Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Established in 1967 and composed of ten member states, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the most important intergovernmental organisation in Southeast Asia. It facilitates regional integration and cooperation, promoting peace and security, economic well-being and human development. In 2016, Switzerland became a Sectorial Dialogue Partner in order to strengthen cooperation with Southeast Asian countries and to expand its ties with the Asia-Pacific region.

Group picture of the Swiss delegates and representatives of ASEAN
The Swiss delegation and the representatives of ASEAN at the third Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee Meeting. © ASEAN Secretariat

What is the ASEAN?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the primary multilateral organisation in South East Asia. With the exception of Timor-Leste, all the countries in the region are members. Since its founding in 1967, ASEAN has established itself as the central format for regional cooperation in a wide variety of policy areas. Besides economic integration, this includes promoting peace and stability, reducing the prosperity gap between member states, and furthering sustainable development.

Moreover, in line with ASEAN centrality, ASEAN sees itself as a platform for intergovernmental cooperation throughout the entire Asia-Pacific. Dialogue platforms such as the ASEAN+ formats, the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) serve this purpose. These platforms make ASEAN the only institution that is able to bring the relevant decision-makers both for South East Asia and for the broader Asia-Pacific to the table on a regular basis.

Switzerland and the ASEAN

Switzerland has had a Sectoral Dialogue Partnership with ASEAN since 2016. This allows foreign policy priorities with regard to South East Asia to be increasingly addressed at the multilateral level. As Sectoral Dialogue Partner, Switzerland enjoys privileged access to high-level meetings within ASEAN, for example with foreign and economic ministers.

An integral part of the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership is also technical assistance, through which Switzerland helps to reduce development gaps between ASEAN countries. In doing so, it supports ASEAN’s efforts in the thematic focus areas of peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and digitalisation that coincide with its own interests. A joint steering committee conducts an annual review of the partnership and sets out guidelines for its further development.

Areas of cooperation

The parameters of cooperation for the period from 2022 to 2026 are set out in jointly defined practical cooperation areas. To promote peace and security, for example, Switzerland supports the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which works to uphold and protect human rights in South East Asia. In the area of prosperity, Switzerland’s activities include bringing its expertise to bear to strengthen vocational education and training. As the economic integration of ASEAN continues, trade policy concerns could also increasingly be addressed at regional level, for example as part of cooperation between EFTA and ASEAN. In terms of sustainability, the focus is on support of ASEAN’s efforts in disaster management, climate protection, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable water management. Finally, in the area of digitalisation, Switzerland seeks regular dialogue with ASEAN and supports capacity development to bolster cybersecurity in the countries of South East Asia.

Who within the Federal Administration has contacts with ASEAN?

The Embassy of Switzerland in Indonesia represents Switzerland’s interests with regard to the ASEAN Secretariat. Relations with ASEAN and its member states are led by the Asia and Pacific Division of the FDFA’s State Secretariat in Bern. To this end, it works in coordination with other units both at the FDFA and in other federal government departments.

Last update 28.07.2023

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