We, the undersigned citizens of Southeast Asia, convened a meeting in Manila, Republic of the Philippines, on 22-23 August 1996, to reappraise the ideas and recommendations concerning the region’s future, as articulated in our work on "Southeast Asia Beyond the Year 2000: A Statement of Vision" done in the same city on 30-31 May 1994, in the light of developments that have taken place since then. Drawing inspiration from our discussions with President Fidel V. Ramos, the Philippine Government, we hereby adopt and advocate the following for promoting collective progress of the nation-states and the peoples of the region.


Moved by the ideals espoused by the founding fathers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and expressed in the Bangkok Declaration of 1967, we reaffirm our conviction that Southeast Asia should be a community and that collectively this community should be a major political, economic, cultural and moral entity on the world stages in the twenty-first century.

We continue to believe that this community should be a pluralistic community of equal and sovereign states, bound together by a sense of common destiny and shared values, enjoying peace and prosperity which render it a model of international co-operation and a key building block towards the creation of a global community.

We remain firmly committed to the broad principles of community-building, as articulated in the "Statement of Vision". One is national and regional resilience, which means the need to develop and rely upon individual and collective capacity to mobilise the full potentials of our human and natural resources, while seeking ways and means of minimising our shortcomings and limitations. The second is unity in diversity, which means a recognition not only of the differences that divide us, but also of the need and capacity for reconciling and transcending those differences through processes of building consensus. The third is common national interests, which are of direct, and sometime critical, concern to individual states, these can be best taken advantage of and coped with through collective efforts. And the fourth is open regionalism, which means a recognition of the need to be outward-looking, to look beyond Southeast Asia, and to continue to strengthen ties with the outside world.

Furthermore, we reaffirm our commitment to ASEAN norms and processes, enshrined in the ASEAN Concord and the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia.

While reaffirming our past beliefs and commitments, we also acknowledge that in two-year interval since 1994 many developments have taken place. The process of community-building has moved forward apace, bringing nearer to fulfilment many of the ideas and recommendations advocated in the "Statement of Vision". Notable progress has been the enlargement of ASEAN membership, the holding of a Southeast Asian summit, the acceleration of the AFTA-CEPT process, the provision for phased integration of less advanced economies into these systems, and the enhancement of the region’s role in various international fore. One Southeast Asia may not be a fact as yet, but the ever-increasing range and depth of regional co-operation have brought it nearer to reality.

Inspired by these developments and by the ASEAN governments’ commitment to community-building as articulated in the Bangkok Summit Declaration of December 1995, we believe that it is time to refine our vision and to raise new and vigorous agenda which will be relevant to and necessary for both community-building and the enhancement of the quality of national and regional life in Southeast Asia in the twenty-first century.


We see community-building as a continuous process, an ongoing journey which moves the whole region toward common travails and has its final destination peace, prosperity, and the unity diverse cultures and distinct peoples existing therein.

We believe that communities are about peoples and that community-building is a process of creating a state of mind. The tie that truly binds is not faceless institutions and agencies , impersonal agreements and procedures, but a commitments, a sense of caring and sharing, a sense of participation and ownership, a sense of belonging and attachment, in other words a sense of community, which can only be matured in the spirit of real, live human beings.

Furthermore, we believe that a true community should embody the moral dimension of human endeavour, whose strength is based upon enlightened self-interest and synergy among different, even divise and conflicting, elements of that community. This moral dimension should provide a reference for the development and evolution of mechanisms and institutions which give concrete expression to that community and help further to strengthen it.

Therefore, we believe that the quality of the community-building process in Southeast Asia is dependent, not only upon the range and depth of co-operative endeavour among the region’s states and governments, but also upon the moral purpose directing and sustaining this process. This moral purpose must be a unifying force, transcending geographical barriers, cultural diversity, economy disparities, and political and ideological differences. It must prevail over the asymmetries of the region - between the strong and the weak, the large and the small, the rich and the poor, the privileged and the disadvantaged. It must be seen to provide, the greatest possible benefits to the greatest possible number of peoples.

We believe that, to build a Southeast Asia community, there must be both a sense of community and a moral purpose, and that, to provide the region’s community-building process with the necessary sense of community and the necessary moral purpose, the human dimension should be the main focus of all regional governments’ collective and individual efforts to promote well-being and progress.

In the past, advocates of Southeast Asian regionalism have generally put emphasis upon the nation-state as the point of reference and on the achievement of its security as the measure of progress. We believe that it was with good reason. For during the first decades of the post-colonial era, the regional states were faced with numerous security threats emanating from a variety of sources.

Now, at the threshold of the twenty-first century, the achievement of national and regional resilience is such that the survival of Southeast Asian nation-states is no longer a salient issue. Nor can there be any doubt about their capacity to engage in co-operation endeavours, which ultimately serve to enhance further their individual and collective security.

Thus, while the nation-states continue to be crucial fireworks and mechanisms for providing physical security and well-being, the process of community-building requires a shift of focus to the people, from appraising progress solely in terms of survival and stability of the nation-state, to measuring it more in terms of the human predicament.

We believe that "a human agenda" should be elevated to the top in the regional governments’ individual and collective priorities and that successful implementation of "a human agenda" should be considered the pinnacle of achievement on the road to building a Southeast Asian community in the twenty-first century.


We the undersigned citizens of Southeast Asia, in tribute to our nation-states who opened the gates to self-determination and economic prosperity, do hereby advocate the following "human agenda" as a means of enhancing both the pace and the depth of the community-building process in the Southeast Asia, so that the quality of human, national and regional life can continue to be uplifted, so that the region’s nation-states and governments can be raised to higher planes of political, economic, social, cultural and moral development, so that the full potential of the region’s peoples can be nurtured and utilised to the limit of their possible achievement, self-esteem, self-respect, and self-livelihood, as we move into the next century.

The first of these agenda is peace at all levels, international, regional and domestic. Peace for the people is not only the absence of war, but also involves the presence of positive conditions, supportive of security of life and property at all levels and conducive to mutually beneficial exchanges among nation-states and peoples.

The second is physical and material well-being. This in turn requires the promotion of open-market mechanisms as an instruments of efficiency and distribution, without state intervention except where it is necessary to ensure fair play and to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It requires freedom of movement of goods and services, capital and labour, information and technology, across the political boundaries within the region and between the region and the outside world. And lastly, it is also requires massive investment in human resources development as a source of longer-term growth and prosperity.

The third is the need to safeguard and to enhance the dignity of the human person by the rule of law, traditional values, and provision of opportunities for education and employment. People empowerment is the key, and every effort should be made to promote the individual’s capacity to participate in the various political, social and economic process taking place in the community and society.

The fourth is the need to protect the family institution as the most immediate source of security for the old and young and as purveyor of knowledge and traditional values to new generations. Protection should also be afforded women, and their capacity for full participation in their society’s political, social and economic life, encouraged.

The fifth is the need for strengthening the spirit of local community and instilling deeper sense of civic consciousness, so that freedom and responsibility, individual rights and communication obligations go hand in hand.

The sixth is the need for more just, equal, tolerant and caring societies, where the poor, the underprivileged, the disadvantaged and the diverse cultural groups can receive protection and assistance, where their basic requirements of food, shelter. Clothing, healthcare and education are met, and where there is respect for political rights and accountability of governance.

The seventh is the necessity for enhancing the human face of development, to promote greater social equity, to reduce and eliminate social and economic disparities that arise from the processes of development, and to provide opportunities for the advancement of all.

The eighth is the imperative for creating harmony between man and nature. This requires the implementation of the ecologically sustainable development strategies, co-operation at the regional and global levels, and respect for the environment on the part of individuals and local communities.

The ninth is the imperative for generating "cultural synergy". Given Southeast Asia’s diversity, it is necessary to respect differences in culture. More importantly, we must preserve, nurture and draw strength from the region’s richness of cultures and cultural heritage, forging a dynamic force for progress.

And the tenth is the need for an open mind. To anticipate the flux and changes in the twenty-first century, the societies of Southeast Asia should be more open to one another and to the outside world. But open regionalism, as widely advocated, will not be sufficient. More importantly, Southeast Asians should open themselves up to one another as fellow members of an extended family. They should actively participate in the process of community building to forge that sense of belonging to the community, which is the source of their security and well-being.


To help realise this "human agenda", a number of "flagship" projects and measures should be adopted.

Among them are:

Establishment of Southeast Asian Development Corps which will offer opportunities, especially to the young, to learn about other countries’ problems at first hand and foster a sense of regional identity

A Southeast Asian Peoples’ Cultural Congress should be organised on a regular basis, as a celebration of and an appreciation for the rich cultural diversity of Southeast Asia, in order to promote people-to people contact and understanding.

Publication of reference book of encyclopaedic scope on the history, geography, politics and culture, and social and economic development of Southeast Asian countries, to be translated into all the major languages of the region.

A Conference of Southeast Asian Editors and Publishers to increase the awareness of and to widen the information network concerning a Southeast community.

An ASEAN Thirtieth Anniversary conference, involving Southeast Asian participants from all walks of life, to reflect on past achievements of ASEAN and future direction for Southeast Asia.

A Conference in 1998 on "Assessing 500 Years of Western Presence in Asia since the arrival of Vasco da Gama".

Establishment of a Regional Environment and Natural Resource Agency to monitor policies and policy implementations which have trans-national impact in Southeast Asia.

Establishment of the Preservation of Boneo-Kalimantan Rainforest Heritage Project to enhance the bio-diversity and natural resources of Southeast Asia.

Establishment of a Southeast Asian Disaster Relief Agency, to mobilise human and material resources for quick and effective response to accidents and natural disaster.

Establishment of a regional commission to facilitate, monitor, regulate and humanise the movement of labour in Southeast Asia.

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