“Acceleration of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015: Making Human Rights Count”
- The Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights is an ASEAN civil society initiative led by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (TFAHR). The Regional Consultation serves as a platform for strengthening engagement with the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms, and for discussing the human rights situation in the ASEAN region.
- The First Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights was held on 26-28 August 2007 in Kuala Lumpur and resulted in the creation of the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (TFAHR).
- This annual initiative has continued since as follows:
- The 2nd Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights was held on 7-8 August 2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The meeting resulted in the Jakarta Action Points (JAP), which: reiterated CSOs’ commitment to cooperate in working for the creation of an effective and transparent ASEAN human rights mechanism that would uphold international human rights law and standards; and pledged to strengthen cooperation within civil society organizations in solidarity with victims of human rights violations for the common goal of realizing human rights promotion and protection in ASEAN.
- The 3rd Regional Consultation was held on 17-18 September 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Some of the key points raised during this meeting were: to continue to push for an institutional Framework for CSO engagement with ASEAN Human Rights mechanisms; to advocate for an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which is in compliance with international human rights law and standards; to develop advocacy for the ASEAN Blueprints to mainstream human rights in ASEAN; and to strengthen national advocacies in engaging with the ASEAN Human Rights mechanisms.
- The 4th Regional Consultation was held on 17-18 October 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. The meeting was preceded by closed-door meetings between the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, and civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Southeast Asia on 16 October 2011. Navanethem Pillay gave the opening speech for the 4th Regional Consultation stating inter alia that “no discussion of human rights can be complete [nor] credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions”
- The 5th Regional Consultation was held on 20-21 June 2012 in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting discussed the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) in order to encourage the AICHR to ensure that the Declaration upholds international human rights law and standards. The 5th Regional Consultation was held back-to-back with the first official consultation meeting of AICHR with civil society organizations on the AHRD on 22 June 2012 in Kuala Lumpur.
- The 6th Regional Consultation was held on 1-2 October 2013 in Jakarta. The meeting initiated initial discussion on the review of the TOR of AICHR which was due to begin in 2014, particularly in ensuring a participatory review process and ways to strengthen the AICHR through the review process. The meeting also launched a CSOs report on Business and Human Rights in relation to the AICHR’s thematic study on Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Rights and discussed ways to make ASEAN member states aware of their increasing obligation to protect the human rights of their people and the environment, and to encourage ASEAN to develop a human rights based approach in handling the impact of business on human rights in the region.
- The key issues that will be discussed during the 7th Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights are:
- 2015 ASEAN Economic Community opportunity and challenges. By 2015 ASEAN is scheduled to enter another critical step in realizing its vision as and ASEAN community, by the acceleration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The ASEAN Economic Blueprint affirms the AEC as a vision to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital, with following characteristics:
- a single market and production base,
- a highly competitive economic region,
- a region of equitable economic development, and
- a region fully integrated into the global economy.
Nevertheless, the impact of this transformation upon the human rights and livelihood of ASEAN‘s own people does not seem to have been thought through. The AEC aim to accelerate market investment and growth which, it is hoped, will bring prosperity to its people. But aside from this target, ASEAN must recognize the conceivable adverse effects this market integration is likely to have on the people of ASEAN.
People at the grass-root level will be those who will be directly affected by development of infrastructure, the work of business and investment. Competition among ASEAN countries will push people, like in the case of migrant workers, to find jobs in countries with more investment and job opportunities – in which an adequate labour standard should be developed to ensure their rights in any country they are employed. Social issues, like the rights of children of migrant workers to enjoy health service and education will be at risk without guarantee of the rights for adequate work/ payment of their parent(s). Environmental risk will be also detrimental for local people, when government do not set up a specific mechanism which ensure environmental sustainability in the work of business sectors.
The equal protection and promotion of all human rights, economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political, is crucial in ensuring that the AEC has a positive impact on the livelihood of the people of ASEAN, rather than increase social gaps and marginalisation. The existing mechanisms in ASEAN should be able to lay out ways to mitigate the adverse impact of the AEC. ASEAN needs to identify the most salient AEC-related human rights issues and develop a feasible mechanism in addressing them.
- Strengthening the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms Through the Review of the TOR of AICHR and ACWC: Despite the real human rights challenges that the AEC will bring, the ASEAN human rights mechanisms, including the AICHR and the ACWC, seem unable, and possibly unwilling, to take concrete action in addressing the problems above and human rights in ASEAN more generally. Both the AICHR and the ACWC’s Terms of Reference (TOR) are to be reviewed consecutively as of 2014 and 2015.
Five years after its establishment in 2009, many still hope that the review of AICHR’s TOR can remedy the deficiencies within the Commission’s institutional framework and give more power to the human rights body. The review process started this year by an assessment report which is still prepared by the AICHR. At least two regional consultations with CSOs and other stakeholders have been conducted to solicit input on the review. A numbers of briefings from CSOs have been submitted to the AICHR, which in general suggest and call for:
- A stronger protection mandate which will allow the body to meaningfully address human rights situations in the region;
- More independence and transparency;
- More institutional support to the AICHR; and
- Institutionalized engagement between AICHR, ACWC and stakeholders, including CSOs.
Before the 25th ASEAN Summit this November, AICHR is going to submit their assessment report to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM). The report will be used by the AMM as the basis for deciding the course of the forthcoming process reviewing the TOR. However, the assessment not yet made public and as a result it is difficult to foresee the direction of the review. Therefore, this consultation will discuss recent developments of this review process and try to identify ways to ensure that the review results in an improved AICHR’s TOR along the lines recommended by input from CSOs, as described above.
The objectives of this regional consultation are:
- To provide a platform for dialogue, solidarity and coordination among ASEAN civil society on its human rights advocacy in ASEAN
- To provide a platform for dialogue with the existing human rights mechanism of ASEAN, particularly AICHR and ACWC as well as NHRIs;
- To identify human rights situations in ASEAN which require regional action and policy formulation in the context of the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
Participants of this consultation will include: representatives of AICHR and ACWC, civil society organizations from ASEAN countries, international NGOs, academics, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), journalists, and also diplomatic missions and donor agencies.
IV. Dates and Venue
The 7th Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights will be held in Jakarta on:
- Day(s)/ date(s) : Tuesday & Wednesday, 4-5 November 2014
- Venue : DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 17. Cikini, Menteng – DKI Jakarta.
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Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy – Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR)
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)