired by the Member State holding the ASEAN Charimanship, at venues to be agreed upon by ASEAN Member States

Article 9: ASEAN Community Councils

  • #1: The ASEAN Community Councils shall comprise the ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, ASEAN Economic Community Council, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council; (ie. The 3 Pillars of ASEAN.)
  • #5: Each ASEAN Community Council shall meet at least twice a year and shall be chaired by the appropriate Minister from the Member State holding the ASEAN Chairmanship;

Article 13: ASEAN National Secretariats
Each ASEAN Member State shall establish an ASEAN National Secretariat which shall:

  • (a) serve as the national focal point;
  • (b) be the repository of information on all ASEAN matters at the national level;
  • (c) coordinate the implementation of ASEAN decisions at the national level;
  • (d) coordinate and support the national preparations of ASEAN meetings;
  • (e) promote ASEAN identity and awareness at the national level;
  • (f) contribute to ASEAN community building;

(For my country, Philippines, I will keep watch and observe if there are any efforts as stated by Article 13.)

Article 20: Consultation and Consensus

  • #1: As a basic principle, decision-making in ASEAN shall be based on consultation and consensus;

(It seems that it is still consensus-based, not voting. As I’m not an expert in the difference of the two, I do not know if it is good for us. Though I believe, voting is much faster and more effective.)

Article 30: Operational Budget and Finances of the ASEAN Secretariat

  • #2: The operational budget of the ASEAN Secretariat shall be met by ASEAN Member States through equal annual contributions which shall be remitted in a timely manner;

(If I’m not mistaken, Member States are already providing annual contributions pre-Charter, however, if you are not, then Article 30 of the ASEAN Charter states it. Now you know where some of your taxes are going.)

Article 34: Working Language of ASEAN

  • The working language of ASEAN shall be English.

(I do not know if “working” here refers to “work” or as a “common” language. I think it is both, and as such, ASEAN Member States must step up their teaching of the English language to all its peoples. And to my fellow ASEAN brothers and sisters, my English is not that good, but I still do speak English. Do not get discouraged, it is better to try than not to. Your effort counts and weighs more than those who knows nothing but criticize people.)

Article 35: ASEAN Identity

  • ASEAN shall promote its common ASEAN identity and a sense of belonging among its peoples in order to achieve its shared destiny, goals, and values. (we still need to define what an “ASEAN Identity” really is. A greater awareness of the “diverse culture and heritage” is not in itself the “identity”. Questions like “who are we?” or “what is it to be identified as an ASEAN?” should be answered, the answers will define our identity.)

Article 36: ASEAN Motto

  • The ASEAN motto shall be: “One Vision, One Identity, One Community“.

(This is the ASEAN Motto, the ASEAN People’s Motto.)

Article 37: ASEAN Flag

  • The ASEAN Flag represents a stable, peaceful, united and dynamic ASEAN;
  • The colours of the Flag – blue, red, white, and yellow – represent the main colours of the flags of all the ASEAN Member States;
  • The blue represents peace and stability;
  • Red depicts courage and dynamism;
  • White shows purity;
  • Yellow symbolises prosperity;
  • The stalks of padi represent the dream of ASEAN’s Founding Fathers for an ASEAN comprising all the countries in Southeast Asia bound together in friendship and solidarity;
  • The circle represents the unity of ASEAN;

(They should have included a provision wherein Member States are required to raise the ASEAN Flag before their respective National Flags. This could have started with the governments, as we can not expect private institutions and other sectors to follow. But if the People of a particular Member State reacts against it, then maybe another clause should have been added wherein it allows the ASEAN Flag to be raised after the National Flag. South-East Asian’s are nationalistic, there will always be people who will take it as an insult for a flag to be raised prior to the National Flag. (But I won’t, I believe in the ASEAN Dream.))

Article 38: ASEAN Emblem

  • The ASEAN Flag represents a stable, peaceful, united and dynamic ASEAN;
  • The colours of the Flag – blue, red, white, and yellow – represent the main colours of the flags of all the ASEAN Member States;
  • The blue represents peace and stability;
  • Red depicts courage and dynamism;
  • White shows purity;
  • Yellow symbolises prosperity;
  • The stalks of padi represent the dream of ASEAN’s Founding Fathers for an ASEAN comprising all the countries in Southeast Asia bound together in friendship and solidarity;
  • The circle represents the unity of ASEAN;
  • The font used for the word “ASEAN” in the Emblem is lower-case Helvetica in bold;

Article 39: ASEAN Day

  • The eighth of August shall be observed as ASEAN Day.

(The “shall be observed” phrase could be anything, they should have added “a non-working holiday”. Regardless, I am expecting, once this Charter comes into force, all Member States will declare ASEAN Day as a Non-Working Holiday. This will greatly help and impact the awareness of the ASEAN People about and on ASEAN. Member States can also create synchronized or related programs to promote ASEAN. They can also create programs wherein people will have a chance to ask and speak in a (controlled) dialogue. There is no better way to bring ASEAN to the grassroots than by involving and having a dialogue with the people.)

Article 40: ASEAN Anthem

  • ASEAN shall have an anthem.

(Just that. Yes, just that, no typos or errors. The ASEAN Anthem, if I understood it, is still to be composed. But after that, once we have an anthem, what’s next? Well, just like the ASEAN Flag, it is just there. You will only see and hear these symbols during official ASEAN functions (and perhaps ASEAN Day). My suggestion is to make the ASEAN Anthem be played/sung on Member States during their respective Anthem Ceremonies before their National Anthems. This is one great way of promoting ASEAN and will surely impact positively the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Integration process.)

Article 47: Signature, Ratification, Depository, and Entry into Force

  • #1: This Charter shall be signed by all ASEAN Member States;
  • #2: This Charter shall be subject to ratification by all ASEAN Member States in accordance with their respective internal procedures;
  • #3: Instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of ASEAN who shall promptly notify all Member States of each deposit;
  • #4: This Charter shall enter into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of the tenth instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of ASEAN;

Article 48: Amendments

  • #1: Any Member State may propose amendments to the Charter;
  • #2: Proposed amendments to the Charter shall be submitted by the ASEAN Coordinating Council by consensus to the ASEAN Summit for its decision;
  • #3: Amendments to the Charter agreed to by consensus by the ASEAN Summit shall be ratified by all Member States in according with Article 47;
  • #4: An amendment shall enter into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of the last instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of ASEAN;

(The Amendments approval process is the same as the Charter. I do not know why it has to be similar if the ASEAN is already an entity not just simply an organization (if there’s an Amendment, the Charter has been ratified). Ratification and submission of the Instrument of Ratification of all 10 Member States is very time consuming. One way or another, there will be failures because one-out-of-ten countries failed to ratify the amendment(s). This Charter alone is already going through that. I hope they change this one, there is no point having this charter and becoming an entity, if ASEAN can not enforce things like an amendment. If I missed the point, please do enlighten me.)

Article 50: Review

  • This Charter may be reviewed five years after its entry into force or as otherwise determined by the ASEAN Summit.

Signed by:

  • Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei Darussalam
  • Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
  • Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia
  • Bouasone Bouphavanh, Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia
  • General Thein Sein, Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar
  • Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines
  • Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore
  • General Surayud Chulanont (Ret.), Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
  • Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Thanks to all!

Is a self-confessed bibliophile and technophile other than being an early adopter, an avid gamer, a geek, nerd, role-player, anime otaku, and trekker.

His first online project was in 1998 when he launched the unofficial website for Ansalon MUD and his own community forums Laibcoms.Community. By 2003 he created his work blog GM-Yukino which grew into gameshogun™, Snoworld™, and techmagus™.

His website is jcsesecuneta.com and 1way.faith. He also owns Clean Real Food, YourOnly.One, Adorable & Beautiful, and other online properties.

CC BY-SA 4.0 The ASEAN Charter – Bulleted Summary by Yuki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.

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