ASEAN Secretariat, 15 December 2008
Assalamu’alaikum Wr. Wb.
Peace be upon us.
His Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN,
Excellencies Ministers of ASEAN States, Ministers, Ambassadors,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure for me to join you in this historic ceremony to mark the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter. I thank the Government of Thailand for initiating this meeting and I am pleased to welcome His Excellency Dr. Mun Patanotai and ASEAN Foreign Ministers to Jakarta.
I wish also to express my sincere appreciation to the Secretary-General of ASEAN convening out gathering here at the ASEAN Secretariat. This long-awaited birth of the ASEAN Charter is a watershed event that certainly cannot be delayed.
Mr. Surin Pitsuwan has been very instrumental in helping to guide the ASEAN Charter process until the present day and for that we owe him our debt of gratitude.
Thirty days ago, all the ASEAN member states submitted their instruments of ratification of the ASEAN Charter to the Secretary-General. Thus today, the ASEAN Charter officially enters into force in accordance with its article 47.
This is a momentous development at a time when ASEAN is consolidating, integrating and transforming itself into a Community. It is achieved while ASEAN seeks a more vigorous role in Asian and global affairs at a time when the international system is experiencing a seismic shift .
For the world today is rapidly changing and grappling with daunting challenges.Climate change. The volatility of the prices of food and energy.And a raging global financial crisis.
Of course, there is still the basic problem of poverty, the approaching deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the need to compete in a globalized world.
These are the challenges confronting us in ASEAN. But with the Charter in force, we are now in a better position to confront them more effectively. With a new structure, a new mechanism for settling our differences and new approaches to the way we conduct our business, we have improved our capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing world and all benefits and risks that come with it.
The Charter can be the basis for speeding up and strengthening our regional integration. By virtue of its provisions, we can enhance the process by which we are transforming ASEAN from a loose association to an ASEAN Community resting on the pillars politico-security cooperation, economic cooperation and socio-cultural cooperation. It also provides for ASEAN’s elevation into a rules-based and people-centred organization with a legal personality.
This transformation crowns the many achievements of ASEAN during the past four decades. Southeast Asia is no longer the bitterly divided, war-torn region that it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Today, no ASEAN country is at war with another. No major powers is at war in our region. After many decades of outside intervention, today, ASEAN is on very much driving seat determining the destiny of our own region. ASEAN has successfully cultivated the habits of dialogue, consultations and cooperation among its members and with dialogue partners. Our ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia served as a code of conduct that ensured peaceful relations not only among ASEAN members but also with dialogue partners. And ASEAN has now included all the countries in Southeast Asia to become “ASEAN 10″, forever changing the geopolitical character of our region.
As in any family, there were disagreements, even disputes, among ASEAN members. But we firmly held on to our commitment to dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Thus we built up mutual trust and avoided conflict—thereby strengthening the peace and stability of the region.
With greater peace and stability, the region could focus on trade, production and investment—making Southeast Asia brim with economic dynamism.
On the socio-cultural front, we intensified people-to-people interaction and fostered rapport among various stakeholders in the region—including academicians and parliamentarians, youth and students groups, and other elements of civil society. As a result, we are evolving a sense of regional identity, a “we feeling” that made it easy for us to work together.
That “we feeling” went to work when in December 2004, a deadly tsunami struck this part of the world, with the Indonesian province of Aceh suffering enormous devastation. We saw it again during the horrible Nargys cyclone that devastated our brothers and sisters in Myanmar.In both crises, members of the ASEAN family rushed to our aid and, along with the rest of the international community, saved untold number of lives. They also helped lay the basis for the rehabilitation of the stricken communities.
Meanwhile, profound changes are taking place in the larger Asia-Pacific region. But we are not mere spectators to the transformation. We are in fact taking the lead in shaping the new architecture of the larger region.
We continue to take the lead in the ASEAN Plus Three process, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. Some of our economies are active participants to the APEC forum. Our dialogue partnerships with major powers have matured into strategic partnerships that are concretely substantiated with mutually beneficial activities.
I am therefore confident that with the Charter in force, we will be able to fashion a regional architecture that will enhance our collective and individual national resilience. But first we must answer the call of the Charter for us to intensify and accelerate ASEAN integration.
The ASEAN Charter provides the essential legal foundation for our community building process. Our credentials as a regional player with global stature have been strengthened with the embodiment in the Charter of our commitment to the universal values of democracy and good governance, and to the promotion and protection of human rights. We look forward to the establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights body in the near future.
The Charter upholds principles that are already reflected in various ASEAN documents. These include respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. In addition, it enjoins us to consult with one another on matters that seriously affectthe common interest of the ASEAN region. Because of the Charter, we are bound more than ever before to settle our differences in an amicable manner.
The Chartermandates the fostering of international humanitarian law and respect for other cultures, languages and religions. It therefore gives a boost to the spirit of unity among ASEAN members so that our diversity becomes an asset and not a liability. And it bolsters our efforts to create a single market and production base that will make ASEAN more competitive and prosperous.
The entry into force of the Charter opens a new era for ASEAN. In that chapter, we are called upon to work harder and in greater concert than we have ever done. For a Charter will serve
its purpose if, and only if, member states faithfully implement in letter and in spirit all its provisions and stipulations.
No Charter implements itself. It is up to all of us to fully utilize the Charter, to let it guide our integration and community building and, in general, to make it part of our lives. These we must do at once. There is no time to lose.
We therefore need to convene a meeting of ASEAN leaders as soon as possible. And I am pleased to know that the Summit will be held in Thailand by end of February at the latest. They must address the serious challenges confronting the region and the rest of the world in the light of the provisions of the Charter. And they must seize the opportunity to use the provisions of the Charter to accelerate regional integration leading to the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.
We have seven more years to go to fulfill that commitment. We must therefore close ranks and ensure that our commitment is faithfully carried out. We need to ensure that all our peoples are on board and become both the beneficiaries and owners of ASEAN. No longer should they be silent and passive partners. They must now be majority stakeholders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me once again congratulate all ASEAN member states on the successful completion of their ratification processes that made it possible for us to witness the entry into force of the Charter today. I also wish to applaud the support provided by the peoples of ASEAN, through the endorsement by their respective parliaments of this historic legal document.
I would also especially like to thank the Eminent Persons Group and the High-level Task Force that worked hard to produce the draft of the Charter. Thank you for a job well done.
I would like also to join others in speaking words about Pak Ali Alatas.
A few days ago, the Eminent Persons Group lost a member, who happens to be one of our region’s great statesmen : Bapak Ali Alatas. He was a tower of strength in the cause of ASEAN integration and he made huge contributions to the works of the Eminent Persons Group. He is not with us today to witness the Charter’s entry into force. But the Charter itself, if we use it right and fully, will always be a living tribute to his memory.
It will also be the fulfillment of a dream—the dream of the ASEAN Founding Fathers of an organization embracing Southeast Asia that will take the region to the highest possible level of political, economic and socio-cultural dynamism.
That dream took forty years to mature. Now with the ASEAN Charter in force, it is ready to be transformed into reality. It is now up to all of us in ASEAN to seize the moment and make that dream come true.
I thank you.
Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono