Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
Resolutions and Statements

Synopsis of a Policy Initiative for the Establishment of An ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism

I. Rationale

  1. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967 by the Bangkok Declaration. Its key aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development and the promotion of regional peace and stability, coupled with respect for justice and the rule of law. Such aims interrelate closely with the need to promote human rights in the region.
  2. In 1993, ASEAN foreign ministers in their joint communiqué agreed that ASEAN should consider the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism. Some positive developments have taken place since then, including greater emphasis on the role of non-governmental organisations and civil society and more attention paid to child rights and women’s rights, as well as cross border cooperation against environmental harm and transfrontier crimes.
  3. It should be noted that in 1988, ASEAN adopted the Declaration on the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN region, and in 1993, it adopted the ASEAN Plan of Action for Children, with recommendations for more protection and development of these groups. All countries of ASEAN are now parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and most countries have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
  4. All ASEAN countries are favourable towards the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adopted the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights.
  5. These welcome developments should be seen as an emerging process toward the establishment of a regional human rights system The Asian region, including ASEAN, is the sole region in the world without such system. ASEAN has yet to establish a regional human rights mechanism pursuant to the ministerial statement of 1993.
  6. This issue is most pertinent at a time when there is already much monitoring of human rights developments in ASEAN from organisations outside the ASEAN region, including the United Nations. The lack of an ASEAN mechanism implies that while the region is exposed to monitoring from sources outside the region, there are few opportunities for the region to take stock of human rights developments from the standpoint of ASEAN. The establishment of an ASEAN human rights mechanism with governmental support should help to redress this situation so that the ASEAN perspective is better understood by outsiders. This should complement the need to promote international human rights standards in the region.

Click here to read full text