KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 – The two-day 26th ASEAN Summit, which kicks off here this Sunday (April 26), will focus among others on the progress made towards establishing the ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 and charting the next course to propel the regional grouping to greater heights.
The annual summit, gathering the leaders from all ten members of the grouping, comes at an important time as ASEAN members are working hard to realise the establishment of the long dreamt ASEAN Community, which aims at deeper and wider regional integration.
The ASEAN Summit, first held in 1976 in Indonesia, will provide the ASEAN leaders an opportunity to take stock of and review efforts and challenges still need to be tackled, towards establishing a politically cohesive and an economically integrated and socially responsible ASEAN Community.
Other ASEAN Summit related meetings including committee level meetings and the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) will precede the Summit, to be attended by ASEAN Heads of State/Governments. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) will be held on April 26.
Besides these, in conjunction with the 26th ASEAN Summit, the 11th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit and the 9th Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit will be held in Langkawi on April 28.
As the chairman of ASEAN this year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to give a press conference at the end of the ASEAN Summit and the two sub-regional groupings summit in Langkawi on April 28, where the leaders will gather for their retreat a day earlier.
At the ASEAN Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) on April 27, the leaders are slated for a busy schedule, where they will also attend the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC), ASEAN Leaders Interface with Representatives of ASEAN Youth and ASEAN Leaders Interface with Representatives of Civil Society Organisations.
Formed on Aug 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, ASEAN’s membership has expanded to include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Themed ‘Our People, Our Community, Our Vision’, Malaysia’s vision throughout the chairmanship, which it assumed on Jan 1 from Myanmar, is the creation of a people-centred ASEAN involving all sectors of society in the grouping’s activities.
It is in line with this theme that the Summit also includes Langkawi, with the objective of bringing ASEAN closer to the people. Since the establishment of ASEAN in 1967, Malaysia is hosting the ASEAN Summit for the third time, after 1977 and 1997. Malaysia will also host the 27th ASEAN Summit in November.
ASEAN leaders are also expected to have bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the 26th Summit. At this summit, ASEAN leaders are also expected to deliberate on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision. Malaysia as the ASEAN 2015 chairman has been tasked to lead the process of formulating the post-2015 ASEAN vision, which is seen to be crucial for the ASEAN Community to continue progressing and prosper based on the spirit of oneness as one community.
The ASEAN Community is premised on the three pillars of cooperation, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Ensuring the priority measures and initiatives for the ASEAN community are in place and the integration process continues progressively beyond 2015 is Malaysia’s key focus during its chairmanship.
The ASEAN Community will among others result in a deeper and wider regional integration that would enable ASEAN to be more competitive globally and ensure its leadership role in the evolving regional architecture. In line with Malaysia’s vision throughout the chairmanship, Malaysia has also proposed that ASEAN leaders adopt a Declaration on a People-Centred ASEAN as well as a Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), which are to be decided by the leaders.
If adopted, the GMM could be considered a success for Malaysia which has been actively promoting moderation in dealing with extremism. At the 20th ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in April 2012, ASEAN leaders endorsed a concept paper on the GMM, which was among the main outcome documents.
The call for GMM was first made by Najib in his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, when he urged moderates from all faiths to reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism, and to marginalise extremists.
The proposed Declaration on a People-Centred ASEAN is also in line with Malaysia’s vision as Malaysia wants to create more opportunites for greater engagement of the peoples, and the ASEAN Community itself’s ultimate aim is about the people, to bring about positive changes to the livelihood and well being of its more than 600 million citizens.
Malaysia also in its Chairman’s Statement will outline Malaysia’s eight priorities for ASEAN during the chairmanship, with formally establishing the ASEAN Community as topping the priorities. Other priorities are to steer ASEAN closer to its peoples, to strengthen the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the region, to expand intra-ASEAN trade and investment, to strengthen ASEAN institutions, to promote regional peace and security and to enhance ASEAN’s role as a global player.
Besides these, at the summit, ASEAN leaders are also expected to exchange views on current regional and international issues. The 26th ASEAN Summit will be the first event where the leaders gather officially to discuss ASEAN’s agenda and priorities for 2015. One issue which could be expected to surface during their discussions is the esclating tensions in the South China Sea.
ASEAN is currently intensifying efforts towards achieving the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and in this context, efforts have been going on for many years towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).