Human Rights Watch has called on the foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN – to make a public commitment to ensure the forthcoming ASEAN Human Rights Declaration complies with international human rights standards.

The foreign ministers meet Sunday in Phnom Penh to consider a draft of the declaration.

HRW’s deputy Asia Director, Phil Robertson, says the ASEAN leaders have kept the draft document secret throughout what he described as “a wholly inadequate consultation process.”

Several rights groups, including HRW and Amnesty International, have sent a letter to the ASEAN foreign ministers. The letter urges the ministers to remove any reference to “balancing” rights and responsibilities, which the groups say has long been used as a “justification to weaken rights protections.”

HRW says only five of the 10 ASEAN nations have held any national consultation with civil society organizations about the declaration. A single regional consultation was held in Kuala Lumpur last month. HRW says ASEAN has not given any indication that input from these sessions has been incorporated into the draft.

HRW says ASEAN should be “extending and broadening” the consultation process on the declaration.

Robertson says the process that the foreign ministers adopt for creating the human rights declaration is a “litmus test” for ASEAN’s commitment to making the declaration an effective tool for promoting human rights in the region.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.