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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cambodian Civil Society’s View towards the Drafting Process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

“Cambodian Civil Society’s View towards the Drafting Process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration”

Phnom Penh, July 06, 2012

We, the Cambodian Civil Society Organizations, who have closely monitored the development of the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), urge the ASEAN members to develop an AHRD that meets international human rights stands. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), under the ASEAN Charter and its Terms of Reference (ToR), is mandated to draft an AHRD that is then to be reviewed by ASEAN Foreign Ministers and to be adopted by ASEAN Heads of States and Governments, scheduled on the 21st Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

We welcomed the opportunity to have been consulted by Cambodia’s AICHR Representative on the 3rd of July 2012. However, we were at a loss due to the fact that the current draft version of the AHRD was not made publicly available for a meaningful dialogue. Numerous national NGOs were not present due to the complicated registration procedure and given the short notice, which unfortunately left their comments unnoticed. In the mean time, at least four other countries in ASEAN have not yet conducted any consultations with their constituencies, while five countries had publicly provided consultations. It is unfortunate that in the absence of the draft AHRD, which will be the first and most important human rights document in the Southeast Asian Region once adopted, only the NGOs attending the consultation meeting were able to give their inputs on what we would like to have in the draft document.

The CSOs believe that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, interrelated and of equal importance. Thus, we would like to convey our aspirations of the Cambodia’s CSOs for AICHR and ASEAN leaders to (a) adopt whole articles in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), (b) add value to the existing human rights standards, and (c) address the current issues in human rights in order to safeguard the economic, political and security impact of the rights of ASEAN people. With that in mind we strongly support the declaration and assurance of AICHR chair that the final declaration should not fall below the internationally accepted UDHR, the Vienna Convention and Programme of Actions and other International human rights instruments. We also insist that, to guarantee the rights of the ASEAN people, the member states of ASEAN must have the obligations and duty to promote, to protect and to fulfil hum rights, free from any form of violation by Official State Agencies and or any third party. We uphold the view that is is important to open more space for vibrant civil society engagement and cooperation, and should therefore be included into the AHRD.

Cambodia, as the chair of ASEAN this year, has ratified many international human rights treaties as clearly indicated in its 1993 Constitution. Its commitment to promoting and respecting human rights through the signing and ratification of these international human rights treaties is very much appreciated. Therefore, the prominent role as the Chair of ASEAN for Cambodia is very significant to bring together common voices of the ASEAN people and to persuade the other member states to adopt an AHRD that is internationally acceptable for our ASEAN region.

The Cambodian Government and Cambodia’s AICHR Representative should:
  • Not accept any AHRD that falls below the UDHR and other International Human Rights Standards or treaties;
  • Ensure that the process of drafting AHRD before its adoption is more inclusive and transparent with the participation of all relevant stakeholders;
  • Make sure that this Declaration follows and adopts the key principles and articles in the UDHR;
  • Encourage other state members to conduct meaningful consultations at their national level with their constituencies, in particular by those AICHR representatives that have not yet done so;
  • Continue wide‐range and inclusive consultations, at both national and regional levels, in order to discuss the latest drafts of the AHRD. AICHR, particularly the Cambodia’s AICHR Representative acting as Chair, should seriously consider submissions from CSOs, national human rights institutes and other stakeholders, and provide them with feedback;
  • Translate drafts of the AHRD into national languages and other local languages of the ASEAN countries in order to encourage broader public engagement in the region;
To ASEAN leaders :
- In the upcoming ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting, ASEAN Foreign 
  Ministers should not finalize the draft AHRD to AICHR for enabling 
  more consultations as openly as possible, with the latest draft 
  version of AHRD to be openly disclosed at least 2 months before the 
  ASEAN 21st Summit;
-  The ASEAN Heads of States and of Governments should make sure that the AHRD is made in accordance with the UDHR standards, the Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination to Women, CEDAW, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, rights document that promotes and protects the rights of the 600 million ASEAN people as proclaimed in the ASEAN Charter.

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