It is undeniable that Malaysia has been ahead of everybody else in raising the profile of ASEAN and promoting a sense of “ASEANESS” among its people since 2005. Malaysia always aspires in bringing ASEAN to the next level of development in its community building. As one of the founders of ASEAN, Malaysia has played a very active role in ASEAN with ideas and initiatives that aids to shape ASEAN.
ASEAN Charter is one of the ideas suggested by Malaysia which was mentioned in the Vientiane Plan of Action in 2004. In 2005, Malaysia hosted the summit where there was a declaration to appoint an Eminent Persons Group to come out with recommendations on the charter. All other member countries then contributed their part to the Charter as a consensus.
In addition, Malaysia initiated the of ASEAN+3 summit, namely ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea, which was later renamed as the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) by Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It is responsible for the East Asia Summit (EAS) and created the slogan used as Motto of ASEAN: ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community’.
Now, the ASEAN is composed of 10 nations which are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The year 2015 was very important for ASEAN because that was when they realised the ASEAN Community.
As for Malaysia, 2015 is a crucial year as it is the chair of ASEAN. The creation of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) on 31 December 2015 was one of the goals which would integrate the region’s 600 million people and economies nwith a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.
Malaysia plays an important role in managing such high expectations by guiding 10 ASEAN countries to regional integration in advancing regional stability, building prosperity, and addressing global challenges. The formulation of the “post-2015″ 10-year roadmap for this community-building exercise had been launched by Malaysia.
In National Colloquium on Malaysia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN 2015, Prime Minister Najib Razak emphasized the creation of a “People-Centered ASEAN” and would no longer be only the domain of elite and specialists. This is because ASEAN has been criticized as an elite-driven and state-centric project: the activities and projects of ASEAN are only known among experts, political leaders, and government officials, but little information distributed to the citizens and concerned stakeholders.
Hence, the primary goal of Malaysia is to establish of a “people-centered ASEAN” by creating a greater sense of belonging among the people of ASEAN. This is reflected in the overall -“Our People, Our Community, Our Vision.”
In pursuit of this theme, Malaysia has identified eight priorities to be implemented:
1. Formally establish the ASEAN Community to present an ASEAN that is outward-looking, peaceful, stable, prosperous, and bound together in partnership for dynamic development.
2. Develop ASEAN’s post-2015 vision as guidance for the ASEAN Community to further prosper and grow with a stronger sense of belonging as one community.
3. Steer ASEAN closer to its people as part of the overarching theme of Malaysia’s chairmanship in creating a truly people-centered ASEAN.
4. Strengthen the development of small and medium enterprises (SME) in the region.
5. Expand intra-ASEAN trade and investment, particularly cross-border investments and trade and bring ASEAN to par with other regional arrangements like the European Union and North American Free Trade Agreement.
6. Strengthen ASEAN’s institutions by implementing the recommendations of the High-Level Task Force on Strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat and Reviewing the ASEAN Organs.
7. Promote regional peace and security through moderation as a core value in addressing conflict and finding solutions to issues concerning regional peace and security.
8. Enhance ASEAN’s role as a global player by developing a common platform on global issues of mutual interest and promoting enhanced ties with external parties.
Besides, ONE ASEAN, the ASEAN theme song had been produced by Malaysia as one of the efforts to embody the spirit of ASEAN. The song is about 10 nations setting aside their differences and joining hands together to strive for the betterment of its citizens. We are one under ASEAN.
Please check the link for listen the ONE ASEAN song.
In order to escort the ASEAN toward achieving a people-centered ASEAN, not only Malaysia, but other member states must stay on course and maintain unity despite diversity. Though accomplishing these deliverables will be challenging, ASEAN must endeavor to complete them as they are important for all countries in ASEAN.
By Zyn Ann Tiow, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia