ACSC/APF: ASEAN governments’ adversarial notions against CSOs must change in the post 2015 vision

ASEAN Head of States interface with civil society organizations at the 26th ASEAN Summit Malaysia

asean summit

Statement by the participating non-government organisations (NGOS) of the ASEAN Head of States interface to ASEAN leaders at the Summit meeting highlighting the need for ASEAN government to change its adversarial notions against CSOs in the post 2015 vision.

“These concerns, though painful for all of us, must be told, in order to find faster resolutions. Don’t keep us out because we present a critical and honest evaluation on what we see, hear and feel on the ground. We are convinced that being open and transparent in our analysis and proposals, is the most constructive may forward. ”

Along with the concerns by the NGOs highlighted in the statement, the NGOs also emphasized that Cambodia and Singapore did not have members of the civil society who enjoy the full support of ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) and gone through a civil society organisation (CSO) selection process.

In the other countries, the process to select the representatives is to have all the local NGOs vote and choose who is to represent all of them in the meeting.

However, the civil society representatives from Cambodia and Singapore were handpicked by the governments to take part in the meeting.

Earlier it was reported that the Thai participants at the APF 2015 have withdrawn their civil society representative, Ms Sattara Hattirat of Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA), from the interface with ASEAN Heads of Government in solidarity with their Cambodian and Singaporean colleagues who were rejected by their respective governments.


27th April 2015 – Your Excellencies, it’s our pleasure to meet and greet the leaders of our nations. Thank you for this opportunity to have this honest dialogue.

We just completed a successful ASEAN Peoples Forum 2015 in Kuala Lumpur with 1500 people in attendance from all ASEAN countries, as well as about 500 people in the 4 preparatory meetings prior, with the support of Financial Assistance , without conditions, from the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other donors. I thank you.

We have been working together since September 2014 to prepare our selves for the Peoples Forum. We take our deliberations seriously and with integrity as civil society; and so too for this. We stand here having received the support of a larger ASEAN CSO community.

To that end we are pleased to announce that ONLY Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines. Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar interface representative here today enjoy the full support of the Asean People Forum 2015 process, that have gone through a CSO national process. We thank these government.

In the last 10 years since the 1st ACSC in Kuala Lumpur, the Interface has gone through some choppy roads and at many times been extremely disappointing by some governments. Its time the CSO interface has an institutional and a truly people centered framework. We are ready to work with you on getting this framework ready. The post 2015 vision must come up with a framework for engagement with Heads of States and Ministerial meetings, in order for us to continue engaging with ASEAN state, in a mutuality of respect from 2016 onwards.

We note the positive engagement that has emerged this time around when Foreign Ministers received our final statement submitted 2.5 months ahead and hope that Your Excellencies, would provide some concrete response to our statement at this Summit. Therefore this year at this interface, unlike previous ones, we have no new document to present but only reaffirm the Final Statement as sent earlier to all governments on Feb 17th.

We note the many challenges in Asean. We remain concerned that inequality continues to rise despite the promise of the ASEAN regional integration. We are: worried with disappearances of human rights defenders without any information or accountability; the acceleration of death penalty executions; the dangers of unmitigated free trade agreements; widespread corruption in the region in the face of escalating poverty, worried about the fragile peace processes that are on the verge of collapse; alarmed at the growth of extremism in the name of religions that continue to be bred, observe the unabated exploitation of lands and waters for resources in the name of development; we are especially worried about the Rohingya stateless people in ASEAN region; anxious that a vibrant and truly democratic and multi-party system is yet not in place in all nations; we remain shocked that police brutality and unprofessional conduct continues in the region; perplexed that till today there are still communities discriminated based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity; enquire on the lack of coherent commitment to climate change agenda; the glorifying and strengthening of repressive colonial laws; exploitation of migrant workers…Your Excellencies the list goes on and so does our concerns.

Don’t get us wrong please. We remain hopeful that this wonderful region can and must surely improve. We bring to your attention what we see, hear and feel on the ground with the only intention that the peoples deserve better to reclaim their dignity and human rights.

These concerns, though painful for all of us, must be told, in order to find faster resolutions. Don’t keep us out because we present a critical and honest evaluation on what we see, hear and feel on the ground. We are convinced that being open and transparent in our analysis and proposals, is the most constructive may forward. We believe that adversarial notions against CSOs must change in the post 2015 vision. We engage governments as our representatives to deliver on its duties and obligations of human rights as States.

We believe that your excellences share this same aspirations like us , as these have been inked in the ASEAN Charter since 2007. We too love our nations and its peoples.

For ASEAN to launch it community soon, we must truly believe that people are its core assets and anything to uphold their dignity and human rights is not a misplaced call, but a necessary ingredient for the growth of a people-centred community of people that ensures development and economic growth should not happen at the expense of the peoples.

Let us together work as partners for a truly People-Centred and People-Driven ASEAN.

I thank you and we look forward to this interactive time with Your Excellencies.

Jerald Joseph CSO Representative of Malaysia and Chair- of ACSC/APF