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Advancing Democratic Governance in Asia: Challenges and Way Forward

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Final statement of the NGO parallel meeting to the Bali Democracy Forum, 8-9 December 2010.

NGO Parallel meeting to the Bali Democracy Forum Bali, Indonesia, December 8-9, 2010 

We, members of the non-governmental organizations and people’s movements from 13 Asian countries gathered together to critically discuss and reflect at the NGO Parallel meeting to the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum; the role of human rights defenders and people’s movement on “Advancing Democratic Governance in Asia: Challenges and Way Forward”, in Bali, Indonesia December 8-9, 2010.

We congratulate the continuing initiative of the Government of Indonesia and the local government of Bali for hosting and institutionalizing the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) as a process in promoting regional and international cooperation in the field of democracy and political development amongst Governments in Asia since 2008.

We receive with enthusiasm the positive developments in many Asian States in opening up possibilities for and taking with great interest the workings of democracy in the region. In the same light, we also commend FORUM-ASIA and AJI-Indonesia for jointly organizing the 1st NGO Parallel Meeting to the 3rd BDF for the timely opportunity for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Asia to share experiences, struggles and aspirations for democracy and peace; and to strengthen solidarity between and among social movements.

As we go through this meeting, we honor the long tradition and history of the peoples’ movements in Asia in their continuing struggle and quest for democratic and just societies. We pay special tribute to our fellow advocates who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy, human rights, justice and peace.

Despite perceived rapid economic growth in some Asian countries, we remain concern that corruption has been one of the major challenges in the realization of good governance and democracy, especially on economic, social and cultural aspects. Civil society organizations and journalists, playing the role of “whistle blowers” against corruption have been subjected to systematic attacks including killing, threats and harassments, and fabricated accusations to deter them from monitoring the performances of governments and their instrumentalities. Human rights advocates in all countries in Asia continue to face the risks of personal safety and security in carrying out their activities towards the establishment and enhancement of democracy.

We affirm the values and principles of democracy. We believe that promotion of stability and security in the region is dependent on the active and meaningful participation of its peoples, respect and realization of democracy and the rule of law, professionalism in the bureaucracy, fairness in the administration of justice, independence of the judiciary and an environmentally sound sustainable development for all.

We note that the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression, association and assembly are undermined in the pretext of protecting national security and “war on terror” in almost all countries in the region. We are alarmed that Asian governments are introducing more laws that restrict and obstruct the works of advocates and human rights defenders and their organizations, which contradict the letter, and intent of the Bill of Rights and other international human rights instruments which they ratified.

We assert that human rights must be at the center of democratization and the peace-building processes in Asia. We are convinced that political compromises at the expense of peoples’ basic rights and democratic practices have no place in a community of caring and dignified societies. We believe that rule of law can never be established as long as perpetrators of violations remain free. Experiences show that failure to address impunity leads to perpetuation of injustice, inequality before the law, and denial of people’s rights to effective remedies. Towards this end, it is our urgent task to end the culture of impunity which has made a mockery of our established democratic institutions.

We believe that the main theme of the Third Bali Democracy Forum on “Democracy and the Promotion of Peace and Stability” provides opportunity for the Asian governments to consider and generate dialogue and discussion on good governance for the people, by the people, and of the people. That, “democracy and the promotion of peace and stability” necessitates inclusion of all stake-holders including the broad civil society and women’s participation in the consultation and decision making processes; the right to information, freedoms of opinion and expression, of thought, conscience and religion, of peaceful assembly and association.

Hence, we would like to make following recommendations:

•    To recognise the role of civil society as partners in advancing democracy and human rights; and address pressing human rights issues which impose threats to democracy and constraints in the promotion of peace and stability of the Asian region including gross violations of basic rights, acts of impunity, hunger, unemployment, and violence against women and children;

•    To establish national and regional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation with various stake-holders towards ensuring democracy, rule of law; respecting, promoting and realizing human rights and development for all;

•    To ensure independence of judiciary; accountability and transparency of the executive, and the legislative; in fostering democracy and addressing human rights issues including corruption in the prosecution of cases, enactment and implementation of laws, policies and guidelines;

•    To establish a mechanism within the Bali Democracy Forum for meaningful dialogue, sharing and eventual participation of civil society of the region to the process.