ASEAN is the cornerstone of Malaysian foreign policy. It is both of geo-political significance and economic relevance to Malaysia and also to the nations within this region. Its renunciation of the use of force and promotion of peaceful settlement of disputes has been the foundation to its peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
To adapt itself to a changing regional landscape and future challenges, ASEAN came out with the ASEAN Charter. With the Charter, ASEAN will undergo transformational changes to become a rules-based organisation with legal personality. It reiterates the common principles which bind all 10 ASEAN Member States i.e. rule of law, good governance, principles of democracy and constitutional government; shared commitment and collective responsibility in enhancing regional peace, security and prosperity; and enhanced consultations on matters affecting the common interest of ASEAN.
During Malaysia's chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015, the ASEAN Leaders signed the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community, as well as the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together on 22 November 2015 during the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur. The two declarations were the result of ASEAN’s collective resolve to further integrate ASEAN’s three community pillars - ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).
While the crux of the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community is to commemorate the establishment of an ASEAN Community on 31 December 2015, the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together outlines the general framework to sustain the momentum of regional integration and contribute towards further strengthening the ASEAN Community building efforts for the next 10 years (2016-2025).
ASEAN is determined to accelerate the full implementation of the ASEAN Community’s programme areas, measures and principles, with appropriate flexibility and at the same time recognise the importance for ASEAN Member States to adopt a balanced approach towards achieving all three pillars of the ASEAN Community.
The ASEAN Community is characterized by greater political and security interaction and engagement, a single market and production base, with free flow of goods, services, capital investment and skilled labour and a caring society, focusing on social development, education and human resources development, public health, culture and information, and environmental protection.
The focus for the ASEAN Community over the next decade (2015-2025) will be guided by but not limited to the following broad goals that will further consolidate and strengthen the regional grouping:
- Greater emphasis on the peoples of ASEAN and their well-being;
- Enhance awareness of ASEAN and its Vision of a politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible Community;
- Engage all nationals of ASEAN Member States through effective and innovative platforms to promote commitment and identification with ASEAN policies and regional interests;
- Ensure fundamental freedoms, human rights and better lives for all ASEAN peoples;
- Strengthen capacity to deal with existing and emerging challenges while maintaining ASEAN centrality;
- An outward-looking and global player;
- Implement the ASEAN agenda while pursuing national aspirations which contribute to ASEAN Community building; and
- Strengthen ASEAN Organs and the ASEAN Secretariat.
ASEAN 2025 consists of specific action lines and strategic measures to realise the targets identified. The key aspirations across the three pillars are:
- A rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN in a region of peace, stability and prosperity;
- A consolidated ASEAN Community;
- A dynamic, resilient and harmonious community able to effectively respond to social and economic vulnerabilities and other non-traditional security threats;
- A Community that can respond effectively to challenges affecting ASEAN from within and beyond the region;
- A Community that steadfastly maintains ASEAN centrality in regional mechanisms;
- Strengthened ASEAN unity and cohesiveness to protect its leading and central role in dealing with matters of common concern; and
- Enhanced dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN external partners for mutual benefit and interest.
- A well-integrated and connected economy within the global economic system;
- A business-friendly, trade-facilitative, market driven and predictable environment which inspires investor confidence;
- A region with a key role in global value chains and increasing participation in high value added and knowledge-based activities;
- A competitive and dynamic region that inspires innovation and where businesses of all sizes thrive, and where consumers’ rights are protected;
- A community where the benefits from economic integration are equitably shared among and within ASEAN Member States, including with micro, small and medium enterprises, youth, and women entrepreneurs; and
- A connected region where improvements in transport linkages and infrastructure help peoples and businesses move efficiently and work more productively across borders, expand market reach and strategically source goods and services.
- An inclusive Community that is people-oriented, people-centred and promotes a high quality of life and equitable access to opportunities for all, and engages relevant stakeholders in ASEAN processes;
- A sustainable Community that promotes social development and environmental protection through effective mechanisms to meet current and future needs of the peoples;
- A resilient Community with enhanced capacity to continuously respond and adapt to current challenges and emerging threats; and
- A dynamic, open, creative and adaptive Community with an ASEAN identity reflecting the region’s collective personality, norms, values and beliefs as well as aspirations as one ASEAN Community.
As a founding member of ASEAN, the foreign policy of Malaysia continues to emphasise on the relevance and importance of ASEAN as the forum and catalyst for regional dialogue. ASEAN Dialogue Partnerships, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit have allowed its members to engage leading powers on issues of global and regional importance.
Pursuant to making ASEAN a more effective, closely integrated, rules-based, and people-oriented regional organisation, ASEAN Member States decided to formulate an ASEAN Charter which they eventually signed at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore. The ASEAN Charter will put in place a new legal and institutional framework for ASEAN to improve its implementation, coordination, and decision making process. The Charter has come into force on 15th December 2008.