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16th HRC: Oral Statement on the Follow-Up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

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Item 8: Follow-Up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) – General Debate

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Thank you, Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA notes that ASEAN member States have undertaken welcomed initiatives in setting up the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) in the spirit of paragraph 37 of the VDPA. We emphasize that the VDPA enshrines that such regional arrangements “should reinforce universal human rights standards and their protection”. In this line, we continue to be dismayed that the mandate and functions outlined in the Terms of Reference of the AICHR fails to address protection measures for victims and their families.[1]

We are further disappointed that the unavailability of a Rules of Procedures is consistently used as an excuse by the AICHR to avoid any substantive discussions on pressing human rights issues.[2] Also of deep concern is the level of its interaction with civil society organizations, which has been far insufficient. In February 2011, the AICHR met for its 4th[3] On this note, we appreciate the ACWC for initiating dialogues with civil society organizations during its 1st session in Solo, Indonesia and adopted its Guideline on Operations. Yet this Guideline, which is expected to outline how the AICHR plans to engage with civil society, is being kept away from public knowledge to this date. We urge the AICHR to make public this Guideline on Operations and take immediate steps to commit to official meeting held last month in Jakarta. regular, transparent and participatory dialogue with all stakeholders, including human rights organizations and national human rights institutions in the region.

Mr. President, the Bangkok Action Points which were adopted at the 15th Asia-Pacific Workshop on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (21-23 April 2010), underlined “the importance of partnerships between governments, national human rights institutions and civil society at the national and regional levels in developing regional mechanisms” (A/HRC/15/39). In this regard, we regret that there was no serious effort made by the SAARC member States to engage with civil society organizations when developing the SAARC Charter of Democracy.

Lastly, Mr. President, FORUM-ASIA looks forward to concrete engagement with representatives from governments, national human rights institutions and regional human rights mechanisms at the forthcoming 16th Asia-Pacific Workshop to be convened in the Maldives in 2012 as decided in Council resolution 14/8. We call upon the Maldivian government and the Office of the High Commissioner to follow an inclusive process in terms of agenda-setting for widely soliciting civil society input into the preparation of this workshop. Thank you, Mr. President.



[1]    FORUM-ASIA and SAPA Task Force on ASEAN & Human Rights, “Hiding Behind Its Limits: A Performance Report on the First Year of the AICHR (2009-2010)”, January 2011,

[2]    SAPA Task Force on ASEAN & Human Rights, “Submission to the AICHR Meeting on the Rules of Procedures of AICHR, ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights and the Work Plan of AICHR”, 19 September 2010,

[3]     Open Letter of 480 Civil SocietyOrganizations to AICHR: “Engage and Work with Human Rights Community to Fulfill Mandate”, 9 February 2011,

NOte :Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel on behalf of FORUM-ASIA