Does ASEAN Exist? The Association of Southeast Asian Nations as an International Legal Person

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The ASEAN Charter, which entered into force on 15 December 2008, asserts in Article 3 that ASEAN “as an inter-governmental organisation, is hereby conferred legal personality”. This essay examines the legal status of the Association, as well as the political question of whether the whole is greater than (or perhaps less than) the sum of its parts. The argument presented is that legal personality at the international level is less a status than it is a capacity: the fact that ASEAN now claims international legal personality in the Charter does not mean it lacked it previously, nor that it now possesses it in any meaningful way. Rather, the key question is what specific powers have been granted to ASEAN and how those powers are used. On these questions, the Charter is largely silent.

Singapore Year Book of International Law, Vol. 12, pp. 199-211, 2008.

Read the article on SSRN here.