Over the past four decades, ASEAN has grown stronger through integration. It has set its sights on achieving a “people-centered” community and narrowing the development gaps between its Member States. It has also given importance to developing closer ties with countries outside the region, to promoting ASEAN’s centrality in shaping the regional architecture and to contributing to the global community of nations.
ASEAN has always been committed to strengthening political-security cooperation to ensure peace and stability in the region. This is reflected in the signing of important Treaties and Declarations, such as the Declaration on the Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) in 1971, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) in 1976 and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) or also known as the Bangkok Treaty in 1995. It also formed the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to promote confidence building measures and preventive diplomacy to reduce tensions and prevent conflict between countries in the wider Asia-Pacific region. The ARF was launched in Thailand in 1994.
ASEAN has worked continuously to improve the region’s competitiveness and sustain its economic growth. In 1992, the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was created to reduce import tariffs to boost trade between Member States. Economic intergration was further deepened through the implementation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) and ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), leading ASEAN a highly integrated and cohesive economy.
The Governments of ASEAN have also given great importance to enhancing functional cooperation in the socio-cultural pillar, which covers various fields such as education, culture, health, labour, environment, social welfare, science and technology. Furthermore, efforts had continuously been made to promote public awareness of ASEAN and good relations and understanding between the peoples of the region.