Backtrack 13 years ago, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN was merely another word in my History textbook. Something we forced ourselves to memorise with the main (or sole) purpose of passing exams.
Things changed when I had the opportunity to participate in the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme in 2013 as a Malaysian delegate. After spending five weeks with 97 vibrant youth from the 10 ASEAN member states, I finally felt and understood what an ASEAN identity meant.
Being ASEAN goes beyond the countries’ geographical location. As symbolised by the ASEAN emblem’s four colours – blue, red, white and yellow, this identity is what holds us together as a region. This is what unites us for progress and development, both now and in the future.
Blue – Peace and stability
Despite the differences in language and culture, we are able to coexist in harmony. This state of amity is an indirect yet essential trait that propels the region towards economic and social stability.
With the implementation of the ASEAN Security Community (ASC), there will be further promotion of peace and security between member countries and the world at large. The ASC would be based on shared norms and rules of good conduct in inter-state relations; effective conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms; and post-conflict peace building initiatives.
Red – Courage and dynamism
We possess a resilient spirit that trudges forward amidst challenges. Be it the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or the 2004 tsunami, we remain fearless and persistent. This dauntlessness is one of the factors that identify us as a region, one whose strength grows over the years.
White – Purity
Purity is more than religious beliefs. Traditions and local customs are held in high regard. It is no wonder that we are known for high collectivism, as well as our soft spoken and respectful nature. This is what sets us apart from other countries worldwide.
Yellow – Prosperity
The ASEAN region is rich in natural resources and talent force – key elements that influence a nation’s prosperity. The ASEAN Economic Community blueprint seeks to establish the region as a single market and production base, making ASEAN more dynamic and competitive. This move will facilitate free flow of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labour. In the long run, ASEAN would be able to maintain and enhance its position globally.
As ASEAN citizens, there is so much to be proud of. Our identity is a force to be reckoned with. As the region continues experiencing vast growth, let’s play a part in realising the motto: “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
By Alanna Tan, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia