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21st Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council Item 10: Technical Assistance and Capacity Building – General Debate

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Thank you, Madam President. FORUM-ASIA makes this statement in association with the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA-TFAHR), and we call on this Council to pay due attention to and provide comprehensive advisory services for the development of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which must uphold universal human rights norms and standards. We also urge the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, who are to meet tomorrow on 27 September in New York, to critically revisit the current draft AHRD, ensure that it includes the full spectrum of human rights, and adopt a clause that explicitly precludes any interpretation of the AHRD as impairing the UDHR and the core human rights treaties to which ASEAN member States are party.[1]

Madam President, we express our concern at the significant flaws in the draft AHRD version of 23 June 2012.[2] Firstly, article 7 attempts to bring back the discourse of “Asian Values” by stipulating that “the realization of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context”. This runs contrary to the spirit of the 1993 VDPA which stated that “it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Secondly, article 6 stipulates that “the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be balanced with the performance of corresponding duties as every person has responsibilities to all other individuals, the community and the society where one lives.” No existing international or regional human rights instruments seek to define a mutual relationship in terms of “balancing” the human rights of individuals on the one hand and their “duties” or “responsibilities” on the other. This notion of “balancing” is in no way a trade-off as a means to undermine the legitimate exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Thirdly, article 8 of the draft subjects all the rights proclaimed in the AHRD to limitations based on considerations such as “the just requirements of national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morality, as well as the general welfare of the peoples in a democratic society.” This sweeping provision ignores the non-derogable nature of certain human rights and overlooks the very narrow scope for restrictions allowed under international law on other rights. Fourthly, several universally-recognised human rights are not included in the draft AHRD, such as the right to self-determination and the protection from enforced disappearances. Furthermore, the human rights of specific marginalised groups, including indigenous peoples, minorities as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are glaringly missing from the document.

In this light, Madam President, we stress that the present draft of the AHRD should not be adopted at the 21st ASEAN Summit in November 2012, and strongly urge the ASEAN member States to maximise the opportunities for advisory services and technical assistance by this Council and the OHCHR to ensure that the AHRD has the confidence of the peoples of Southeast Asia by fully guaranteeing the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the region. Thank you, Madam President.

[1] FORUM-ASIA et al., Open Letter to ASEAN Foreign Ministers at Informal ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (IAMM) on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, 26 September 2012,

[2]FORUM-ASIA et al., Joint Press Statement, “ASEAN Human Rights Declaration Must Not Provide Protections Lower than International Human Rights Law and Standards”, 13 September 2012,

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