Open Letter: KontraS’ Inputs to the Guidelines on the Relation Between AICHR and Civil Society Organizations

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    The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), a human rights organization based in Indonesia would like to appreciate the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) for the adopted Guidelines on the AICHR’s Relation with Civil Society Organization in February 2015

    The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), a human rights organization based in Indonesia would like to appreciate the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) for the adopted Guidelines on the AICHR’s Relation with Civil Society Organization in February 2015. However, we would like to focus on our critical thoughts on the document adopted by the AICHR for the further relations, particularly on the hierarchical system on the relation between AICHR and CSOs. We deplore the Guidelines is too focused to build the comfortable level of AICHR which could possibly discriminate the CSOs in particular country

    The Guidelines document is mandated on the AICHR Terms of Reference, Article 4.8 and 4.9, required AICHR to engage in dialogue and consultation with Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights. The Guidelines is supposed to create mutual support and colaboration between AICHR and CSO’s in order to strengthen the promotion and protection mechanism in the region.

    Hence, we believe this process shall be two ways processes in order to benefit both sides; first on AICHR side, to help them on exercising their mandates with the information and inputs from CSOs; second on CSOs side, this Guidelines shall create a larger space to CSOs to voicing grassroot cases as well as their inputs on policy level related with human rights in order to be addressed by AICHR with an adequate and immadiate measures.

    We noted several key weaknesses on the document, inter alia;

    First, we highlighted the Guidelines must have the mutual accountability, not only one sided accountability as stated on the Guidelines, Section III on the eligibility of the CSOs to receive Consultative Status. CSOs are required for some merits defined by AICHR in order to get the consultative status, both in administrative and substantive criteria .Meanwhile, we could not find any provision in this Guidelines to ensure the accountability of AICHR to the CSOs, and to the broader people of ASEAN. The mutual accountability is needed in AICHR side to give public understanding on the work of AICHR, the obstacle, and the achievement on its work in order to create the more effective collaboration between AICHR and CSOs in the future in the spirit to promote and protect human rights.

    Second, we afraid the language of this provison will be excessively interpreted by the AICHR , in example on paragraph 7 stated  “The AICHR shall not have consultative relationships with CSOS and institutions that operate under the clear instruction of a political party or foreign entity attempting to exercise external influence”. We afraid this unclear provison will be articulated to hinder any International Organizations both governmental such as UN or non-governmental to collaborate further in the communication mechanism with AICHR.

    Third, the Guidelines shall have clearer, transparent amd non-discriminatory process of selection in order to receive the consultative Status as well as the transparent and accountable procces on the revocation of Consultative Status process. We deplore the crucial weakness on the provision on paragraph 14, Section V on the Suspension and Consultative Relationship state that any AICHR Representative could make a request to revoke the Consultative Status of CSOs without a clear reason.

    Fourth,  the Guidelines has not provided the equal relations between CSOs and AICHR, yet the output for each type of consultation is also unclear. We deplore the provision in the Section VI on the AICHR Proceedings on Consultation and Types of Consultative Relationship stated that AICHR is the only one who could determine any other format of consultation. While, we believe the relationship between AICHR and CSOs should be build in the spirit of constructive and collaborative. This reflects the hierarchical system between AICHR and CSOs.

    We afraid if the document is not improved immediately, the communication procedure of AICHR and CSOs will be ineffective, while several particular CSOs will also have difficulties to voicing their inputs and information based on the provision on the document. We also afraid the shortfalls of the document will prolong Impunity with the discriminatory system in the administrative process to get Consultative status. Thus, the shortfalls of the Guidelines document shall be addressed immediately by AICHR and related stakeholder to build a more constructive and collaborative cooperation, with the spirit of equality, non discriminatory and accountability in order to promote and protect human rights in the region.

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    With the above mentioned explanation, we respectfully demand the AICHR Representatives and Stakeholders to improve in a better way the Guidelines on the Relation between AICHR and Civil Society Organizations, inter alia;

    1. The Guidelines shall be based on the mutual accountability both for CSO and AICHR, not the one-sided accountability.
    2. The Guidelines shall have the clearer, non-discriminative, and transparent process of selection for CSOs to receive the Consultative Status and the revocation of the Consultative Status.
    3. Every type of Consultative Relations should produce a clear-yet-concrete output in the consultation processes and uphold the equal relations of both sides.
    4. The Guidelines shall provide the space for evaluation mechanism to the AICHR in order to establish a meaningful and effective relation with the CSOs.