Calling AICHR to Release ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

The following is a joint press statement from Think Centre and 137 civic orgnisations in ASEAN.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and networks from Southeast Asia, express our grave concern and disappointment over the continuing secrecy in the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is mandated under Article 4.2 of its Terms of Reference to develop an ASEAN Human Right Declaration with a view to establishing a framework for human rights cooperation through various ASEAN conventions and other instruments dealing with human rights. At the 6th meeting of the AICHR in Vientiane on 28 June – 2 July 2011, a Drafting Group was officially established by the AICHR to prepare a draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. In January 2012, the Drafting Group submitted to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) a draft AHRD for deliberation and debate.

To this date, the draft AHRD remains confidential while the public has been excluded from any meaningful participation in the drafting process. There has not been any substantive and broad-based regional consultation with the peoples in the region on the draft AHRD.

While we commend the representatives of the AICHR from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines for holding consultation with their civil society at national level, we are disturbed that no such initiative has taken place in the rest of the ASEAN countries.

If ASEAN’s aspiration to be “People-Oriented” is to be achieved, the AICHR that is tasked to defend the fundamental freedoms of the peoples in the region must set a good example in ensuring meaningful and substantive consultation and people’s participation in the drafting of the historic AHRD.

We therefore strongly urge the AICHR to heed the recommendation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that “no discussion of human rights can be completeor credible without significant input from civil society and national humanrights institutions”  and immediately begin dialogues and consultations with civil society organizations on the AHRD.

We further call upon AICHR to implement the following steps to ensure that the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will be credible, inclusive, transparent, reflective and consistent with universal human rights standards:

  1. To immediately publicize the draft AHRD so that the public can meaningfully participate in the drafting process. Consultations will remain meaningless if the draft declaration is kept confidential and out of reach of the peoples.
  2. AICHR representatives who are already conducting national consultations in their respective countries must continue to do so, and ensure that these consultations are held nation-wide and in an inclusive and more regular manner. They should further encourage other AICHR representatives that have not taken such initiatives to do the same. The AICHR should also conduct consultations both at national and regional levels, especially if national consultations are not applicable yet in particular places.
  3. To translate the draft AHRD into national languages and other local languages of the ASEAN countries in order to encourage broader public participation in the region.
  4. To ensure that consultation meetings of the AICHR will be inclusive of all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations and national human rights institutions.

Until and unless the AICHR consults and engages with all stakeholders in a transparent, meaningful and substantive manner, the AICHR should postpone its submission of the final draft of AHRD to the AESAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), which is scheduled to take place in July 2012.

This call is made to public as wide as possible in the ten countries of ASEAN and is endorsed by different sectors of civil society organizations such as youth organizations, women’s organizations, child rights organizations, LGBT organizations, migrant workers network organizations, labour unions, farmers organzitions, environmental organizations, human rights organizations, development organizations and some academic institutions. The joint statement is also translated into ASEAN major languages, Burmese, Bahasa-Indonesian, Bahasa-Malay, Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese to indicate our commitment to promote the basic human rights of the people that they are entitled to receive information and awareness about ASEAN and its works.