Synopsis of a Policy Initiative
for the Establishment of An ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
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- The Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) was established in 1967 by the Bangkok Declaration.
Its key aims include the acceleration of economic growth,
social progress, cultural development and the promotion of
regional peace and stability, coupled with respect for justice
and the rule of law. Such aims interrelate closely with the
need to promote human rights in the region.
- In 1993, ASEAN foreign ministers in their
joint communiqué agreed that ASEAN should consider
the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism. Some
positive developments have taken place since then, including
greater emphasis on the role of non-governmental organisations
and civil society and more attention paid to child rights
and women’s rights, as well as cross border cooperation
against environmental harm and transfrontier crimes.
- It should be noted that in 1988, ASEAN
adopted the Declaration on the Advancement of Women in the
ASEAN region, and in 1993, it adopted the ASEAN Plan of Action
for Children, with recommendations for more protection and
development of these groups. All countries of ASEAN are now
parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and most
countries have signed the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
- All ASEAN countries are favourable towards
the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adopted
the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the
World Conference on Human Rights.
- These welcome developments should be seen
as an emerging process toward the establishment of a regional
human rights system The Asian region, including ASEAN, is
the sole region in the world without such system. ASEAN has
yet to establish a regional human rights mechanism pursuant
to the ministerial statement of 1993.
- This issue is most pertinent at a time
when there is already much monitoring of human rights developments
in ASEAN from organisations outside the ASEAN region, including
the United Nations. The lack of an ASEAN mechanism implies
that while the region is exposed to monitoring from sources
outside the region, there are few opportunities for the region
to take stock of human rights developments from the standpoint
of ASEAN. The establishment of an ASEAN human rights mechanism
with governmental support should help to redress this situation
so that the ASEAN perspective is better understood by outsiders.
This should complement the need to promote international human
rights standards in the region.