Monday, June 21, 2010

The ASEAN Charter

Declaration of Asean Concord II (Bali Concord II)

Asean leaders agreed to establish an “ASEAN Community” supported by three pillars, namely:

 ASEAN Security Community

 ASEAN Economic Community

 ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

In the 37th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia last June 2004, Asean Foreign Ministers agreed to work towards development of an Asean Charter which would reaffirm the regional organization’s goals and principles, particularly:

 Ensuring non-aggression and respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity;

 Promotion and protection of human rights;

 Maintenance of political stability, regional peace and economic progress; and

 The establishment of effective and efficient institutional framework for Asean

In the 10th Asean Summit held at Vientiane on 29 November 2004, Asean leaders directed their Ministers, Senior Officials and Asean Secretariat to continue the work of developing the Asean Charter to:

 Review the frequency of Asean’s mechanism; and

 Review the frequency of Asean’s meetings and rationalize and make them more effective

The Charter should also strengthen the Asean Secretariat in undertaking policy analysis and providing recommendations to Asean Member countries on cooperation.

Eminent Persons Group on the Asean Charter

On 12 December 2005 in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Charter, the leaders agreed on establishing an Eminent Persons Group (EPG). Leaders also tasked their Ministers to establish a High Level Task Force to carry out the drafting of the Asean Charter based of the Declarations and the recommendations of the EPG.

The EPG is tasked to recommend to the Leaders broad policy guidelines on the drafting of the Asean Charter and the directions to take in realizing an Asean Community. Tasked to think “out of the box” and make innovative proposals to make Asean more effective.

Each Asean member country is represented by one eminent person recognized in his country as a highly distinguished and well respected leader. They are not beholden, in their recommendations, to any government of Asean member states. EPG held more than eight (8) meetings and consulted various national and regional stakeholders, including Asean leaders.

In the 12th Asean Summit in Cebu, Philippines, last January 2007, Asean Leaders outlined EPG’s views about Asean, how to strengthen it and recommendations for the Asean Charter. The report contained the following general recommendations:

 Establish greater political commitment within Asean to realize vision of an Asean community;

 Resource mobilization and creation of a special fund to narrow the development gap;

 Creation of measures to ensure compliance and effective implementation (i.e. Dispute Settlement Mechanism);

 Strengthening Organizational Effectiveness;

 Creation of measures that will lead to effective decision making; and

 Creation of people-oriented Asean

Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint for the Asean Charter

The Asean Charter “will serve s a firm foundation in achieving one ASEAN Community by providing an enhanced institutional framework as well as conferring a legal personality for Asean.”

Asean Foreign Ministers agreed on the formation of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) at the 39th AMM in Kuala Lumpur. They were tasked to draft the Asean Charter based on directions given by the leaders and in consideration of the recommendations by the EPG and the relevant Asean documents.

HLTF have had 13 meetings since February 2007 and have reported thrice to the Asean Foreign ministers. HLTF have had dialogues with the following Asean senior officials and stakeholders, namely:

 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

 High Level Task Force on Economic Integration

 Senior Officials attending the Asean Socio-cultural Community Coordination Conference (SOC-COM)

 Asean Inter-parliamentary Assembly (AIPA)

 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand

 Senior Officials attending the Asean Security Community Coordination Conference (ASCCO)

Characteristics of the ASEAN Charter

 A visionary and inspiring document;

 Brief but comprehensive;

 Written in clear, unequivocal statements;

 Flexible and enduring document;

 People-oriented;

 Basis for a cohesive, strong, and rules-based inter-governmental organization

What is the Asean Charter?

The Asean Charter is premised to be the Constitution of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It will provide the constitutional framework for Asean Member States to work together in a rules-based environment where decisions are legally binding. It will be the foundation of member-states to further build on the Asean Community beyond 2015. It was drafted on the form of a treaty and has to be signed by the Heads of States / Government of Asean and ratified by the member-states to go into effect. Hence, it will be registered with the United Nations Secretariat. The four major sources of Asean Charter (draft) include the following:

 EPG Report;

 Directives from Asean Leaders;

 Existing commitments in various Asean milestone documents and agreements since 1967; and

 Guidance from Foreign Ministers

Skeleton of the ASEAN Charter


Chapter I: Purposes and Principles

Chapter II: Legal Personality

Chapter III: Membership

Chapter IV: Organs

Chapter V: Entities Associated with Asean

Chapter VI: Immunities and Privileges

Chapter VII: Decision-Making

Chapter VIII: Settlement of Disputes

Chapter IX: Budget and Finance

Chapter X: Administration and Procedures

Chapter XI: Identity and Symbols

Chapter XII: External Relations

Chapter XIII: General and Final Provisions


Annex 1: Asean Sectoral Ministerial Bodies

Annex 2: Entities Associated with Asean

Annex 3: Asean Flag

Annex 4: Asean Emblem

What is the ASEAN Charter expected to achieve?

The Asean Charter is succinctly captured in its preamble, the history, evolution and vision, and aspiration of Asean, its member-states, and its people. It shall confer a legal personality on Asean. The regional organization also can sue and be sued. It shall strengthen the role and mandate of the Secretary-General of Asean and the Asean Secretariat. The HLTF have agreed on the following Organs:

 Asean Summit

This will comprise the Heads of State / Government of the Member States and be the supreme policy-making body of Asean. Thus, it shall provide the regional organization of Asean into new directions

 Asean Coordinating Council

It shall comprise the Asean Foreign Ministers to prepare for the sessions and meetings of the Asean Summit. Coordinate with the Asean Community Councils in enhancing policy coherence, efficiency, and cooperation among them. The Asean Coordinating Council shall also coordinate the reports of the Asean Community Councils to the Asean Summit.

 Asean Community Councils

These are comprised of the following: (a) Asean Political-Security Community (APSC) Council, (b) Asean Economic Community (AEC) Council, and (c) Asean Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council. It shall have under its purview the relevant Sectoral Ministerial bodies. Each member states shall designate its national representation for each Community Council meeting. Each Community Council shall: (a) Ensure the implementation of the relevant decisions of the Asean Summit, (b) Coordinate the work of the different sectors under its purview, and on issues which cut across the other Communities; and (c) Submit reports and recommendations to the Asean summit on matters under its purview. Each Asean Community Council shall be supported by the relevant senior officials of Asean Member States.

 Asean Sectoral Ministerial Bodies

It shall function in accordance with their respective established mandates. It shall implement agreements and decisions of the Asean Summit and submit reports to their community councils.

 Secretary-General of Asean and Asean Secretariat

The Secretary-General of Asean shall: (a) be appointed by the Asean Summit; (b) have a non-renewable term of office of five years; (c) carry out duties and responsibilities of the post in accordance with the provisions of this Charter and relevant Asean Instruments, protocols and established practices; (d) be the Chief Administrative Officer of Asean; and (e) participate in meetings of the Asean Summit, the Community Councils, the Asean Coordinating Council, and Sectoral Ministerial bodies and other relevant Asean Meetings.

 Committee of Permanent Representatives to Asean

They are appointed by each Asean Member State with the rank of Ambassador, based in Jakarta. It shall support the work of the Asean Community Councils and Sectoral Ministerial bodies. It will coordinate with Asean National Secretariats and other sectoral bodies. It shall liaise with the Secretary-General and Secretariat and facilitate cooperation with Asean external partners.

 Asean National Secretariats

The region’s national secretariats will serve as national focal points; be the repository of information on all Asean matters at the national level; to coordinate the implementation of Asean decisions at national level. It shall coordinate and support national preparations of Asean meetings; to promote Asean identity at national level and contribute to Asean community building.

 Asean Human Rights Body

This is the Philippine initiative in the Asean Charter. During the Ministerial Retreat at the 40th AMM in Manila, the HTLF submitted their Second Progress Report to the Asean Foreign Ministers. Thus, they decided to include in the Asean Charter a provision on the establishment of an Asean human rights body. Te Asean Foreign Ministers also decided that the body shall operate in accordance with the Terms of Reference (TOR) to be determined by the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting.

 Asean Foundation

It will support the Secretary-General of Asean to collaborate with relevant Asean bodies. It shall promote greater awareness of the region’s identity, people-to-people interaction, and close collaboration among business sector, civil society, academia and other stakeholders.

Furthermore, the Asean Charter is expected to enhance the role and functions of the Asean Chair; provide for the establishment of an appropriate dispute settlement mechanism; promote Asean identity and symbols; and strengthen Asean’s external relations to enhance Asean centrality in the processes and for a that Asean has initiated for dialogue and cooperation.

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