Paris-Bangkok, 6 March 2012. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) will meet in Jakarta this week to continue the drafting of a new human rights instrument, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). Up to now, this drafting process has been characterized by opacity, absence of broad engagement with civil society, and fears that this declaration may contradict international human rights standards. The eventual text is expected to be adopted by ASEAN leaders at the Summit in November 2012 in Phnom Penh.
"Up to now, there has been no disclosure of the draft elaborated by the AICHR", said Debbie Stothard, FIDH deputy secretary-general. "By resisting civil society input, AICHR is squandering valuable expertise and resources that independent civil society organizations could bring to the work of the Commission", she added.
AICHR announced in a recent press release that it plans to hold regional consultations to encourage civil society input into the AHRD. FIDH welcomes this announcement and encourages AICHR to make the consultations meaningful by releasing the latest draft of the AHRD. Consultations should be held in a transparent, broad-based and regular manner to ensure that core concerns of civil society are truly integrated.
AICHR has largely been working behind closed door and scant information is made available regarding its various activities and decisions. In a letter submitted last December with its members and partners in South East Asia, FIDH recommended AICHR to make public key documents, including its five-year work plan, annual report, and terms of reference for its planned thematic studies. "Both the African and the Inter-American Commissions have their own dedicated websites where the public can access many key documents. Civil society is closely involved in those regional bodies. ASEAN should not lag behind", stated Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
FIDH is extremely concerned by media reports that a recent draft of the Declaration imposes limitations on human rights which are not consistent with international law. The AICHR should make sure that this new regional instrument is at least as protective as existing human rights standards. “Partners of ASEAN, including donors, are watching closely to see whether AICHR will seize this unprecedented opportunity to make the AHRD a document truly of the people, for the people and by the people”, concluded Ms Belhassen.