ASEAN Secretariat, 23 August 2013
In conjunction with the Celebration of the 46th ASEAN Day at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), in partnership with the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), held a joint event themed “Contributing to the ASEAN Community Building through the Implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD)”. The event saw the launch of the “ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) and the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD, and its Translations” book. The book compiles the translations of the AHRD and the Phnom Penh Statement into the national languages of the ASEAN Member States. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion on the AHRD and the ASEAN community building by 2015.
The Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Le Luong Minh, stated in his remarks that the AHRD emulates the essence of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and several international human rights instruments, yet it is also uniquely ASEAN. The ability of ASEAN, through the AICHR, to produce the AHRD demonstrates not only its strong commitment to human rights but also its power to unite countries and peoples of rich diversity characterising the nature of the ASEAN Charter.
H.E. Pehin Dato Dr. Awang Hj. Ahmad bin Hj. Jumat, the Representative of Brunei Darussalam and the Chair of the AICHR, expressed that the AICHR is now ready to implement and put into practice the ideals and objectives of the AHRD and the Phnom Penh Statement. Although the Governments of the ASEAN Member States are considered the principal duty bearers in the promotion and protection of human rights, the implementation of the AHRD is a huge and challenging task that governments cannot do by themselves, therefore it is a collective responsibility of all ASEAN stakeholders to implement the AHRD.
The Permanent Representative of Brunei Darussalam and the Chair of the CPR, H.E. Emaleen Abdul Rahman Teo, supported this in her remarks by saying that to achieve the ASEAN Community, there is a need to enhance the awareness and participation of the public and other sectors in ASEAN and its Community Building activities including its awareness and understanding of the ASEAN human rights instruments and mechanisms. This would include regular exchange of ideas among stakeholders and partners and dissemination of information on ASEAN Community Building and the AHRD and other human rights instruments to the wider ASEAN audience. Mainstreaming human rights in the implementation of the respective blueprints of ASEAN will help to ensure a strengthened caring society which seeks peace and harmony.
The Chair of the AICHR and the Chair of the CPR, presented copies of the book to the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the four Deputy Secretaries-General, and to Mr. I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, the Director-General for ASEAN Cooperation, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. Both Chairs also presented copies of the book to representatives from the parliamentarians, business organisations, think tanks and academia, civil society organisations and the ASEAN youth.
After the book presentation, there was a panel discussion with the Representative of the Philippines to the AICHR, H.E. Amb. Rosario G. Manalo and the Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN, H.E. I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, and moderated by H.E. Amb. Kyaw Tint Swe, the Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR.
Amb. Manalo stated that the adoption of the AHRD is certainly a significant milestone in the commitment of ASEAN in the field of human rights as it places the peoples of ASEAN at the forefront of what ASEAN does. She recognised that there had been and continues to be criticisms towards the AHRD. The AICHR welcomed constructive criticisms as valuable inputs for their continuing considerations, bearing in mind that human rights is a process that Member States have to undergo at their own pace.
Amb. Ngurah reflected that the challenges of promoting and protecting human rights in ASEAN do not end with the adoption of the AHRD, but rather lies in ensuring the effective implementation of the Declaration and mainstreaming the values contained, which remained as a crucial challenge, particularly for the AICHR and all relevant mechanisms in ASEAN. Collaboration between AICHR and other ASEAN human rights mechanisms and relevant bodies under the three pillars of ASEAN Community should also be promoted to raise the awareness and mainstream human rights in their respective activities. The commitment to promote and protect human rights in ASEAN is high, however, the efforts to strengthen further the ASEAN mechanisms to protect human rights required further political support at the highest level.
The panel received questions from the audience related to the AHRD, future AICHR activities and the possible contributions of the ASEAN Dialogue Partners and stakeholders in the realisation of the AHRD. In conclusion, the panellists agreed that similar collaborations between the AICHR and the CPR with other ASEAN bodies should be encouraged.