ASEAN is a region of immense and colourful cultural diversity, one that shares common historical threads. ASEAN Member States promote cooperation in culture to help build an ASEAN identity. They seek to promote ASEAN awareness and a sense of community, preserve and promote ASEAN cultural heritage, promote cultural creativity and industry, and engage with the community. ASEAN Leaders envision ASEAN as a community of caring societies, conscious of its ties of history, aware of its cultural heritage and bound by a common regional identity.
One of the main bodies in ASEAN cooperation in culture is the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (COCI). Established in 1978, its mission is to promote effective cooperation in the fields of culture through its various projects and activities. The COCI comprises representatives from national institutions like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Culture and Information, national radio and television networks, museums, archives and libraries, among others. Together, they meet once a year to formulate and agree on projects to fulfil their mission.
Activities in the area of culture include the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage, promotion and cooperation on cultural industry and the production of cultural showcases. To cite some examples, 2009 saw the production of the coffee table book “Water: A Unifying Force in ASEAN”, a workshop that gathered experts from the region to discuss the prevention of illicit transfer and illegal trafficking of cultural properties, a symposium involving ASEAN Museum Directors and their engagement with the community, and the 3rd Best of ASEAN Performing Arts series (Singapore production) to raise ASEAN awareness about the region’s rich and diverse cultures.