Working Group Looks Forward to a
People-Centered ASEAN Charter
Manila, Philippines- As work on the final draft of the
ASEAN Charter is progressing, so is civil society’s
interest in its contents. Ambassador Rosario Manolo, head
of the ASEAN High-Level Task Force (HLTF) that is tasked
with preparing the draft, met with Philippine civil society
groups to orient them on the draft’s developments.
Deputy Secretary-General Ray Paolo Santiago and Program
Officer Maita Chan-Gonzaga of the Working Group secretariat
attended the session held at the Blas F. Ople Hall of
the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 5, 2007.
Manalo informed the groups that the HLTF wanted to produce
a document that was “people-oriented”. As
such, a region-wide consultation will be held on March
27, 2007, just one day shy from the HLTF meeting in Manila.
HLTF members that are expected to be present are Ambassador
Manalo, Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak of Malaysia, and
a special assistant to the ASEAN secretary-general. Each
ASEAN member-state is entitled to send six NGO representatives
to the consultation, two participants from each of the
3 pillars of ASEAN (security, economic, socio-cultural).
The Working Group will be present in the activity.
“We are thankful that the HLTF is open to consulting
with civil society. The Working Group will indeed continue
to engage Ambassador Manalo and other members of the HLTF
where we can,” says Santiago. He adds, “If
the HLTF wants a document that is people-centered, then
they must conduct consultations where they can, and include
references to human rights and the establishment of a
regional human rights mechanism in the draft Charter.”
The final draft of the Charter will be presented by
the HLTF to ASEAN heads of state in November 2007. They
were tasked to create the draft after the 12th ASEAN Summit
in Cebu after the Eminent Person’s Group for an
ASEAN Charter (EPG), composed of former statesmen and
esteemed leaders from the region, submitted a report on
their recommendations for inclusion in the Charter. In
the statement, the EPG recognized the creation of an ASEAN
human rights mechanism as “a worthy idea that should