NAY PYI TAW, May 9 -- The 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit is kicking off here Saturday under the theme "Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community," bringing the bloc one step closer to creating an ASEAN Community.
The community building process started in 2003 when the heads of ASEAN member states agreed at the 9th ASEAN Summit that an ASEAN Community shall be established.
At the 12th ASEAN Summit held in January 2007 in Cebu of the Philippines, the leaders affirmed their strong commitment to facilitating the establishment of an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 and signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.
The ASEAN Community comprises three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own blueprint, and, together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015).
The ASEAN Charter, which entered into force in 2008, serves as a firm foundation and a significant milestone in achieving the ASEAN Community goal by providing legal status and institutional framework for it. It also codifies ASEAN norms, rules and values, sets clear targets for ASEAN, and presents accountability and compliance.
To gear up capacity building, ASEAN has set up the ASEAN Coordinating Council and three ASEAN Community Councils, including the ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, the ASEAN Economic Community Council and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council.
At the 19th ASEAN Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2011, the ASEAN leaders adopted the Bali Declaration on ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations, or the Bali Concord III, a historic outcome document which is widely expected to increase ASEAN's active role in addressing global issues and to map out the road for ASEAN's interaction with the global community.
ASEAN leaders also affirmed their commitment to adopting a more coordinated, cohesive and coherent ASEAN position on global issues of common concern which would further raise ASEAN's common voice in relevant multilateral fora, and to developing an enhanced ASEAN capacity to contribute and respond to key global issues of common interest which would benefit all ASEAN member states and their peoples.
At the 21st ASEAN Summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2012, ASEAN leaders agreed to sign, adopt, and note different documents including the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) , the ASEAN Leaders' Statement on the Establishment of an ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center, the Bali Concord III Plan of Action ( 2013-2017).
They also launched the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation while pledging to bring the ASEAN common platform on global issues into reality by 2020.
At the 22nd ASEAN Summit held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei in April last year, the leaders agreed to push ahead with the ASEAN Roadmap and ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, and to intensify regional and sub-regional efforts in the spurt to realize the goal of establishing an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015.
While spelling out concrete measures and steps necessary for ensuring the ASEAN Community be established as scheduled, the leaders, in view of unbalanced development within the block, reached consensus that the AEC shall be firstly established in 2015.
Leaders attending the 23rd ASEAN Summit, held in October also in Bandar Seri Begawan, reaffirmed their commitment to intensifying efforts towards realizing the ASEAN Community by 2015, while stressing the importance of drawing upon the experiences and endeavors of ASEAN in further strengthening the existing bonds of solidarity and cooperation to advance common interests and overcome challenges within the region and beyond.
A review of the achievements of the cause showed that an average of 82.5 percent of all action lines towards the ASEAN Community had been completed or were being implemented including 78 percent for the political-security, 79.7 percent for economic and 90 percent for socio-cultural pillar.
With barely two years before the 2015 goal, the summit also adopted a Bandar Seri Begawan Statement on the ASEAN Community's Post-2015 Vision, under which the ASEAN Coordinating Council is tasked to develop ASEAN's future development plans in consultations and coordination with the three ASEAN Community Councils.
ASEAN, established in 1967, groups Brunei,Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.