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Uphold Human Rights while Defending Democracy

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(Denpasar, 10 December 2010) The Bali Democracy Forum should adopt a human rights based approach in dealing with democracy and be more open to engagement with all stakeholders in democratization, a group of Asian non-governmental organizations (NGO) made the call today on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

The groups attended a two-day forum titled “Advancing Democracy in Asia: Challenges and Ways Forward”, jointly organized by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). 28 members of non-governmental organizations from 11 Asian countries participated in this meeting which was held parallel to the Third Bali Democracy Forum (BDF III).

Paying tribute to the long history of the struggle of Asian peoples in exercising human rights in defending democracy, the NGO statement of the two-day forum urged the Bali Democracy Forum to honor this historical tradition and adopt human rights based approach in advancing democracy and peace building in the region.

“The Bali Democracy Forum must not shy from discussion of widespread gross human rights violations in the region. Human rights and democracy are two sides of a coin. One cannot sustain without the others,” said Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, a regional human rights organization based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Responding to the theme of the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum on “Promoting Democracy, Peace and Stability”, he further commented that there will be no long lasting peace and stability if there is no respect and protection of human rights of the people, “The democracy crisis in Burma today is a case in point, the Bali Democracy Forum will have to address the gross and widespread violations of human rights and the democracy crisis in Burma as a threat to peace in the region if it is to remain relevant,” said Yap.
He said the NGO forum also expressed concerns on the increase of military spending in the region, which runs counter to the peace building and regional stability through disarmament and diverse resources away from important democratic priorities for the people such as education, health, housing etc.

“We welcomed the initiative by the government of Indonesia in organizing this annual forum for intergovernmental dialogue on democracy since 2008. However, regrettably, participation of other stakeholders, in particularly the civil society, is sorely lacking in the process”, said Rofiqi Hasan, the head of AJI Bali branch, one of the spokepersons of the NGOs.

The NGO statement reaffirmed the famous concept of democracy for the people, by the people, of the people. “We urge the Bali Democracy Forum to recognize the role of civil society organizations and involvement of the people as part of an important precondition of democracy through establishing a mechanism in future to facilitate participation and dialogue with the people in the region,” said Rofiqi.

For inquiry, please contact:
1.    Mr.  Yap Swee Seng, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, tel: +66 81 8689178
2.    Mr. Rofiqi Hasan, The Alliance of Independent Journalists, tel: +62 8123830564