The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has called on ASEAN leaders to suspend the adoption of the first-ever human rights declaration.
Pillay has suggested ASEAN undertakes a broader public consultation and review the content as the draft falls short of universal values.
The UN rights chief criticized the lack of transparency during the drafting process.
“I must say that I am surprised and disappointed that the draft declaration has not been made public. And that civil society has not been consulted over the drafting of the document,” Pillay told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
The draft of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights (ADHR), a momentous step in the association’s 45-year-old history is expected to be adopted during the ASEAN Summit, which is being held from Nov. 18-20 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Preparing the declaration is one of the key mandates of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which was established by the association in 2009.
ASEAN Civil society groups have expressed disappointment over the content and process of the draft declaration, which aims to ensure human rights protection for 600 million people in the region.
“As a result of these two serious failings, I am suggesting that they do not rush through with its adoption and spend more time consulting civil society and reviewing the content of this document,” Pillay urged.
She underlined the importance of consulting organizations in the region and making the document widely available for discussion — steps that have enabled other regional institutions to successfully gain support for their declaration.
“I am concerned that it will detract from the credibility of the document and the ownership of the document by the people concerned,” she said voicing her concerns over the draft document.
Despite reflecting the fundamental rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pillay criticized other clauses.
“On the whole, it does [reflect fundamental rights], but then it has various other clauses that are of concern because they then derogate from the fundamental principles.”
Since she has not yet received the official draft, Pillay said she was unable to give any further comment.
Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior advisor on ASEAN and Human Rights at the Human Rights Working Groups (HRWG), which represents more than 50 human rights groups in Indonesia, said that it was obvious that ADHR would be a declaration by member states about what they do not want to do regarding human rights rather than a commitment to what they can do and how to improve in the future.
The drafting process reflected the failure to put a people-oriented approach into practice.
“I cannot believe that Indonesia agrees to this low standard of human rights despite its projection as the largest democratic Muslim country and its pledges to promote human rights at the global level,” she added. –Yohanna Ririhena and Margareth Aritonang, The Jakarta Post
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