The 17th ASEAN Summit and related Summits opened in Hanoi on Oct. 28 in the presence of leaders of ASEAN’s ten members and ASEAN General Secretary Surin Pitsuwan.

In his opening speech, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the Chairman of ASEAN 2010 said, “Our meetings take place at a time when we are entering the final months of the year 2010, an important year for ASEAN in its advance towards a Community and its operation on the legal basis of the ASEAN Charter”.

Under the overarching theme of, “Towards the ASEAN Community: from vision to action,” ASEAN has in the past year been undertaking many concrete activities that bring about significant outcomes in the realisation of the set goals and plans, including the decisions of the 16th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi this April, the Vietnamese leader said.

He highlighted important achievements made in the implementation of the Charter and the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community by 2015.

PM Dung noted that the ASEAN Charter has truly been brought to life with the smooth operation of the new organizational structure as well as the finalisation of related legal documents, thus creating the legal basis and institutional framework for the ASEAN Community and deeper regional integration.

He also highlighted the significance of the implementation of programmes and plans for building the ASEAN Community in all three pillars, saying these tasks were undertaken expeditiously along the defined priorities and roadmaps and brought important outcomes.

“The building of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, particularly in the 14 prioritised areas, has made significant progress,” PM Dung said.

He emphasised that regular dialogue and cooperation at all levels on issues of mutual concern have enhanced mutual understanding and trust among countries, contributing to the maintenance of peace and security in the region.

“The mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation in regional security have been strengthened and broadened through the adoption of the Plan of Action to implement the Vision Statement of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as well as the formation of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), the Meeting of ASEAN Chiefs of Security Agencies (MACOSA) and the ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF),” the leader said.

“The instruments to ensure regional security are becoming more useful in term of its importance and value, particularly the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty (SEANFWZ), the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism as well as the joint statements between ASEAN and its partners on this issue.”

PM Dung also underscored good results in the process of building the ASEAN Economic Community, with the firm establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Area encouraging trade in goods, services and investment as well as the implementation of a number of cooperation programmes in key areas like the ASEAN single window and trade facilitation programme.

In particular, he noted that the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity that ASEAN Leaders would adopt at this Summit as well as the establishment of the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund would strongly support ASEAN integration and create a platform for connectivity in the wider region of East Asia .

“Economic cooperation between ASEAN and its partners is also progressing well,” the PM said, referring especially to the conclusion of the Free Trade agreements between ASEAN and each of six partners in East Asia as well as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation in the framework of ASEAN+3.

He affirmed that the Association had also made efforts to narrow the development gap and move towards the goal of sustainable development as set forth in the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Sustainable Recovery and Development adopted at the 16 th ASEAN Summit.

“The course of building the ASEAN Social-Cultural Community towards a people-oriented, caring and sharing Community is making considerable steps forward, particularly in human development and addressing global challenges,” PM Dung stressed.

“ASEAN is expeditiously developing a plan of action to implement the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Joint Response to Climate Change adopted at the 16 th ASEAN Summit, and also making positive contributions to the international community’s joint efforts in this field,” he said.

“At this Summit , we shall further adopt the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Human Resources and Skills Development for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth and the Hanoi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children. The ASEAN Declaration on Cooperation in Search and Rescue of Persons and Vessels in Distress at Sea was adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) has been put into operation, enhancing ASEAN cooperation in the field of people’s rights.”

PM Dung told the participants that he was glad to see the strong development of relations between ASEAN and its partners this year, as manifested by the strengthening of regular dialogue at various levels and the important outcomes in carrying out the plans of action to implement joint statements on strategic or comprehensive partnerships.

He mentioned that on this occasion, apart from the annual ASEAN+1 Summits with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India, ASEAN will also have Summits with Australia, New Zealand,  the Russian Federation and the United Nations.

“The 2 nd ASEAN – US Leaders’ Meeting was convened with the agreement to lift the partnership to a higher level. Along with the strategic partnerships with China and Japan , we will also consider the elevation of the ASEAN - Republic of Korea relationship into a strategic partnership as well,” PM Dung said.

“As a follow-up to the decision of the 16 th ASEAN Summit, we shall continue to discuss directions and measures to ensure ASEAN centrality in an evolving regional architecture, particularly those designed to enhance the effectiveness of existing regional forums where ASEAN is playing the key role as the driving force. These include, among others, the expansion of the East Asia Summit (EAS) to include Russia and the US while maintaining the objectives, principles, modalities and priorities of the forum. ASEAN’s role and position is rising by the day thanks to not only its centrality in the region but also to our important contributions to key international forums, including the G20.”

In his speech, PM Dung underscored that these meetings provided an opportunity for ASEAN leaders to take stock of the implementation of agreements and to find appropriate solutions to further accelerate the course of building the ASEAN Community, strengthen ASEAN’s external relations and enhance its international role and position, especially in ensuring peace, security and development in the region and effectively responding to global challenges.

Accordingly, he asked the leaders to focus on the following important issues:

“Firstly, we should continue to identify and carry out comprehensive measures to accelerate the implementation of programmes and plans to build the ASEAN Community in the most effective manner. In particular, we should make efforts to create a real improvement in the ‘culture of compliance’ through, among others, strengthening monitoring and assessment mechanisms for the materialisation of agreements. We should also need to complete the full legal framework in line with the ASEAN Charter, improve the operational efficiency of ASEAN bodies and modalities, strengthen coordination among executing agencies, enhance resources mobilization, and incorporate regional agreements into national development programmes and plans.

“Secondly, we need to further strengthen ASEAN’s external relations through concrete plans and measures to support the goal of building the ASEAN Community. Accordingly, we should proactively push up our relations with dialogue partners under the ASEAN+1 framework to a higher level, which should be more comprehensive, substantive and effective. It is important to increase regular dialogue at various levels, especially at the highest level, and promote the effective implementation of agreements between ASEAN and our partners, particularly on economic and trade cooperation, and to respond to the global challenges. We should actively put forth proposals and measures to improve the efficiency of the activities within wider cooperation frameworks where ASEAN plays the central role, such as ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus.

“Thirdly, we should undertake further comprehensive measures to ensure ASEAN centrality in an evolving regional architecture along the line of decisions made at the 16 th ASEAN Summit. ASEAN should continue to promote and facilitate our partners’ deeper engagement and more constructive contributions to the resolution of issues relating to peace, security and development in the region while ensuring ASEAN’s central role and the support for building the ASEAN Community. The Association needs to further bring into full play its unique role as an important factor to link and harmonise various interest groups in the region, to serve as a hub of connecting existing cooperation arrangements and frameworks while promoting an evolving regional architecture based on various intertwining, mutually supporting and complementing mechanisms.

“Fourthly, ASEAN needs to further enhance its role as an important force in the maintenance of peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific at large. We should make more efforts, especially by increasing dialogue and cooperation on political and security issues, to enhance mutual understanding and trust among nations. We further need to promote the development of common norms and codes of conduct in the relations among countries and further bring into full play the effective implementation of the above existing arrangements and instruments to ensure regional peace and stability. Moreover, we also need to strengthen cooperation to address security challenges, particularly non-traditional threats like international terrorism, transnational crime, maritime security and safety.

“Finally, ASEAN should act as a responsible member of the international community in responding to the current global challenges, especially the global financial crisis, climate change and natural disasters or pandemics. Accordingly, ASEAN should carry out concrete measures to enhance intra-ASEAN cooperation while at the same time promoting cooperation at a wider region and contributing positively to the common efforts of the international community, including UN-related activities.”

Emphasising the significant importance to the future development of ASEAN and the region, PM Dung expressed his confidence that with strong political determination and far-sighted vision as well as the active and valuable contributions from all Leaders of ASEAN and the group’s partner countries, the 17 th ASEAN Summit and related Summits would be a great success, finding practical solutions to the matters at hand for the common interest of peace, stability and development in the region.

Following the opening ceremony, PM Dung and Heads of ASEAN delegations held a closed-door session./.