SINGAPORE, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Heads of state and government of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gather here from Wednesday to Saturday for their 32nd summit and related meetings, under the theme of "Resilient and Innovative ASEAN."
ASEAN, a regional bloc comprising 10 Southeast Asian nations, aims to promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitate economic integration among its members.
It was originally established in August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The group has now expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
ASEAN has a combined population of approximately 629 million people, accounting for 8.8 percent of the world's total. The region recorded a combined GDP of 2.6 trillion U.S. dollars, the seventh largest economy in the world, according to Robert Yap, chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council.
ASEAN celebrated its 50 years' anniversary last year. Integration is gaining momentum in recent years as the regional bloc announced the establishment of the ASEAN Community on Dec. 31, 2015 at its 27th summit.
The ASEAN Community has three pillars: the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community.
At its 28th and 29th summits held in Vientiane in September 2016, the leaders adopted the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan III and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, an integral part of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, in a bid to advance the ASEAN community building process.
The 30th summit, held in April 2017 in the Philippines, pledged to strengthen ASEAN's integration process and make the regional body a global player. The following summit convened there in November last year upheld the goal of "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World."
The highest decision-making body of ASEAN is the summit meeting of the ASEAN heads of state and government. The ASEAN summit is convened every year. According to the ASEAN Charter, the chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually among the member states. Singapore is this year's rotating chairman.