For immediate release- 29 November 2011
Bali/Bangkok- The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) should conduct broad public consultations with all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations (CSOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), in drafting the historic ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), urged representatives of civil society organizations and people’s movements participating in the 4th Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights held in Bali from November 27-29. The groups call on the AICHR to ensure the ASEAN human rights declaration does not fall below international human rights laws and standards.
“We are disappointed that the AICHR has thus far failed to engage with all stakeholders in the drafting of the ASEAN human rights declaration that will have far reaching impacts on the rights and livelihood of all people in the region. We call on the AICHR to be transparent and accountable and make public any drafts of ASEAN human rights declaration for input and comments from the public,” said Haris Azhar, coordinator of KontraS and co-convenors of the SAPA-TFAHR, one of the organizers of the regional consultation.
In response to a statement yesterday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who called on the AICHR to be more transparent and ensure true engagement with civil society, in particular in drafting the AHRD, Azhar said the statement from the High Commissioner was very timely, helpful and consistent with the aspiration of the ASEAN to be a people-oriented ASEAN. “The conference participants welcomed the statement and urged the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to monitor closely the drafting process of the ASEAN human rights declaration and the ASEAN regional human rights mechanisms.”
The participants of the regional consultation warned that the ASEAN human rights declaration being drafted now by the AICHR may undermine international human rights laws and standards if the ASEAN concepts of non-interference, “consideration of national, cultural and historical particularities” and “balancing rights and duties” are interpreted as a license for imposing constraints on the enjoyment of human rights.
“Given the non-transparent drafting process of the Declaration, we fear that these misconceptions may become tools by certain states to downgrade human rights provisions and protections with the absence of public scrutiny. ASEAN peoples deserve similar rights as enjoyed by all human beings in the rest of the world and it is imperative that the peoples in ASEAN are engaged and consulted in a meaningful, genuine and substantive way,” said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).
Concerns have also been raised by the civil society representatives about the alignment of roles and mandates between the AICHR and ACWC. “We call on the AICHR to discuss and resolve this issue on the basis of independence, equal standing and complementing each other’s work in the interest of the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children. We are very much encouraged by the openness of the ACWC to engage and collaborate with civil society organizations right from the first official meeting of the ACWC and call on the AICHR to engage the ACWC in the drafting of the ASEAN human rights declaration,” said Nina Somera, representative of the Southeast Asian Women’s Caucus on ASEAN.
The 4th Regional Consultation was opened with a keynote speech by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, who had a series of meetings with the AICHR, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) and civil society organizations during her stay in Bali. The regional consultation was co-organized by the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA-TFAHR), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and KontraS.
Mr. Egay Calibatan Jr., representative of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, national focal point for Philippines of SAPA-TFAHR, mobile: +66 92 19645017, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Joan Carling, coordinator of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), mobile: , email: email@example.com