KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia � The ASEAN way, as it has been called, has brought stability and prosperity to the region, said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

He said many authorities were now saying that it was a far more suitable model for ASEAN members, and for other developing nations, than those of other regional associations that were now finding themselves troubled by division.

We have maintained the spirit of friendship, taking decisions by consensus, and recognising the sovereignty of the individual countries. We unite in ASEAN but we don’t interfere in the internal affairs of our neighbours, he said in his keynote address delivered at the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN Celebration here today.

Najib also said that ASEAN was now recognised as a primary driving force in the regional political, security and economic architecture, which saw major powers being brought together to negotiate and discuss important issues of the day through dialogues including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.

The ASEAN Way is a series of principles that were adopted when ASEAN was formed in 1967, which places extreme emphasis on national sovereignty and the commitment to non-intervention in the affairs of member countries.

Najib said ASEAN leads and drives forward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would bring new opportunities to nearly half the world’s population and which represents 30 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

With a combined GDP of US$2.6 trillion, ASEAN is the world’s sixth largest economy, and is projected to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2050 at the latest, with some estimating we will reach that position by 2030, he said.

Touching on the ASEAN Community, the Prime Minister said he was proud that the Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community was issued during Malaysia’s Chairmanship in November 2015.

We reaffirmed our past commitments, and underlined our aspiration towards creating a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred ASEAN Community in which our peoples participate, and benefit fully from ASEAN integration and community building.

We also produced a roadmap that will guide us during the decade up until 2025, as we aim for a Community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible, he said, noting that the key to having a People-Centred ASEAN was putting the citizens at the heart of ASEAN.

Najib also stressed that the 10 ASEAN members must strive to make the Southeast Asian region relevant and a tangible reality to its people.

“We must raise awareness of our association’s history and achievements, and explain what we hope to do in the future, so that one day we will think of ourselves not only as Malaysians, but also as people of ASEAN,” he said.

He said ASEAN at 50 was a milestone, and it meant a great deal to him personally since it was his late father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who, as the then deputy prime minister, was one of the five founding fathers who signed the Bangkok Declaration.

“I was a teenager then, but I was aware that this was a momentous occasion, one that represented an important collective regional effort to build lasting bonds of friendship with one another.

“It is worth thinking back to that time, and remembering that our region was beset by many conflicts and troubles. Stability and peace were not to be taken for granted. In fact, quite the opposite,” he recalled.

Najib said that during the signing of the Bangkok Declaration in 1967, his father was quoted as saying: “We cannot survive for long as independent but isolated peoples unless we also think and act together, and unless we prove by deeds that we belong to a family of Southeast Asian nations bound together by ties of friendship and goodwill and imbued with our own ideals and aspirations, and determined to shape our own destiny.”

Organised by Wisma Putra, the one-day celebration of the 50th ASEAN anniversary was held at Suria KLCC, showcasing various dances, musical performances, talks and presentations on the diverse cultures within ASEAN.

Also present at the event were Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Anifah Aman and Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed.

ASEAN was established on Aug 8, 1967, in Bangkok with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN on Jan 7, 1984; Vietnam on July 28, 1995; Laos and Myanmar on July 23, 1997, and Cambodia on April 30, 1999, making up what is today the ASEAN of 10 member states.