The 28th ASEAN Summit will be held this week in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Documents circulating ahead of the event cover the same themes that ASEAN has been promoting for decades: unity and centrality.
The worry, both at the upcoming summit and beyond, is that there is little effort to put substance into these goals.
ASEAN faces three challenges that imperil its quest to remain unified and central: external pressure placed on its unity by rival Chinese and US ambitions; internal tensions as key states question the role of the association and its version of community building; and the broad question of its legitimacy in the eyes of the people who live within its member countries.
On each, ASEAN needs to make substantive progress, rather than produce documents full of admirable goals and minimal commitment to realising them.