ASEAN Charter-2008

With the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter on 15 December 2008, ASEAN will henceforth operate under a new legal framework and establish a number of new organs to boost its community-building process.

The ASEAN Charter has been fully ratified (or accepted in Member States without Parliament or when such ratification cane be done through a Cabinet decision) in all the 10 ASEAN Member States. Singapore was the first to deposit its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, on 7 January 2008; Thailand was the last, on 15 November 2008.

In effect, the ASEAN Charter has become a legally binding agreement among the 10 ASEAN Member States. It will also be registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations, pursuant to Article 102, Paragraph 1

of the Charter of the United Nations.

The importance of the ASEAN Charter can be seen in the following contexts:

  • New political commitment at the top level
  • New and enhanced commitments
  • New legal framework, legal personality
  • New ASEAN bodies
  • Two new openly-recruited DSGs
  • More ASEAN meetings
  • More roles of ASEAN Foreign Ministers
  • New and enhanced role of the SecretaryGeneral of ASEAN
  • Other new initiatives and changes
  • What remains unchanged?

New political commitment at the top level

  • To unite under One Vision, One Identity and One Caring and Sharing Community
  • To build the ASEAN Community comprising: 
  1. ASEAN Political-SecurityCommunity 
  2. ASEAN Economic Community
  3. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community
New and enhanced commitments 
  • Mutual interests and interdependence among ASEAN peoples; common
  • objectives and shared destiny
  • “Member States shall take all necessary measures, including the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation, to effectively implement the provisions of this
  • Charter and to comply with all obligations of membership;” (Article 5.2)
  • Principles of democracy, the rule of law, and good governance
  • Respect for and protection and promotion of human rights
  • Peace-oriented values
  • Nuclear weapon-free Southeast Asia, and free of all other weapons of mass destruction
  • “shared commitment and collective responsibility in enhancing regional peace, security and prosperity” (Article 2.2 (b))
  • “enhanced consultations on matters seriously affecting the common interest of ASEAN;” (Article 2.2 (g))
  • Rules-based economic integration; market economy
  • Adherence to multilateral trade rules and ASEAN’s rules-based regimes
  • Progress reduction towards elimination of all barriers to regional economic integration
  • “We, THE PEOPLES of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), …” (Preamble)
  • At least 10 of the 15 “purposes” of ASEAN are directly related to the peoples of ASEAN (See Article 1.4, and 1.6 – 14)
  • Peoples at the centre of the ASEAN community-building process
  • “To promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building;” (Article 1.13)
  • Common values in the spirit of unity in diversity
  • Chapter V: Entities Associated with ASEAN provides for enhanced ASEAN’s engagement with these entities

New legal framework, legal personality

  • The ASEAN Charter is a legally-binding international (intra-ASEAN) agreement
  • All the Governments of the 10 Member States of ASEAN have ratified/accepted it
  • All the 10 ASEAN Governments have deposited their instruments of ratification/acceptance with the Secretary-General of ASEAN
  • Singapore was the first to deposit on 7 January 2008; Thailand was the last on 15 November 2008
  • The ASEAN Charter is due to enter into force on 15 December 2008, in accordance with its Article 47.4
  • The ASEAN Charter shall be registered with the Secretariat of the UN
  • Article 3 states: “ASEAN, as an intergovernmental organisation, is hereby
    conferred legal personality.”

A High Level Legal Experts Group (HLEG), appointed at the 41st AMM in Singapore, consisting of 10 senior legal experts, one each from every Member State, is looking into all legal issues arising from the Charter.

HLEG is chaired by H.E. Vasin Teeravechyan, former Ambassador of Thailand to the Republic of Korea, and former Director-General of the Treaty and Legal Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. HLEG is addressing three key issue areas: (1) legal personality of ASEAN (2) dispute settlement (3) privileges and immunities.

New ASEAN bodies to be established

  • ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC), consisting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers
  • Three Community Councils
  • Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN
  • ASEAN human rights body

Two new openly-recruited DSGs

  • Two additional Deputy Secretaries-General (DSGs) will be openly recruited: one for the ASEAN Economic Community, another for the Community and Corporate Affairs. Each will serve a three-year term, which may be renewed for another three years
  • Two other DSGs will continue to be appointed from national nominations,
    based on alphabetical rotation. The two incumbents are H.E. Nicholas T. Dammen from Indonesia, and H.E. Dr. Soeung Rathchavy from Cambodia. They will be succeeded next year by DSGs from Lao PDR and Malaysia respectively. Each of these two DSGs shall serve a 3-year nonrenewable term
  • The posts of these four DSGs and the post of the Secretary-General of ASEAN shall be held by ASEAN nationals from five different Member States, in accordance with Article 11.5

More ASEAN meetings

  • ASEAN Summit of the Heads of State/Government shall be held twice
  • Special ASEAN Summit may be held when necessary, and it can be convened outside the ASEAN region; (a Special ASEAN Summit was, for example, held in Beijing on 23 October 2008 on the sidelines of the 7th ASEM)
  • ASEAN Coordinating Council, and the three Community Councils to meet at least twice a year; they shall be supported by relevant senior officials
  • The Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN is expected to
    meet regularly at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta 

More roles of ASEAN Foreign Ministers

  • The annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Ministers (AMM) will be renamed as the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting; its abbreviation will stay as the AMM

The-ASEAN-Charter-18th-Reprint-Amended-updated-on-05_-April-2016 (PDF)

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