Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (SAPA) Submission to the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter

17 April 2006, Ubud, Bali

Executive Summary

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I. Introduction

The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (SAPA), a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations engaged in campaigns and advocacy on various issues of public interest at the national and regional levels, welcomes the move by ASEAN Leaders to develop an ASEAN Charter. The framing of an ASEAN Charter represents the transformation of ASEAN and a leap towards establishing a rules-based organization that carries the basic aspirations, values and ideals of the ASEAN people.

SAPA acknowledges the important task placed upon the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter and pledges its support to the EPG in this process. As part of civil society, we share your ideals of cogent cooperation and mutual prosperity for ASEAN, and of shared rights and benefits for its people, towards the construction of a community of caring societies.

We hereby offer our initial submission to the EPG on the ASEAN Charter. In this submission we outline the broad principles and highlight civil society perspectives that we believe should be reflected in an ASEAN Charter, and give special focus on the aspects of people’s security in line with the agenda of the EPG meeting this week.

II. Perspectives on Regionalism

We affirm our broad perspectives on regionalism as follows:

Regionalism is a step towards the advancement of ASEAN people’s interest, by stressing mutual benefit and cooperation among states and people.

Regionalism should go beyond regional integration and embody genuine regional solidarity. The regionalism we opt for is people-centered and people-empowered – a tool to promote and strengthen ASEAN cohesion; carry provisions for catch-up mechanisms, and close the economic and political gaps among Member States and their citizens while recognizing diversity and promoting tolerance among Member States.

Regionalism should be the foundation for ASEAN’s venture into external relations.
It is with these perspectives on regionalism and the importance of regional institutions that SAPA proposes to advance the following principles for inclusion in the ASEAN Charter.

III. Regional Recognition of Human Rights and Human Dignity

The promotion and protection of human rights and dignity should be the primary goal of all efforts for regional integration and cooperation undertaken by ASEAN.

There is a need for ASEAN to explicitly recognize all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social— including recently developed international human rights norms and standards by ratifying the existing human rights conventions.

The ASEAN Charter should develop effective politically and legally binding and enforceable working modalities to provide practical remedy for victims. In this regard, the ASEAN Charter should recognize the urgent need to establish an effective and viable ASEAN human rights mechanism that is compatible with globally accepted norms and standards.

The ASEAN Charter should also recognize the rights of formal and non-formal workers, reaffirm human and people’s rights as the basic foundation for ASEAN, and should clearly express its recognition of the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, women, children, migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, people with disability, etc.

IV. Institutions for Regional Policy and Cooperation

ASEAN Security Community

Our submission is based on the spirit of the ASEAN Security Community, and focuses on operationalizing principles and references to complement the current ASC framework and to broaden the definition of Security.

Principle 1: Broader definition and reference to security. ASEAN Charter should have distinctive chapters that address conventional and non-conventional security issues with reference to the State as well as to the people. We have enumerated in Annex 1 a list of non-conventional security issues that ASEAN should discuss, which discussions SAPA intends to participate in.

The ASEAN Charter should define clearly that the responsibilities of the State to protect, promote and fulfill its obligations in respecting the rights of its citizens supersede the obligations it imposes on its citizens.

In addition to its recognition of women, children and migrant workers as defined in the ASC plan of action, the ASEAN Charter should also recognize the unique roles and rights of the Human Rights Defenders.

The ASEAN charter should provide the framework and mechanisms to ensure the participation of civil society, especially at the grassroots level, in conflict prevention and sustainable peace.

Principle 2: A more conducive political environment for peace, security and stability. The ASEAN Charter should address conflicting statements in the ASC Plan of Action by translating into practice its position to “not condone unconstitutional and undemocratic changes of government or the use of their territory for any actions undermining peace, security and stability of other ASEAN Member Countries“. The ASEAN Charter should harmonize the norms and standards contained in existing security instruments to proactively create a peaceful, prosperous and independent zone that is free from all external military influences, including the removal and ban of any foreign military bases in ASEAN.

Principle 3: Introducing Human Security. Human Security encompasses not only freedom from violence but also freedom from threats to people’s lives, including hunger, poverty, disease, marginalization, exclusion, and environmental insecurity. The ASEAN Charter should allocate a specific chapter addressing human security, and provide provisions that will lead to the implementation of its values.

Principle 4: Harmonizing existing ASEAN instruments and norms with international norms and standards. The ASEAN Charter should mainstream rights based approaches in all its deliberations and in performing its collective responsibilities for the region. The ASEAN Charter should adopt the full norms as enshrined in the Right to Development, and further define clearly the inter-linkage of the Right to Development and disarmament in line with the ASC’s overall goal to create a conducive political atmosphere for states to live in harmony and peace with each other.

Principle 5: Defining ASEAN key stakeholders. The ASEAN Charter should recognize the diversity and potential contributions, and facilitate the effective engagement and participation of the people in the policy making processes that affect them.

V. Advancing a Process for an ASEAN Charter

The ASEAN Charter will have wide ranging impacts on the citizens of ASEAN and its various institutions. The drafting of the ASEAN Charter therefore requires the broad participation of citizens from all Member States.

The ASEAN Charter should be supported by a democratic and inclusive process that includes clear mechanisms for participation in national and regional consultations. Civil society initiated consultations should be encouraged and the results of these discussions should be accepted as formal inputs to the Charter. Creative forms of communication should be employed to reach the widest segment of the ASEAN population to socialize the concept of the Charter.

We in SAPA are more than willing to engage in this process, and to work with the EPG and the ASEAN to create awareness and develop a discourse on the ASEAN Charter. We will conduct national and regional civil society meetings to discuss regionalism and ASEAN, and to gather inputs for the ASEAN Charter.

In addition to this initial submission, we will continue our engagement and contribute further submissions in subsequent EPG consultations. In particular, we express our desire for a similar open consultation to be held for the EPG meeting to discuss economy and trade in Singapore in June, and register our intention to join that process.

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