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These studies are seen as particularly important in initiating further and deeper discussions of these issues among and within ASEAN Member States to find ways to address their human rights concerns. The AICHR also shared a glimpse of the workplan that it is finalizing for the approval of ASEAN, which includes programs and activities such as discussing the human rights concerns in the three ASEAN Community Blueprints, designing of human rights courses and training for government officials, sharing of good practices on human rights among the ASEAN Member States, and further developing studies on issues relating to human rights in ASEAN. Among the points raised by some AICHR Representatives during the dialogue are the possibility of an accreditation process for stakeholders that will be engaging the AICHR and the alignment of all human rights bodies in ASEAN with the AICHR. The Working Group, for its par t, shared its thoughts on how it can work together with and contribute further to the goals of the AICHR. The Working Group presented its planned activities that would complement the plans of the AICHR.

2 Working Group updates 6 News from the region 8 From the Secretary General’s desk These activities include a Workshop on Developing National Human Rights Action Plans in ASEAN (11-12 November 2010, Manila), an Informational Program for the Principal Assistants of the AICHR Representatives (21-27 November 2010, Strasbourg and Berlin) and a Workshop on Human Rights and Corporate Responsibilit y (30 November - 01 December 2010, Singapore). Aside from these, the Working Group also organized a Dialogue on the Human Rights Impact and Implications of the ASEAN Community Blueprints on 22-23 February 2011 in Luang Prabang, Lao P.D.R. The dialogue between the Working Group and the AICHR was the first of its kind that the AICHR had with civil society. Although one of the functions of the AICHR is to consult with stakeholders as part of being a people-oriented ASEAN, it has yet to finalize its modalities for such consultations. The AICHR was created in 2009 pursuant to the ASEAN Charter. The Working Group, on the other hand, is an informal network of government and civil society representatives who have been working on the issue of establishing human rights mechanisms in ASEAN since 1995. ASEAN recognized it in its Charter as an Entity Associated with ASEAN.

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AT A m e e t i n g i n S e p t e m b e r 2010, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism ( Working Group) discussed possible areas of cooperation promoting the AICHR’s agenda. Working Group Co-Chair Vitit Muntarbhorn said that the Working Group will play a facilitative role with what the AICHR plans to do. Among the priority areas identified by the AICHR are increasing awareness of human rights and the AICHR itself in ASEAN, adopting its modalities to operate, finalizing its five-year workplan, and strengthening its secretariat support in order to fully operate. Aside from these, the AICHR is currently setting up an ad hoc task force to draft an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration that will serve as the human rights framework for ASEAN. The AICHR identified thematic issues that it would want to study further in order to deepen the understanding and discussion on particular issues of concern on human rights, particularly corporate social responsibility, migration, trafficking in persons (particularly women and children), juvenile justice, and the right to health.


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Working Group to play facilitative role on human rights in ASEAN


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Representatives of ASEAN Member States, civil society and the ASEAN Secretariat exchanged views on the human rights implications of the ASEAN Community Blueprints in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR on 22-23 February 2011. They discussed not only the implementation of the Blueprints but also how ASEAN governments and civil society organizations can work together to realize the envisioned ASEAN Community. Lao Deputy Foreign Minister and Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, H.E. Bounkeut Sangsomsak, set the tone of the discussions for the two day workshop. He recalled how human rights had figured in ASEAN long before AICHR, and shared his experience in engaging the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism as a senior official of ASEAN, saying, “ The AICHR and the Working Group can be partners in implementing some of the (AICHR) programs.” The political-security, economic, and socio-cultural community blueprints were tackled in three sessions. In the discussions on the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the participants discussed the right to information, the involvement of civil society in ASEAN affairs and the accreditation process that ASEAN is currently considering. The ASEAN Secretariat said that the on-going debates on the accreditation process include the following issues: definition of civil society organizations, guidelines for engagement with CSOs, determination of the credibility of CSOs, and representation of CSOs in ASEAN. The participants also tackled the information gap between ASEAN states and their people, as well as the conflicting need of the public for information and the need of governments for confidentiality, especially in negotiating agreements. The par ticipants noted that with the ASEAN Economic Community Scorecard, there is more information available to track the implementation of the economic goals of ASEAN. Unlike the two other pillars of the ASEAN Community, the indicators of the economic pillar are more concrete and measurable. Still, the civil society organizations raised concern over the lack of consultation on many trade agreements negotiated by ASEAN. The ASEAN Secretariat clarified that since consultations should be done at the national level, it is incumbent upon the ASEAN national secretariats to carry them out. The economic issues raised included: the challenge of attaining equitable economic development, impact assessment of the free flow of goods, corporate social responsibility (CSR), privatization of services, and




ASEAN, CSOs tackle HR implications of Community Blueprints


Some representatives of ASEAN Ministries of Foreign Affairs together with representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat looks into the ASEAN Community Blueprints.

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free trade agreements. The participants identified the flow of information as a challenge, especially the need to translate developments on the economic front in a way that can be understood by the grassroots. On the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, the participants exchanged information on the issues of children, climate change and environment, minimum wage and decent work, humanitarian assistance, CSR, and the challenge of an ASEAN Identity. The exchanges highlighted the need for civil society to be more involved in helping ASEAN achieve the goals of the community blueprints. A government participant asked, “How can we (the ASEAN governments) implement the blueprints in the context of human rights?” The participants agreed to have another, more focused workshop in the future. The dialogue was organized by the Working Group as part of its commitment to help the AICHR realize its priority programs, one

TWG conducts road shows From August to December 2010, the Thai Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (TWG) and its partners conducted public forum in each of the country’s four regions (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakronpanom and Chonburi) in a road show on regional and international human rights mechanisms. The road show aimed to increase the public’s awareness of developments in human rights, both regionally and internationally. Around 740 participants coming from government agencies, the National Human Rights Commission, academe, media, grassroots organizations and other NGOs, attended the forums which served not only as a venue for information dissemination but also as a platform for the public to participate and share information and recommendations on more effective measures in the promotion and protection of human rights. The road show was divided into two parts. The first half was a presentation on ASEAN and human rights, including the regional human rights mechanism, with emphasis on the AICHR. This was followed by a discussion on human rights mechanisms in the international stage. The second half was an open discussion on the work of the AICHR with Thai representative Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree and how to utilize regional and international mechanisms to address human rights issues and concerns. In the four forums, the TWG noted that some of the questions that emerged were related to the coordination of the role of the AICHR vis-à-vis the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. There were also some thematic concerns raised on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and elderly people. The participants shared some of their recommendations on the work of AICHR which include the participation of civil society in the development of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and Rules of Procedure of the AICHR; the enhancement of the public’s awareness on human rights, especially in the communities; more issues on human rights to be included in the thematic studies of the AICHR; and the full implementation of ASEAN instruments related to human rights. The road shows of the TWG were organized in partnership with the Pro Rights Foundation, UNIFEM Bangkok, Chiang Mai University, NakhonPhanom University and Burapha University.

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WG hosts meeting on CSR and human rights

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and core labor standards; and poverty reduction and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Various actors at the national level have already formed the ASEAN CSR Network as an institutional mechanism in the ASEAN context to complement the work of the UN Global Compact and obligations under other international human rights treaties. Currently, CSR is ‘voluntary’ for the business community in ASEAN and enterprises are encouraged to do more in the social and environmental fields over and above what the law requires them to do. The participants listened to a presentation on the “Protect-Respect-Remedy”framework of the UN Global Compact’s approach to CSR-HR and heard non-governmental organizations share cases of shortcomings in the implementation of policies that protect the environment and workers. There were also calls for higher transparency and greater efficiency in the implementation of remedial measures to address exploitation and violations of agreements, caution as the business community will still need incentives to become CSR proponents, and the

Dr. Filemon Uriarte,Jr., Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation, presents his views on what CSR meant in the Southeast Asian context.

inclusion of NGOs in discussions with business and government. The speakers and participants concluded the two-day workshop by emphasizing the need to raise further awareness of CSR in the region, to build capacity in existing institutions, and to develop public policy on CSR and Human Rights as articulated in Article 6 in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint. The participants committed to ensure that capacity-building at the local level continues in 2011.

In celebration of the 43rd foundation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippine Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism organized a series of ASEAN forums with its partner universities from August to early September 2010. The topics of the forums revolved around ASEAN in general and thematic issues affecting the region, such as women and children, climate change and Indigenous Peoples (IPs). Climate change was discussed with a local perspective at the Western Philippines University in Palawan, where its impact on the environment was tackled. The participants found this very relevant since Palawan is a large island province known for its rich biodiversity and pristine beaches. The other topics were also given a local perspective as speakers presented national laws and policies protecting the rights of women, children and IPs in the Philippines. In all of the forums, it was apparent that issues and concerns dealing with women, children, Indigenous Peoples and climate change should be assessed from a human rights perspective or a rights-based approach. “More than looking at specific issues affecting the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region in general, we were able to showcase the interdependence of all human rights through this ASEAN road show,” Atty. Ryan Jeremiah D. Quan, Internship Director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center said. He added: “These issues should be addressed in order for us to say that as a country and as a region, we fulfill our obligations to respect, promote and fulfill human rights.” The ASEAN forum of the Philippine Working Group reached more than 1,000 participants across the Philippines which included students, faculty and staff, and members of local government units, like the police and barangay officials.

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PWG road shows tackle local HR issues

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The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism organized a meeting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Rights, a first-of-its-kind interaction on this issue for government representatives, the private sector and civil society organizations, on November 30 and Dec 1, 2010 at the Park Royal Hotel in Singapore. Representatives to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights of Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia graced the meeting. Singapore AICHR representative Mr. Richard Magnus gave the keynote address. Speaking in his personal capacity, he discussed CSR and human rights from an evolutionary point of view, and shared thoughts on possible approaches that CSR could take in ASEAN according to universal norms. ASEAN Foundation’s Dr. Filemon Uriarte gave an ASEAN perspective on CSR and Human Rights. CSR Experts from the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore also shared their perspectives. The Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (through MARUAH) coordinated the meeting for the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism and partners, which included the Singapore Compact for CSR, the ASEAN CSR Network and CSR Asia. The meeting aimed to review CSR from a rights-based approach and study possibilities of alignment with universal norms for ASEAN. Eighteen speakers and 55 participants attended the event. The key discussions centred around the CSR-HR framework using the guidelines of the UN Global Compact, International Labor Organization, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and possibilities for ASEAN. Issues that could be alleviated through a CSR framework were also discussed, including integrated labor markets and higher levels of social inclusion of people from disadvantaged groups; investment in skills development, lifelong learning and employability; the creation of working environments that are more conducive to innovation; more rational use of natural resources and reduced levels of pollution; a positive image of business and entrepreneurs in society; land management; greater respect for human rights, environmental protection


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The delegates with representatives from the Working Group and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung fur dei Freiheit Dr. Ellen Madeker and Dr. Rainer Adam.




FNF hosts info program for principal assistants of AICHR representatives


ONE y e ar aft e r the H igh Le vel Pa n e l o n a n A S E A N H u m a n R i g h t s B ody (AHRB) exchanged vie ws with the different European human rights mechanisms in the Council of Europe, the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung f u r d i e Fre i h e i t , o rg a n i ze d a n o t h e r informational program in Strasbourg and Berlin from 21-27 November 2010, this time for the principal assistants of the representatives to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). The program focused on the regional human rights system in Europe and looked into Germany as an example in the promotion and protection of human rights and in ensuring that the decisions on human rights made in the regional level are implemented on the national level. ASEAN delegates from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam met with representatives from the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Department of the European Social Char ter and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT ) of the Council of Europe. Discussions revolved around their respective tasks and responsibilities for the full realization of human rights promotion and protection in the

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European region. The session with Mr. Lauri Sivonen, advisor to the European Commissioner for Human Rights, for instance, looked into the significant roles of the Commissioner that include monitoring, making thematic reports, cooperating with national human rights structures, and cooperating with the European Court of Human Rights. Mr. Sivonen explained that the reports the Commissioner submits are different from those submitted for the Universal Periodic Review of the UN. “ The Commissioner does not make periodic repor ts and does not need to seek the approval of countries to make countr y repor ts because of his independence,” he said. Ms. G abr ielle Guillemin, jur ist at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), spoke about the work of ECHR, an important mechanism in the European human rights system. In her presentation, she shared how the ECHR handles cases and the different applications brought to it by individuals and States. But she clarified that a different organ of the Council of Europe enforces the judgments of the ECHR. “When the Court has come up with a decision, it is passed on to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which is responsible for monitoring its implementation,” she explained. The delegates also met with M r. Hugh Chetwynd, Head of Division of the Committee for the Prevention of

Tor ture and I nhuman or D egrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT ). The CPT is not a judicial body and can conduct independent country visits to monitor their compliance with the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As its name suggests, part of the CPT’s mandate is the prevention of tor ture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, beyond merely condemning the way detained persons are treated. According to Mr. Chetwynd, through visitation, the CPT is able “to assess the conditions of the detainees and detention facilities”. He added that the CPT can also “obtain information on current procedures and practices in the said area.” Another significant task of the CPT is the publication and release of its reports to bring human rights violations in certain countries or entities in Europe to the public’s attention. The ASEAN delegates also went t o B e r l i n w h e re t h e y we re gi v e n a perspective on the human rights protection mechanism at the national level. T h e g r o u p m e t w i t h M r. P e t e r Kettner, Assistant of the Commissioner of the Federal Government for Human R i g h t s a n d H u m a n i t a r i a n A i d, w h o explained Germany’s foreign policy in relation to human rights and how it makes an effort to ensure cooperation on human rights issues within the region. On the other hand, Ms. Frauke Seiddensticker, Deputy Director of the G e r m a n I n s t i t u te fo r H u m a n R i g h t s said that the focus of her office is to monitor the government’s compliance with its human rights commitments and conduct studies on how to better address the human rights concerns and challenges in the country. The delegates were pleased with the informational program which gave them a better understanding of the European human rights system and how each organ of the Council of Europe complements each other. At the end of the visit, they recommended that a similar program be organized for the AICHR representatives t o a l l o w t h e m t o s h a re t h e A S E A N experiences on human rights promotion and protec tion with their European counterparts.

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Dr. Alizadeh emphasizes the need to make the government accountable to its people in the promotion and protection of human rights through NHRAPs.

ing NHRAPs is an opportunity to address better promotion and protection of human rights in the region. He shared that, “[t]his is the entry point not only in terms of bringing the stakeholders together to make a plan for a human rights program but also to make sure that this program is implemented.”

PWG Kapihan pushes for rights-based approach to HR In 2010, the Philippines welcomed its 15th President, H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. This was an opportune time for the new government to venture into new strategies and programs to further address the needs of the Filipino people. The Philippine Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (PWG), seized the moment by assessing the new administration’s receptiveness and action towards the fulfillment of human rights in the country. Following its tradition of assessing the administration’s performance on human rights practice, the PWG organized its annual midyear and year-end Kapihan on Human Rights. The Kapihan forum was divided into two parts: The first was held on October 8, 2010 and the second on December 7, 2010. The October Kapihan focused on the civil society perspectives on and assessments of the attention and priority given by the new government to human Usec. Yangco (holding the microphone) responds to a question raised

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during the open forum while the other speakers listen..

To have a better understanding of the process of developing a national human rights action plan and some of the challenges in implementing it, Dr. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo from the Ministry of Law & Human Rights of Indonesia and Dr. Rosette Gilda Librea, a consultant at the Office of the Presidential Human Rights Committee of the Philippines, shared their experiences in developing and implementing their respective NHRAPs. Dr. Harkrisnowo discussed the role of government units overlooking the planning, development and implementation of Indonesia’s NHRAP. She also shared some of the challenges Indonesia faced in developing its NHRAP, such as: lack of information on the human rights situation by some government line agencies, insufficient understanding of human rights on the part of the public, and the lack of adequate resources. For her part, Dr. Librea presented how the Philippines’ human rights action plan was implemented. She stressed that the development of a NHRAP paved the way for greater awareness of human rights and the situation among the key stakeholders, which is crucial in creating better systems of promotion and protection of human rights at the national level. At the end of the workshop, the participants agreed on the need to build more capacity in the rights-based approach to development policies; to further discuss the coherence of NHRAP with international, regional and national systems of protection; and to have more engagement between the government and NGOs on the process of developing NHRAPs. The Workshop on Developing National Human Rights Action Plans was part of a series of human rights forums sponsored by the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism in 2010, in line with the priority areas of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The workshop is also in line with the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action which identified the desirability of having national HR plans of action, and in support of the primary responsibility of ASEAN Member States in human rights promotion and protection as enshrined in the Terms of Reference of the AICHR.

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The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, organized a workshop that looked into the possibility of developing National Human Rights Action Plans (NHRAPs) by its ASEAN MemberStates. The approximately 45 participants who attended the workshop held on 11-12 November 2010 in Manila were particularly interested in how human rights can be integrated into the development plans of individual ASEAN Member-States. The par ticipants, who represented the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society, discussed the different systems of human rights promotion and protection and assessed the issues and challenges experienced by some ASEAN M emberStates in developing and implementing their respective NHRAPs. D r. H o m a y o u n A l i z a d e h , R e gi o n a l Representative for Southeast Asia of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized that develop-

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Manila hosts workshop on developing NHRAPs in ASEAN


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N ews f ro m t h e region Kapihan on Human Rights... From page 5

From L to R: Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (Working Group), Mr. Homayoun Alizadeh (OHCHR), and Mr. Ray Paolo Santiago (Working Group) listen to the discussions at the open forum.




UN explores areas for engagement with ASEAN regarding human rights mechanisms


With the recent developments on human rights in ASEAN, a number of senior staff from the United Nations participated in a forum with key stakeholders to discuss the emerging human rights system in ASEAN. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia Pacific Regional Centre, together with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), organized a dialogue on 06 September 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand to look into possible opportunities for engagement between the UN and the different ASEAN human rights mechanisms. Representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, the ASEAN Secretariat, the Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum and civil society organizations presented the challenges the respective institutions are facing, as well as the possible opportunities and areas of engagement with the UN. The common issues of concern raised were related to better coordination and cooperation among the different stakeholders in the systems of promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN. In the AICHR, for instance, Malaysian representative M r. Muhammad Shafee Abdulla stressed that “there is a need to bridge mindsets among AICHR members, who come from a variety of backgrounds.” This was supported by Mr. Yap Swee Seng of Forum-Asia who said that there should

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be a “facilitation of dialogue between all stakeholders at the national and regional level.” It is apparent that having more venues for interaction and consultations among the different actors in the ASEAN human rights system is essential in achieving effective and efficient human rights mechanisms in ASEAN. As to opportunities for engagement by the UN, the significant entry point shared by all would be to assist in capacity-building efforts, to facilitate and share its expertise and knowledge on how to link ASEAN to the UN human rights system, and to provide technical support to all the stakeholders in the implementation of human rights. Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn of Chulalongkorn University and the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, however, pointed out that from all the discussions, there remains a pending question of “cohesion, complementarity and consistency between national, regional and international human rights standards.” The UN is perceived to play a vital role in making these norms and standards known to the different ASEAN institutions through awareness-raising, thematic studies and sharing of best practices. Prof. Muntar bhorn also shared his observation that the buzz word emerging within ASEAN at present is interconnectivity in terms of having more linked structures, institutions and peoples in the region. He said that given the fact that human rights is a cross-cutting issue for ASEAN, it is important for all the stakeholders to really work together and to make sure that all

rights issues after the President’s 100th day in office. The civil society participants examined the concluding obser vations and recommendations of the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review Repor t and the different international human rights instruments that it is a party to. At the end of the forum, the participants came up with a list of recommendations and comments for the government line agencies to look into specific human rights issues such as on women, children, migrant workers, persons with disabilities, torture and racial discrimination. The December Kapihan, on the other hand, had government representatives addressing the results of the October Kapihan. Using the October Kapihan as a spring board for discussion, the speakers gave their responses to the comments and recommendations on the human rights instrument relevant to their office. For instance, the Department of Social Welfare and Development responded to the recommendations of the children’s rights group in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The results of both Kapihan demonstrated the general sentiment that the current administration ought to be more proactive in addressing human rights issues even as it goes through a period of transition. The human rights situation in the Philippines needs to be addressed from a Rights-Based Approach, by not only looking into pressing human rights issues but also empowering individuals to become more aware and assertive of their rights and responsibilities. As observed by Mr. Carlos P. Medina, Jr., Secretary-General of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, “ The concept of Rights-Based Approach should be further explored and considered by all government agencies in crafting and implementing laws and policies.”

human rights mechanisms in ASEAN function harmoniously, complementing each other. The regional dialogue was the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, where Resident Coordinators, Country Directors and other Regional Representatives met with stakeholders in ASEAN and discussed the developments of human rights systems in ASEAN and how the UN may provide assistance.

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international affairs and be knowledgeable to translate this to the national level. Additionally, Indonesia has declared that it will put human rights issues in the spotlight, not only to strengthen the ASEAN human rights mechanisms but also to ensure people’s participation and involvement in all its endeavors. Although there is some hesitation towards this focus, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that rather than punish human rights violators, his country will undertake “quiet diplomacy and consensus-building to persuade ASEAN members to respect human rights.” Although projecting ASEAN’s image externally is very important, some critics are looking back at Indonesia’s experience and are asking how it will deal with internal issues, especially in reaching out to the general public and in making sure that democracy and human rights are implemented. Questions have also been raised on how it will address different human rights-related issues and deepen the regional HR systems. Expectations are high, considering that as one of ASEAN’s founding fathers, Indonesia has pushed for essential agreements during its past chairmanships and is increasingly making its presence felt in the United Nations as a member of the G20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Indeed, all eyes are on Indonesia as it begins its work as ASEAN Chair for 2011. With a lot to cover in such a short period, Indonesia is expected to be creative and

6th ASEAN People’s Forum held in Hanoi In line with the upcoming 17th ASEAN Summit, more than 700 representatives from people’s organizations, regional and international NGOs, media personnel and other guests across Southeast Asia gathered for the 6th ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) in Hanoi, Vietnam on 23-26 September 2010, to discuss the various issues facing ASEAN and the relevance of ASEAN to its people. With the theme, “Solidarity and Action for a People -Oriented ASEAN”, the par ticipants stressed the importance of ensuring the people’s participation in all ASEAN processes, emphasizing that the peoples of ASEAN should be at the center of every undertaking of the regional body. Among the issues discussed during the forum were the opportunities and challenges of building an ASEAN Community by 2015. The

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common observation was that in order to build an ASEAN Community, governments and civil society need to have more engagements and par tnerships in working towards a common vision for the peoples of ASEAN. Ambassador Bagas Hapsono, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs, agreed saying, “ASEAN seeks engagement with civil society organizations to better develop its future plans and facilitate its programs.” Recognizing that the respect for human rights and democracy is an essential aspect of an ASEAN Community, the APF also urged all ASEAN countries “to ratify and implement and enforce all international human rights treaties and agreements.” It further emphasized that the drafting of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights “must undergo con-

The ASEAN logo for 2011 is a gunungan wayang (a triangular shape) representing the three pillars of the ASEAN Community. (Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Indonesia)

strategic in addressing pressing issues in the region, at the same time be forwardlooking to achieve its vision of an ASEAN Community. President Yudhoyono shares, “Without doubt, we will face challenges and possible roadblocks. But we will also improvise and find new opportunities. And we will gain new momentum.” According to the ASEAN Charter, the chairmanship of ASEAN is rotated alphabetically among the Member-States, using their English names. Initially, Brunei Darussalam was supposed to take up the chairmanship, with Indonesia succeeding Cambodia in 2013. However, due to some overlapping meetings and planning, the ASEAN Member-States decided during the 16th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam to heed the request of Indonesia to swap places with Brunei. sultations with the peoples of ASEAN, conform to international human rights standards and be adopted by the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.” Lastly, the APF committed to do its part in creating an ASEAN Community that is people-oriented, responsive to the needs of the ASEAN peoples, and capacitates its people to uphold the rights that are due them. Participants at the forum also committed to pursue and continue to strengthen its initiatives so that this vision will be truly realized by 2015. The APF was organized on the occasion of the annual ASEAN Summit. It started in Malaysia in 2005 and was continued in the Philippines (2006), Singapore (2007), Thailand (2008 and 2009) and Vietnam (2010). The 7th APF will be held in Indonesia in 2011. It serves as a venue for information and experience sharing among the peoples of ASEAN and a platform for more cooperation in the promotion of a people-centered ASEAN Community.

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At the start of the New Year on 01 January 2011, the leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was passed on to Indonesia. Leading the regional organization as the chair for the third time – first in 1976 and second in 2003 – Indonesia is expected to play a major role in the development of the region, especially in human rights promotion and protection. As the first ever chair of ASEAN in 1976, Indonesia pushed for the adoption of the Bali Concord and followed this up with the Bali Concord II in 2003. These agreements paved the way towards transforming ASEAN from a loose organization to a rules-based one. Also in 2003, Indonesia was active in envisioning an ASEAN Community and through concerted efforts of ASEAN Member-States, in making ASEAN more relevant to its people. To fully embody the vision of ASEAN as a people-centered community, Indonesia launched the theme for 2011 “ASEAN Community, in a Global Community of Nations”. According to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, while regional transformation is important, this should be complemented with global engagements. “ASEAN must enhance its collective contribution, towards addressing various global issues; a positive contribution to the global community of nations,” Yudhoyono said. He added that the peoples of ASEAN should be better equipped to fulfill the region’s role in

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Indonesia is new ASEAN Chair

(Photo taken from www.deplu.go.id)

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Drafting an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration Although it is an accepted fact that human

aspirations on human rights, there is a need for

rights are universal, this has not prevented regional

meaningful consultations among the peoples of

organizations from crafting their own human rights

ASEAN. And here the work falls not only on the AICHR,

conventions, despite the existence of the International

but also on civil society groups and non-governmental

Bill of Human Rights. Thus, we have the African

organizations which must play a facilitative role in

Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights, the American

helping ASEAN achieve this goal.

Convention on Human Rights of the Organization of

The drafting of an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

American States, and the Convention for the Protection

by the AICHR will be another milestone in ASEAN’s

of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the

quest for human rights. How soon it can be prepared

Council of Europe. In ASEAN, we are moving towards

will be determined by the pace of the evolutionary

drafting an ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights,

process that the ASEAN human rights system is

through the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on

going through. This process is anticipated with great

Human Rights (AICHR).

interest not only by the ASEAN peoples but also by the

A regional declaration or convention on human

international community.

rights is not merely a restatement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It reflects the values and aspirations of the region’s peoples for human rights consistent with international human

Ray Paolo J. Santiago Acting Secretary-General

rights standards. It is also an opportunity for a region to add value to the UDHR in terms of a regional flavor. The terms of reference of the AICHR clearly state its mandate: “To develop an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration with a view to establishing a framework




for human rights cooperation through various ASEAN


conventions and other instruments dealing with human rights.” Thus, the declaration is a means to pave the way for the development of more binding instruments on human rights in ASEAN. This is consistent with ASEAN being a rules-based organization. But the questions we face are: What could be the value added of an ASEAN declaration to the UDHR, and how can the aspirations of the ASEAN peoples be reflected in the declaration? In the existing regional human rights systems around the world, the conventions have created mechanisms that protect and promote human rights. Though it can be argued that a declaration is not a convention, it should pave the way towards this direction in order to achieve the desired “value added”.

Editorial Board Carlos P. Medina Jr. fghd Paulynn P. Sicam Ray Paolo J. Santiago Maria Patricia R. Cervantes Maria Kristina R. Merginio Nathaniel M. Oducado This is a bi-annual publication of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. For subscription requests, information, comments, and suggestions, please contact us at: E-mail: info@aseanhrmech.org Phone: (+632) 8993633 Fax: (+632) 8994342 Secretariat Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism Ground Floor, APS Building 20 Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center Makati City 1200 PHILIPPINES

For the declaration to be truly reflective of their

hr herald JANUARY draft.indd 8

4/4/11 2:14 PM

Profile for Narwin Espiritu

Human Rights Herald - March 2011 Issue  

A bi-annual publication of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism

Human Rights Herald - March 2011 Issue  

A bi-annual publication of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism