ASEAN-Japan Multinational Cultural Mission's Action Agenda
(April 17. 1998)

The Multinational Cultural Mission, which was established in accordance with the suggestion made by Prime Minister Hashimoto, held its Concluding Meeting in Japan on April 14-17, 1998 and adopted Part II of the Action Agenda, consisting of specific proposals to be implemented to further cultural exchange and cooperation among the ASEAN countries and Japan. On November 4-6, 1997, the Mission met in Singapore and agreed on Part I of the Action Agenda, comprising the objectives, general policy orientations, and priority areas. The following is the full text of the Action Agenda.



The Multinational Cultural Mission, composed of government and private sector representatives from ASEAN countries and Japan, held its Inaugural Meeting in Singapore on November 4-6, 1997 and agreed on an Action Agenda comprising the objectives, general policy orientations, and priority areas for cultural exchange and cooperation. This agreement constitutes Part I of the Action Agenda.

On December 16, 1997, the leaders of the ASEAN countries and Japan, at a summit meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, warmly endorsed the work thus far done by the Multinational Cultural Mission and looked forward to the continuation and successful completion of this exercise.

From 8 February to 2 March 1998, the Mission divided into three subgroups and made visits to member countries of ASEAN (except Singapore, which had been visited during the Inaugural meeting) to exchange views with leading intellectuals and cultural figures in the private and public sectors on urgent issues and possible projects and programs that could be undertaken in accordance with Action Agenda Part I.

Thereafter, the Mission visited Japan on April 14-17, 1998 to hold its Concluding Meeting in Tokyo and Nikko. At that meeting, the Mission adopted Part II of the Action Agenda, consisting of specific projects, programs and other relevant proposals to be implemented to further cultural exchange and cooperation among the ASEAN countries and Japan in accordance with the previously identified four priority areas.


On the threshold of the new century, ASEAN and Japan stand together at a crucial historical moment. This is a moment of both challenge and opportunity. The challenge has its roots in the regional economic crisis. Yet the crisis, too, has its cultural, spiritual and moral dimensions. It has presented a unique opportunity for critical reflection on our deepest values and our highest aspirations. For, ultimately, economics and culture are not two separate spheres. Culture encompasses all ways of life, patterns of meaning, and systems of knowledge that have evolved dynamically and nourished peoples under changing conditions. Without cultural sustainability, economic and social sustainability, too, come into question.

Culture is what makes us human; it is the birthright of every human being to enjoy and to create. And this must not be denied through erosion and neglect. In the present context of rapid development and globalization, our tangible and intangible heritage faces the ever-growing threat of loss. The renewal of our living traditions is also challenged by the unprecedented scale and pace in the flows of capital, people, goods and information. And at a time of economic crisis, we need to give special and urgent attention to the cultural basis of human development, to the sustenance and flourishing of our cultural capital. In so doing, we also wish to enrich the heritage of humanity.

Cultural sustainability and cultural creativity are the new challenges faced by ASEAN and Japan. Against the background of historical, cultural, and economic ties, we aspire to deepen mutual understanding among our peoples, creating a wider regional community that respects cultural diversity and strengthens cultural commonality. We need to respond proactively to the problems of cultural loss and cultural change in creative and vigorous ways. We need to map out new directions, involving multilateral cooperation and multi-layered participation among our peoples from all sectors, including especially the non-governmental or private sector, and those at the grassroots, whose energies would add new momentum to our cultural renewal.



(1) People-to-people exchange that aims to develop a clearer sense of regional identity

The cultural dialogue and interaction among the ASEAN countries and Japan should have a "people-to-people" dimension that transcends political and economic concerns and embraces people at the grassroots level. Such exchange should be firmly supported by governments but not be confined to modalities delineated by them. Community-based exchange programs with local participants, such as farmers or traditional artists, should be explored. Cultural tourism programs could be enriched by providing more opportunities for visitors to understand local cultures first-hand.
These efforts to communicate at various levels of society should foster a sense of community that is non-elitist and broadly based.

(2) Intellectual exchange for the cross-fertilization of ideas and better mutual understanding

Intellectual exchanges on issues of shared concern should be encouraged and expanded, engaging not only academics, but also public intellectuals. The exchanges could take the form of focused dialogues, such as symposia and conferences, and collaborative research in as unconstrained and nurturing an environment as possible. Themes addressed should not only include contemporary issues but also philosophy, linguistics, and other areas of common interest. The range and frequency of intellectual dialogue should increase.
Dialogue not simply among intellectuals but among a much wider social representation is vital in deepening mutual understanding. Accordingly, a cultural dialogue should be developed among people at various levels of society, including students and citizens, to discuss such issues as values, identity, globalization, and the economic crisis.

(3) Promotion of regional and historical studies
Promoting better knowledge of each other's culture, society and history requires constant attention. As one way to satisfy this need, study centers should be established or incorporated into existing institutions in each country for cooperating on comparative cross-national research and on other exchange activities aimed at understanding the region as a whole. The study centers could also initiate: joint publication programs to disseminate collaborative research results (for example, in a journal of Japanese and Southeast Asian culture); translations of the works of Japanese and ASEAN experts on Southeast Asia and Japan; and academic meetings with a disciplinary and/or geographic focus. Such centers would encourage more scholars to address cross-national and regional issues in their respective fields.
More research should be undertaken by the region's scholars on its indigenous, pre-colonial cultures, including research on language, prehistory, and archaeology. Such efforts should fully respect and complement the work of existing international organizations and associations.


(1) Strategies, studies, and measures for heritage planning and cultural development
Sound government strategies for cultural development should be established in such areas as cultural preservation, revitalization and socialization, while sharing lessons learned with others in the region.
Comparative studies on relevant planning and project experiences in the region would facilitate the formulation of such strategies for cultural development and heritage planning. Accordingly, the following studies are recommended:
 Studies concerning Japan's experience in cultural preservation; arts education; the incorporation of folk spirit in design and architecture; and schemes that honor traditional artists
 A survey of national cultural policies to be conducted towards formulation of a region-wide policy for cultural development
 A comparative study to identify relevant laws and legal instruments to protect communal and intellectual property (e.g., indigenous art, designs, medicine, oral traditions, etc.), with specific recommendations for governments for the enactment and enforcement of effective legislation to recognize rights to tangible and intangible cultural property.

In addition, the following specific measures and activities in this field are recommended. These measures could draw on the studies mentioned above:
 Measures to sensitize policymakers and private-sector property developers and architects to historical and cultural preservation issues in development planning, through, for example, workshops and training
 Activities, such as seminars and workshops, on copyright and intellectual property rights issues
 Measures to recognize individuals who have made unique and outstanding contributions in the area of cultural development, for example, by conferring awards on artists, cultural workers, and persons with rare or unique skills.

(2) Larger roles for non-government actors in heritage planning
Non-government actors have a vital role to play in understanding, interpretation, conservation and transmission of our cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. That role should be developed and strengthened, including local and community-based efforts for cultural preservation. Successful outcomes in this field should be shared across the region. The role of existing and new regional networks of non-governmental heritage-related organizations deserve to be considered.

(3) Networking and exchange among cultural institutions
Cultural institutions, such as national libraries, archives and museums, should be encouraged to exchange, through their organizational networks, intellectual and cultural material with one another. Likewise, these institutions should be encouraged to undertake staff exchange programs for internship and training.


(1) Human resource development for ensuring cultural renewal
Human resource development in culture-related fields should be actively promoted through cooperation in such areas as heritage management, physical conservation, museology, arts education and values, and the development of traditional skills. For instance, museum personnel would be taught to maintain cultural property more effectively, thus raising the standard of and pride in the region's museums. Heritage resource centers should be identified and incorporated for the teaching of such skills. Teaching techniques and approaches to be employed must be culturally sensitive and culturally relevant.
Programs for the development of traditional skills and creativity should include: (1) the encouragement of traditional artists to revive or adapt traditional designs, and (2) the development of skills to adapt traditional artistic forms in new contexts, for example, in the performing arts field.
Since parents are often the first teachers in the home, they should be more involved in programs to enhance arts and cultural education. A better gender balance should also be developed and promoted in cultural project planning and administration.

(2) Cross-cultural educational programs and renewal of community-based living traditions
Greater knowledge about each other's language and culture should be actively promoted in educational institutions through programs for cross-cultural education and experience, including exchange of students and teachers and the training of teachers in introducing other cultures in the classroom.
Moreover, to meet the need for transmission and creative renewal of community-based living traditions, centers of indigenous knowledge and wisdom should be set up in communities. Appropriate programs should be initiated for schoolchildren to learn first-hand about living traditions in situ.
Indigenous artistic or artisanal processes-such as batik production-should be documented from start to finish using, for instance, digital technologies.

(3) Responding to cultural globalization and harnessing cultural industries
The impact on our lives of popular culture-in forms as diverse as music, fashion, film, and food-needs to be thoroughly assessed, experimenting with popular elements to uncover ways to create new viable cultures and identities. Cultural industries should be harnessed to better serve efforts towards cultural preservation and development.

(4) Supporting artistic creation and interaction
Artistic interaction promotes mutual understanding and inspires artistic creativity. To increase these effects, exchanges and collaborations among artists should be supported, possibly through greater private sector patronage and support. Festivals of Southeast Asian and Japanese arts should also be held.


(1) Effective dissemination of cultural resources and achievements
The wide dissemination of cultural resources and achievements requires the effective use of a variety of tools, including the latest available technology in information transmission and processing. The following efforts are recommended:
 development of teaching materials for public education, such as slides for teaching art classes
 development of a "cultural atlas" of the ASEAN countries and Japan
 compilation of an ASEAN-Japan cultural encyclopedia, thesaurus, dictionary, or glossary. An international board should supervise that exercise and contributions would be made from each participating country
 production and broadcast of films or videos that examine the historical and cultural interactions between the ASEAN countries and Japan, for instance in the areas of prehistory and religion.
 establishment of an ASEAN-Japan cultural information network and creation of an ASEAN-Japan Website that would serve as an information clearinghouse and enable the stocktaking of past activities
 greater government promotion of media coverage of cultural events

(2) Ensuring multiple sources of news and information
The effective flow of accurate news and information among our countries should be facilitated by the creation of a media pool and by establishing networks of professional journalists. Such endeavors would improve the quality of news reporting by diversifying the information sources and the range of views expressed in our countries' news media.


(1) Stock-taking and building on existing networks and programs
Active exchange and cooperation in the above four areas should take into appropriate account recommendations that have been come out of relevant regional fora such as those supported by the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (COCI). Information concerning past and on-going programs of COCI and recommendations to it and others should serve this need. A summary document compiling such information would be highly useful in formulating new projects and programs. Publication of a regular newsletter or journal should also be encouraged that would contain information about ongoing projects in the region-for instance, those of COCI, and others.
Exchange and cooperation should make use of and enhance the cultural institutions, networks, and funding bodies and organizations that are already active in the region. In addition, research that takes stock of and evaluates regional exchange and cooperation activities should serve to avoid duplication and to sharpen the focus of future activities.

(2) Extra-regional exchange programs
Cultural exchange programs with our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and other regions should provide us with insights and knowledge into possible ways to promote our own programs in such fields as cultural preservation and access.


A window of opportunity was opened by the Multinational Cultural Mission, which proved to be a valuable experience. Participants from ASEAN countries and Japan with various backgrounds and disciplines engaged in in-depth dialogue on cultural exchange and cooperation.

The results of MCM discussion should be disseminated as widely as possible throughout both public and private sectors, engaging governments, private institutions and individuals. Such engagement should deliver tangible achievements in order to strengthen the momentum of the MCM initiative. The follow-up process should utilize institutionalized frameworks and invent flexible multi-layered networks as appropriate. It is important to develop strategic overviews and perspectives for formulating and implementing specific projects and programs.

It is recommended that a meeting be convened within a year to review and consider how the spirit and the recommendations of this Action Agenda have been and should be put into practice. The present members of the MCM may be expected to offer their ideas and suggestions to make the meeting productive.

It is also recommended that projects which reflect the thrust of this Action Agenda be formulated and implemented shortly. Governments, private institutions, and individuals are expected to collaboratively launch such exemplar projects.




1. During his visit to Singapore in January 1997, Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto delivered a policy speech ("Reforms for the New Era of Japan and ASEAN for a Broader and Deeper Partnership"), which proposed to further Japan's relations and cooperation with ASEAN on the basis of equal partnership and mutual benefit. The Prime Minister proposed the formation of a Multinational Cultural Mission to reinforce multilateral cultural cooperation among ASEAN member countries and Japan. This proposal was subsequently endorsed by all ASEAN member countries at the 32nd ASEAN-COCI meeting at Langkawi in July 1997.

2. The Multinational Cultural Mission is composed of ASEAN and Japanese representatives from both the governmental and private sectors. The Mission met in Singapore for its Inaugural Meeting from 4 to 6 November 1997. Members deliberated on the contemporary context of cultural development and on new initiatives to enhance cultural exchange and cooperation. The Mission agreed on an Action Agenda (Part I) which states the objectives of cultural exchange and cooperation, general policy orientations, priority areas and other relevant considerations.


3. Globalisation is not a new phenomenon. The cultural links among Southeast Asian societies and Japan have deep roots in history. In reaffirming shared value orientations and revitalizing historical ties, however, ASEAN and Japan now encounter new forms of globalisation which have great impact on cultural development. The unprecendented scale and pace in the multidirectional flow of capital, people, goods and information have two kinds of consequences. On the one hand, ethnic and indigenous traditions have been rapidly eroded. On the other hand, such traditions have had to respond to the demands of globalisation.

4. The Multinational Cultural Mission seeks to answer the urgent needs of the present historical moment. To address the problem of cultural loss and the challenge of cultural change in innovative and vigorous ways, the very concept of culture has to be understood in a holistic framework. Culture encompasses all ways of life, patterns of meaning, and systems of knowledge that have evolved dynamically and nourished peoples under changing conditions. Without cultural sustainability, economic and political sustainability, too, come into question. In this light, the Mission has identified the following objectives:

a) To widen multilateral cultural exchange and cooperation among participating countries as equal partners;
b) To deepen mutual understanding of the tangible and intangible heritage and cultural diversity of participating countries, appreciating common traditions and distinct identities;
c) To share wisdom and insight, draw ideas, and learn lessons gained from the experiences of participating countries in the conservation of heritage and the modern regeneration of culture.


5. The Mission agreed that a proactive approach is needed for the region to respond to the social and cultural implications of global challenges in the 21st century. In the face of the homogenising tendencies of global consumption culture and the opportunities opened up by new communications technology, the strengthening of the living traditions in the region would contribute to the enrichment of the heritage of humanity. In this spirit, the Mission has identified the following general policy orientations:

a) Equal partnership
Efforts to promote cultural exchange and cooperation must be made in a spirit of equal partnership. The diverse and distinct cultural identity of each participating country must be recognised and respected as having a value of its own. Inter-cultural co-existence warrants partnerships that are concluded between equals and this should be the spirit that guides us in our shared endeavours.

b) Enhanced multilateral exchange and cooperation in the region
Multilateral cultural exchange and cooperation, including networking, should be explored and pursued , whenever feasible and appropriate. Activities in a multilateral setting would serve to provide large opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and experience and to open wider possibilities for interaction and cooperation.

c) Productive collaboration between the public and private sectors
Members in the non-governmental or voluntary sector should be called upon to play, as appropriate, a significant and constructive role in planning and implementing cultural exchange and cooperation. The participation of foundations, non-profit organisations, research institutions, cultural and social associations, communities and private corporations, as the case may be, would make noteworthy contributions to exchange activities and cooperative schemes. Governments should recognise the potential energy that can be tapped in the private sector.


6. In our cultural exchange and cooperation, due consideration should be given to the following priority areas so that efforts would be better focused and resources deployed in an effective manner. The specific projects for each area will be identified and developed in Part II of the Action Agenda.

a) Cultural and intellectual dialogue
Wider and deeper dialogue among people in the participating countries is needed. People are the custodians of culture. There is a need to develop a variety of innovative forms of interaction and exchange, especially in responding to common issues and learning about cultural differences across a whole range of humanistic and scientific disciplines. In the long term, such cross-fertilisation will give substance to a regional identity.

b) Heritage planning
Heritage can no longer be taken for granted. The survival of much of our natural and cultural heritage (eg. forests, oral traditions, historical monuments and sites) have been left at the mercy of economic
calculations alone, denying a precious legacy to future generations. There is a need to understand and share ideas about approaches to heritage planning and the costs and consequences of specific strategies of conservation and revitalisation (eg. urban renewal, cultural tourism, environment management etc.). Comparative lessons can be drawn from the actual experiences of participating countries.

c) Cultural learning and knowledge development
Cultural loss is proceeding with great speed. The transmission and creative renewal of living traditions is of utmost concern. This applies especially to the young, whose attention is captured by the products of the global popular culture. Formal and non-formal education programmes (at all levels) in the learning and development of the arts and traditional knowledge systems need to be strengthened or created.

d) Media and dissemination
Cultural resources and achievements need to be disseminated more widely among participating countries and in the global setting through the use and mastery of print, broadcast and electronic media, especially information technology. There is a need to develop a joint media pool for cultural exchange.


7. The implementation of cultural exchange and cooperation should also take into account the following considerations:
a) Projects initiated and developed by the Multinational Cultural Mission should not duplicate those which are already undertaken by other agencies.
b) In the implementation of the projects, there is a need to develop criteria and mechanisms for follow-up monitoring and evaluation.