The seventh meeting on the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), to be held in Kuala Lumpur on June 22 – 23, will hear the views of civil society organizations, which so far have been largely excluded from the drafting process.
The Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held its sixth meeting on June 3-6 in Rangoon. No information about the meeting was released.
In the meeting, AICHR continued its deliberations on the Asean human rights draft following the guidelines given to it by the Asean foreign ministers and the views it received during the first regional consultation meeting in May in Bangkok.
The final draft will be submitted to the 45th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) in July 2012.
On May 30, Mizzima reported that the Aean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) had called on the commission to delay the draft declaration on human rights pending “a fully inclusive, meaningful and transparent consultation of civil society and other stakeholders.”
AIPMC said it is concerned by the secrecy in which the drafting process has been conducted. “The transparency and level of consultation with NGOs and civil society has been sadly lacking to date,” it said.
“The discussion of human rights cannot be complete or credible without meaningful input from civil society and national human rights institutions and AIPMC fully understands the frustrations of civil society organizations in being shut out of the drafting process,” it said in a statement.
“Hosting this meeting in Myanmar is a brave step. Grave human rights concerns remain in that country, as they do in many Asean states today,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, AIPMC President and Indonesian Member of Parliament. “It is regrettable that the process for drafting this most important of declarations is being carried out in a less than transparent manner – we are missing an opportunity to set the tone for a more inclusive Asean that truly regards human rights as a guiding pillar for progress. The principles of transparency, accountability, and consultation have been sadly lacking.”
AIPMC welcomed AICHR's upcoming consultation with NGOs and other groups in Kuala Lumpur, but said it believes the drafting process to date has fallen short of international standards and must be conducted in a more open and transparent manner, that allows for the input from an active, intelligent and capable civil society during the drafting process, not after it is already complete.
“AICHR should make the draft of the declaration publicly available and postpone the draft reading by Asean foreign ministers in June pending a full and meaningful consultation with Asean civil society,” it said.
AIPMC urged a process in which the views of broad-based civil society organizations representing the full range of human rights can be heard and incorporated into a declaration on rights that is fully comprehensive and meets the aspirations and needs of the people of Asean.
The Asean region continues to go through rapid political and economic development and change, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Burma, it said.
On May 17, Mizzima reported the remarks of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who called for a meaningful consultation on the draft with the widest spectrum of people in the region before it is presented to Asean foreign ministers in July.
Pillay expressed hope that the declaration will play an important role in improving human rights for people in Southeast Asia.
“Regional human rights instruments should complement and reinforce international human rights standards,” Pillay said in a statement. “But my hope is that that the Asean Human Rights Declaration will go further by setting the bar higher for governments to ensure full protection and promotion of human rights through their policies, legislation and practices.”
Pillay emphasized that engaging early in a transparent process of inclusive and meaningful consultation will help the drafting process acquire the status and popular support it deserves.
“The process through which this crucial declaration is adopted is almost as important as the content of the declaration itself,” Pillay said. “I very much hope that AICHR recognizes the value of holding meaningful consultations with people from all walks of life, in every country across the Southeast Asia region.”