The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) jointly opened a seminar on orientations for building the ASEAN Community beyond 2015 in Hanoi on December 3.

Attending the event are ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh and UNDP Country Director in Vietnam Louise Chamberlain, among others.

In his opening remark, Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh reviewed the operations of ASEAN over the past 46 years, saying that the grouping has seen significant developments from a five-member association with loose cooperation to an organisation comprising 10 countries in Southeast Asia .

In particular, the ASEAN Charter has created a legal foundation and an institutional mechanism for the association to enhance regional links, with its immediate goal of forming the ASEAN Community based on three pillars by 2015, he said.

According to Vinh, the bloc has proved its increasingly active and proactive role in handling the region’s important and strategic issues while being flexible, dynamic and quick in adapting to fluctuations.

Although it gathers small- and medium-sized countries, ASEAN is still attractive to many important partners in the region and the world as well, he said.

It has established and promoted its core role in an evolving regional architecture in order to foster and maintain an environment of security, peace, stability and development in the region, he added.

However, the Deputy FM stressed that ASEAN is facing a lot of challenges such as differences in strategic priorities and national capacity of member countries, territorial disputes, conflicts among countries, as well as common security challenges in the region, both traditional and non-traditional ones, including the East Sea issue, the Korean Peninsula situation, climate change, natural disasters and epidemics.

The increasing intervention of major countries has created favourable conditions for ASEAN’s development but also posed many challenges in trust building and overcoming suspicions and narrow-minded self-interests that may greatly impact on the solidarity and central role of ASEAN in the regional architecture.

Vinh said the vision beyond 2015 must ensure the continuation of the ASEAN Community building roadmap. Therefore, the vision must deal with both short- and middle-term objectives and long-term ones, including major goals and ideals that ASEAN should target in the decades after 2015.

These goals will play an orientating role and serve as a driving force for ASEAN’s development, he noted.

UNDP Country Director Louise Chamberlain congratulated ASEAN on its satisfactory progress in building the ASEAN Community based on the three pillars of politics-security, economics and socio-culture.

She spoke highly of Vietnam’s role at multilateral forums and hoped it will play a greater role in post-2015 agendas.

At the event, ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh stated that after the Community is formed, ASEAN will be part of the broader free market of East Asia , including the ASEAN Community and its 10 member states and six trade partners. This market will have a population of 3.3 billion and account for one third of global GDP.

In such a context, ASEAN economies will see great opportunities to maintain growth and sustain development, he said.

He stressed that since it joined ASEAN, Vietnam has devoted many initiatives to the building of the ASEAN Community as well as contributed to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

In the economic field, Vietnam has implemented, at the highest rate, measures set in the ASEAN Community building roadmap, he said, adding that it is one of the countries with the greatest contributions to the grouping’s integration towards building the community.

During the two-day seminar, participants are scheduled to discuss the ASEAN Community building process and major orientations beyond 2015, and ASEAN Political-Security, Economic and Socio-Cultural Communities.-VNA