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In August 2007, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrated the 40th anniversary of its foundation. In each of the Association's ten member states, observances were more numerous and elaborate than usual. This was particularly so in Singapore, which held the ASEAN chairmanship at the time of the anniversary. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered the annual ASEAN Lecture on 7 August 2007, on the eve of the anniversary of ASEAN's founding in 1967. The ASEAN Secretariat and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) organized the lecture, which was followed by a reception hosted by Prime Minister Lee. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs placed an eight-page supplement in the Straits Times featuring articles devoted to the organization. With the support of Germany's Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore organized a conference from 31 July to 1 August to commemorate the 40th anniversary of ASEAN's establishment, while on 6-7 August the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), in collaboration with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) of Singapore, put together a discussion forum among regional think-tanks to exchange ideas and insights into a number of issues facing ASEAN. ISEAS published a booklet entitled Know Your ASEAN, made up of forty questions and answers on the basic facts about ASEAN and illustrated by Miel, the senior Straits Times artist and cartoonist. ISEAS has also devoted a special issue of this journal, Contemporary Southeast Asia, to the 40th anniversary. Similar observances have taken place in other countries in the region. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief review of ASEAN on its 40th birthday, assess its achievements to date and suggest what it needs to do to fulfil its full promise and potential. The article begins by recalling ASEAN's unpromising beginnings, in terms of the political and security situation at the time--at both the regional and global levels--and in terms of the economic-development stage of Southeast Asian nations. It then traces how far ASEAN has evolved from those beginnings. The article turns to how ASEAN has fallen short of the grand ambitions that it subsequently proclaimed for itself from time to time. One of these ambitions is the integration of the regional economy. Another is to assume the role of the "driving force" of East Asian and Asia-Pacific regionalism. The article then examines the question of why, after having largely overcome certain fundamental difficulties encountered in its formative years, ASEAN has sputtered in its journey towards its subsequent and more ambitious goals. It argues that a major reason why ASEAN has fallen short of its declared ambitions is that the Association and its members have treated political and economic considerations too discretely and too independently of each other. It will explain why ASEAN must achieve greater political and economic integration if it is to fulfil its aspirations and promise.

Politik und Zeitgeschehen
1. Dezember
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)

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