Charter starts off 'new ASEAN era'

Updated: 2007-11-20 22:16

SINGAPORE - Heads of state or government of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered here Tuesday to have the regional grouping's 13th summit, at which they signed the ASEAN Charter and other documents.

Leaders from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) pose for a group photo before the 13th ASEAN Summit Plenary session in Singapore November 20, 2007. [Agencies]

The Charter shall be subject to ratification by all ASEAN member states in accordance with their respective internal procedures.

The theme of the summit is "One ASEAN at the Heart of Dynamic Asia."

This year's summit coincides with a significant milestone in ASEAN's development, its 40th Anniversary.

"I think it is a good document to start off our new ASEAN era," said ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong. "And it is a credit that all ministers endorsed it with no further comment because we have done all our homework very well."

Also signed by the leaders at the summit were:

-- The Declaration on the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint,

-- The ASEAN Declaration on Environmental Sustainability, and

-- The ASEAN Declaration on the 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the Kyoto Protocol.

Related readings:
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 ASEAN Summit Plenary session begins
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 China and ASEAN trade reaches new high

 China-ASEAN cooperation projects on the rise

Speaking at the opening of the summit, chairman of the meeting and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that at 40, ASEAN can look back with pride at the peace and stability that it has brought to a complex and diverse region. However, he said, under the rapidly changing world situation, ASEAN must transform itself into a more effective grouping.

To make ASEAN strong and relevant, he said, "we must accelerate and deepen regional integration." He said the ASEAN Charter is a crucial step in this process. "The Charter will qualitatively change the way we approach and think about ASEAN. It will make ASEAN into a more effective and cohesive organization, with a rules-based governing framework, and streamlined decision-making processes. All this will pave the way for closer integration in the years ahead."

ASEAN integration is a constant work-in-progress, he said. He described the integration as "a strategic priority for ASEAN."

He called for ASEAN playing a bigger role in regional affairs. "Integration is just not an end in itself, but also a means by which ASEAN expands its economic and political space," he said. " We must also do our part as responsible stakeholders of the international community, and respond to pressing issues of global concern," he said.

"This is why we will be discussing the inter-related issues of 'Energy, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development' at this summit," he said.

"We gather here today with high hopes and aspirations. There is much work to be done, and the road ahead will not be easy," he said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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