Over 100 civil society organisations have expressed disappointment over the continued secrecy and non-transparency in the drafting process for the historic Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).

They say the drafting committee has so far shunned all recommendations put forward by the non-state sector, and have called for a practical platform for their meaningful participation in the drafting of the Asean rights declaration.

The Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is meeting in Phnom Penh from April 9 -11 this week, following the 20th Asean Summit meeting the Cambodian capital last week.

“The draft has been in development for nearly a year, but has not yet been released to the public. Until and unless the AICHR consults and engages with all stakeholders in a transparent, meaningful and substantive manner, the AICHR should postpone its submission of the final draft of AHRD to the Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM), which is scheduled to take place in July 2012,” said the joint statement released on Sunday.

The joint statement, also co-signed by Asean Watch (Thailand), Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand, Empower Foundation, Thailand Foundation for Consumers, Thailand NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD), Thailand Northern Development Foundation and Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation, has been translated into Asean’s major languages– Burmese, Bahasa-Indonesian, Bahasa-Malay, Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese — to “indicate our commitment to promote the basic human rights of the people that they are entitled to receive information and awareness about Asean and its works”.

Only the AICHR representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have solicited input from civil society on the historic declaration, said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.

Mr Swee Seng said civil society organisations that have submitted recommendations on the declaration have yet to receive official responses from the AICHR.

The joint statement also called upon the AICHR to implement specific steps to ensure that the process of drafting the Declaration will be credible, inclusive, transparent, reflective and consistent with universal human rights standards. These steps included the immediate release of the draft, public consultations, and the translation of the draft into national and local languages.

“Consultations without a draft of the AHRD at hand are meaningless, and a Declaration adopted without meaningful and broad-based consultations will not be legitimate,” said Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights.

The joint statement has been endorsed by some 150 organisations and networks representing a wide range of sectors in Asean member states, including youth organisations, women’s organisations, child rights organisations, LGBT organisations, migrant workers network organisations, labour unions, farmers organisations, environmental organisations, human rights organisations, development organisations and some academic institutions.

The AHRD is widely predicted to be adopted at the 45th Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in July in Phnom Penh.

“The AICHR should postpone its submission of the Asean Human Rights Declaration to the AMM in July if no meaningful public consultations were held in the finalisation of this document,” said Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence of Indonesia (Kontras).

Mr Azhar said “We therefore strongly urge the AICHR to heed the recommendation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that “no discussion of human rights can be complete or credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions” and immediately begin dialogue and consultations with civil society organisations on the AHRD.” –http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/288093/civil-society-in-asean-hr-drafting