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A Challenge to ASEAN: Be at the Forefront of Human Rights Building in Southeast Asia Philwomen on ASEAN’s Position on the Adoption of the AHRD

The Philwomen on ASEAN, a network of around 80 organizations that work together for women’s rights and gender equality in the ASEAN, conducted a mass action on November 9 and delivered to The Philippine eDepartment of Foreign Affairs and the Cambodian Embassy, their position paper on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

9th November 2012 13:57

Alessia Valenza | ILGA Asia

ASEAN must be at the forefront of human rights

The world looks at ASEAN as it establishes the pillars a regional human rights system that will be seen as testament to the sincere intent and commitment of ASEAN and its Member States to upholding and realizing the human rights of peoples in the region. ASEAN has created ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) as the region’s overarching human rights body and is poised to adopt the region’s first human rights declaration. Before it is a perfect opportunity to show a committed, united and positively progressive ASEAN by ensuring that the human rights declaration that it shall adopt guarantees the full promotion and protection of rights of all Southeast Asians at all times, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, status, age, class, caste, and sexual orientation and gender identity among others.

Need for a legitimate and credible Declaration in the Southeast Asian Region

For a declaration to be considered as legitimate and credible, the drafting process should be meaningful, inclusive and participatory. ASEAN and its member states must ensure that the Declaration has a strong human rights language, one that raises the bar on human rights promotion and protection and shall paves the way to a sound and effective human rights system in the region. Crafting such a Declaration can be AICHR’s unique contribution to ASEAN’s vision of creating “a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress” (ASEAN Charter Preamble). 

The pressing need for human rights-based approach to development in ASEAN

Fifteen years have passed since the ASEAN. To be meaningful, sustainable, and equitable, development must be beneficial to and participated by all peoples and sectors. AICHR as the overarching human rights institution must ensure that the ASEAN vision of “a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN region” is fulfilled without compromising the fundamental rights and freedoms of its people. The people must be at the center of all policies and programs of ASEAN.

As the Philippines and other Member-states move toward the establishment of an ASEAN community by 2015, ASEAN member states and the ASEAN human rights bodies have the primary obligation to ensure that the AHRD that will be adopted possesses the resolute conviction and sincere initiative “to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN.”

The Philwomen on ASEAN sees the potential of AICHR to be the conscience and voice of legitimacy and social justice in the region leading in the standard-setting

and progressive interpretation of human rights in the region. Therefore, ASEAN must seriously take on human rights-related issues of the peoples of Southeast Asia and transform AICHR as an independent human rights body in the region; and this begins in adopting an ASEAN human rights declaration that reflects the voice and concerns of its people and ensures the fundamental rights and freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN. ?pledged its “determination and commitment to bringing ?[this] ASEAN Vision for the Year 2020 into reality.”

Principles that must be borne in mind in adopting the AHRD

The Philwomen on ASEAN believes that having these principles in mind shall ensure that the AHRD is at par with the widely accepted international human rights standards and shall be responsive to human rights issues and situations of peoples in the region. Philwomen on ASEAN urges the ASEAN member states to be guided by the following principles: non-discrimination and intersectionality; full promotion, protection and fulfillment of HR and fundamental freedoms; and transparency and accountability.

1. Non-discrimination and intersectionality

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) establishes the principles of universality and non-discrimination as the standard of human rights by stating that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Women may suffer from discrimination directed against them as women, and they may at the same time suffer from discrimination based on grounds such as race, ethnic or religious identity, disability, age, class, caste or other factors. Such discrimination may affect groups of women primarily, or to a different degree or in different ways than men (CEDAW GR 25).1

Read the entire position paper by downloading the document at the foot of this page.