This section deals with the first kind of agreements that are concluded by ASEAN as an International Organisation and not by its Member States. It offers an introduction to the external relations powers of ASEAN, especially its Secretariat. It then argues that such agreements cannot bind Member States absent a provision to that effect in the Charter. As we will discuss in this chapter's final part, members can well bear concurrent and subsidiary responsibility and they can incur indirect liability for international wrongful acts of ASEAN. The external relations of ASEAN as an IO thus impact its internal relations with its members.
Introductory note on the Secretariat
The functions and role of the Secretariat and the ASEAN Secretary-General (ASG) are primarily managerial. The ASG is the Chief Administrative Officer of ASEAN and is appointed by the ASEAN Summit for a single non-renewable term of five years. According to Article 29 ASEAN Charter it falls onto the Secretariat to ensure and maintain ‘budgetary discipline’, ‘sound financial management policies’, and financial procedures consistent with international standards. Article 30 moreover charges the ASG with preparing the Secretariat's annual operating budget for the approval of the ASEAN Coordinating Council, upon recommendation of the committee of permanent representatives.
The ASG is to serve ‘as spokesman and representative of ASEAN on all matters’ in the absence of a contrary decision of the Chairman of the Standing Committee. The ASG is further to conduct consultations with contracting parties, the private sector, NGOs and other ASEAN constituencies, as well as coordinate dialogues with international and regional organisations and any dialogue country. The ASG also acts as the ‘channel of formal communications’ between ASEAN Committees, bodies and the Secretariat and other IOs and governments.
The distinct role of the ASEAN Secretary in relation to the Member States is reflected in several provisions relating to the obligations, which members owe to ASEAN as an IO. Some degree of institutional autonomy is sought by Article 30, which states that the ASEAN Member States should through ‘equal annual contributions’ remitted in a ‘timely manner’ provide the ASEAN Secretariat with ‘the necessary financial resources to perform its functions effectively’. However, funding is pegged at the lowest level by requiring equal funding, as opposed to funding based on the different wealth levels of each Member.