Assembly Calls for Greater Participation as ASEAN Turns
Secretary General Carlos Medina
Jr. of the Working Group leads the discussion on an ASEAN
human rights body.
Representatives from Southeast Asian civil society groups,
think tanks, and the academe called for stronger civil
society involvement with the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) as a response
to recent developments in the region during its 40th year.
Movements in the ASEAN
Charter, the Myanmar situation, and human rights were
among those actively discussed during the 6th
ASEAN People’s Assembly (APA), held in Manila,
the Philippines last October 24-25, 2007.
Concerns over implications on the proposed regional human
rights body in the ASEAN Charter due to the Myanmar situation
were expressed. The Charter, which was drafted by a high
level task force appointed by ASEAN, will be submitted
to ASEAN leaders in Singapore for signing during the 13th
ASEAN Summit in November 2007. Dr. Termsak Chalermpalanupap,
special assistant to the ASEAN secretary general and representative
of the ASEAN Secretariat during APA, said that it was
unlikely for Myanmar to stall on ratifying the Charter
or oppose the human rights body, as it has always had
representation during the drafting of the Charter, where
this was discussed.
Participants also strongly expressed that the ASEAN Charter
should be an “open door” which civil society
can use for greater participation in ASEAN processes.
Dr. Carolina Hernandez, co-chair of APA, said that the
proposed inclusion of a regional human rights body in
the Charter draft was itself a product of a successful
civil society organization engagement with ASEAN. She
noted that the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights
Mechanism’s (Working Group) step-by-step, consultative
process brought ASEAN to committing further to human rights.
Coming from a period where human rights was barely on
the regional agenda, the Working Group now formally assists
ASEAN in accomplishing the human rights areas of its Vientiane
Action Programme and annually meets with ASEAN Senior
Officials to discuss human rights issues on the occasion
of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
Solidarity for the monks of Myanmar: conference kits
were in saffron, orange, and maroon to mimic the robes
of Buddhist monks.
The APA is an initiative by the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic
and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS) that aims to bring
together think tanks and the academe with civil society
organizations to promote people-centered development in
the process of ASEAN community building.
The 6th APA, entitled ASEAN at 40: Realizing the People's
Expectations, was held in celebration of the 40th founding
anniversary of ASEAN and in preparation for the 13th ASEAN