to be a Window of Opportunity for Human Rights”
(July 17, 2007/ Manila) Ambassador Rosario Manalo, Chair
of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Drafting of the
ASEAN Charter, presented a progress report on the status
of the draft during the Sixth Workshop on the ASEAN Regional
Mechanism on Human Rights held in Manila.
Ambassador Manalo, Mr. Marzuki Darusman, and Ms. Thida
Aung during a session on the ASEAN Charter.
She began by presenting the basic guidelines the HLTF
adopted in writing the Charter: it should be a visionary
and inspiring document, brief but comprehensive, written
in clear and unequivocal statements, flexible, and people-oriented.
Once ratified, it will be the legal framework from which
other ASEAN instruments can be derived and by which all
member states must comply with.
Manalo announced that the Charter can be a window of
opportunity for human rights. She recalled that during
the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting Retreat in Cambodia on March
1, 2007, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers directed the HLTF
to include a draft enabling provision in the Charter to
create a Human Rights Commission as an organ of ASEAN.
“The establishment of the Commission will keep
ASEAN relevant. It will announce to the world that ASEAN
honors its human rights commitments. ASEAN would also
be able to impart to the rest of the world its regional
perspective of human rights amidst much monitoring from
outsiders,” Manalo pointed out.
She further shared that the HLTF is currently negotiating
the terms of reference of the human rights commission.
The draft enabling provision on the ASEAN Human Rights
Commission, together with its terms of reference, will
be submitted for the approval of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers
during the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting at the end of
July 2007 in Manila.
Just a month ago, the chairpersons of the national human
rights commissions (NHRIs) of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand,
and the Philippines presented their recommendations on
human rights for the Charter to the HLTF in Bali, Indonesia.
Some of the recommendations include:
Ensuring that principles and objectives of the
ASEAN Charter include the principles of respect for
human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Including a provision in the Charter on the importance
of the role of NHRIs;
Including a provision on the importance of the
establishment of (NHRIs) in every ASEAN Member State
that has not done so;
Appealing for support for the establishment of
an “appropriate ASEAN human rights mechanism”.
Co-Chair Marzuki Darusman also participated in the Bali
meeting in behalf of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human
The HLTF has had seven meetings since February 2007.
It’s eighth meeting is scheduled in Manila on July
The HLTF began working on the Charter draft after the
12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu on January 2007, where the ten
heads of state signed the Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint
of the ASEAN Charter. The Blueprint endorsed the report
of the Eminent Persons Group, comprised of senior statesmen
from the region, and directed the HLTF to draft the Charter
which is to be adopted in the next ASEAN Summit in Singapore
by November 2007.
to view Ambassador Manalo's speech on the inclusion
of an human rights commission in the ASEAN Charter draft.