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

17 April 2006
Ubud, Bali

I. Introduction
We are representatives of 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. SAPA network members have varied competencies in the key pillars of ASEAN cooperation, with many of us working on cross-cutting issues and advocacies.
SAPA welcomes the move by ASEAN Leaders to develop an ASEAN Charter as a step towards deepening integration in the region through the formalization of agreements and understanding, the regional recognition of rights, and the regionalization of standards and mechanisms. 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. SAPA commends the EPG’s recognition of civil society’s right to participate in its deliberations, and reiterates its appeal to broaden such inclusiveness in both national and regional venues. 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.
Culled from the results of the various processes that civil society has initiated and participated in, including the 15-16 April meeting in Ubud, Bali, 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. This initial submission also gives special focus on the aspects of people’s security in line with the agenda of the EPG meeting this week. Our subsequent submissions will focus on the other aspects of regional cooperation which will be the focus of succeeding EPG meetings. We commit to engage the entire EPG process, and to pursue this process even after the EPG’s task has been completed. We are consolidating our perspectives, proposals and recommendations for inclusion in the ASEAN Charter, including the more specific provisions which we hope to develop and share with the EPG as the process progresses. Our ultimate aim is to help facilitate the development of an ASEAN thinking and action on the Charter and on the broad issue of regionalism not only among organized civil society groups but also among the ASEAN people.
II. Perspectives on Regionalism
Southeast Asia is a region of diverse peoples and cultures. There is uneven development between and within countries. The borders and political systems of many nation-states of Southeast Asia today were molded by colonial powers and remain colonial constructs. In a span of less than four decades, ASEAN polity has developed in leaps and bounds, with palpable successes as well as areas in need of more attention. Appreciation and realization of deeper ASEAN regionalism will contribute to the resolution of long-standing issues, facilitate the tackling of issues yet to be addressed in regional discussions, and forge firmer regional commitments from and among ASEAN Member States and people.
Regionalism is a step towards the advancement of ASEAN people’s interest, by stressing mutual benefit and cooperation among states and people. The articulation of a people’s aspirations in a regional forum is a progressive step towards protecting and furthering those aspirations.
Regionalism should go beyond regional integration and incorporate genuine regional solidarity. The regionalism we opt for is people-centered and people-empowered. Regionalism should be a tool that will 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. Regional monitors and regulatory mechanisms, and a progressive and democratic regional political and security system, are important elements of regionalism. It is not a tool by which Member States can retreat to the least common denominator but one which will facilitate the establishment of regional rights and standards aligned to internationally recognized and accepted norms. Therefore, regionalism is both an offensive and defensive tool. 
Regionalism is the foundation for ASEAN’s venture into external relations. ASEAN’s dealings and partnerships with its neighbors and the global community should articulate and be guided by agreed regional agenda.
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
Human rights and dignity are part of core values and guiding principles that ASEAN has sought to uphold. 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 such as the Right to Development (1986) and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) at the regional level by ratifying existing international human rights conventions.
The ASEAN Charter should reaffirm human and people’s rights as the basic foundation for ASEAN, and articulate them in terms of the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the principles of universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and inter-relatedness.
The ASEAN Charter should take into account emerging regional contexts and conditions in order to develop effective working modalities which are politically and legally binding and enforceable in terms of providing practical remedies for victims.
ASEAN should recognize the urgent need to establish an effective and viable ASEAN human rights mechanism which process has been too slow over the past decade. The ASEAN Charter should facilitate the establishment process of such a body which is compatible with globally accepted norms and standards.
The ASEAN Charter needs to recognize the rights of workers – formal and non-formal – and all migrant workers by highlighting the importance of the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and ILO core labor standards, and other relevant instruments.
The ASEAN Charter should also clearly recognize the rights of many 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 (ASC)
Our submission is based on the spirit of the ASEAN Security Community, which has expressed its commitment to explore innovative ways to implement the six components and non-exhaustive list of areas of activities of the Plan of Action  to ensure a coordinated process of cooperation with the ASEAN Security Community. 
Our submission focuses on operationalizing principles and references with an aim to complement the current framework proposed in the ASC aiming for broader definition of Security.
Principle 1: Broader definition and reference to security
i. Security Framework of the People:
Current ASC definitions of conventional and non-conventional security issues are comprehensive but not inclusive in terms of perspective. References are made only to the State but not to the people.
The 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. In this regard, the ASEAN Charter should incorporate the norms and standards in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 1998).
On conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict building, the ASEAN Charter should provide a framework and mechanisms to ensure the participation of civil society, especially at the grassroots level, in conflict prevention and achieving sustainable peace.
 ii. Objective and Non-objective security threats
 Despite the effort to adopt a comprehensive conception of security, ASC’s threat perception is clearly objectivist in the sense that threats exist and must be responded to. It is also important to conceive threats as risks produced by State policy. As such, the sources of threats to ASEAN security can be less external than internal.
Given the fact that perceived non-conventional security threats can also be the result of well-intentioned policies which fail to adequately define and address the root causes of such perceived threats, the ASEAN Charter should include provisions for a more holistic analysis of non-conventional security threats.
Principle 2: A more conducive political environment for peace, security and stability
The ASC Plan of Action contains two conflicting statements on principle. On one hand, the plan of action declares that the ASC process “shall be guided by well-established principles of non-interference (and) respect for national sovereignty”; on the other hand it asserts that ASEAN shall not condone undemocratic regimes.
ASEAN should translate into practice its position on the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action on political development which states that “ASEAN Member Countries shall 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“.
ASEAN also has existing security instruments such as ZOPFAN, TAC and SEANWFZ and is also a member of the political alliance NAM.  
ASEAN Charter should harmonize the norms and standards contained  in these instruments that will eventually lead to a joint foreign policy to proactively create a peaceful, prosperous and independent zone that is free from all external  military influences. This includes inter alia the eventual removal and ban of any  foreign military bases in ASEAN.   
Principle 3: Introducing Human Security
The current ASC Framework does not contain any specific reference to Human Security based on the protection and empowerment of the people.
Human Security encompasses not only freedom from violence but also freedom from threats to people’s lives, including hunger, poverty, disease, marginalization and exclusion. Human security also hinges upon environmental integrity and ecological security that safeguard against degradation and destruction that cause disease, harsh living conditions, and loss of lives and livelihoods. Competition for and over-exploitation of the environment also causes displacement and breakup of communities, and give rise to aggression and armed conflicts.
The ASEAN Charter should broadly define human security, allocate a specific chapter addressing the issue, and contain provisions that will lead to the implementation of its values.
Principle 4: Harmonizing existing ASEAN instruments and norms with international norms and standards
The current ASC Plan of Action under section 1.2 Shaping and Sharing of Norms does not contain adequate reference to the international human rights framework, that should serve as a common framework regardless of ideologies and historical cultural differences.
The ASEAN Charter should mainstream rights based approaches in harmony with international standards and norms in all its deliberations and in performing its collective responsibilities for the region.
The Right to Development has been the ardent framework by the majority of ASEAN members at various global platforms. In line with this sprit, the ASEAN Charter should adopt the full norms as enshrined in the Right to Development, and further define clearly the inter-linkage of the Rights to Development and disarmament, by reducing the military expenses and increasing spending on development issues, 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 full realization of ASEAN Vision 2020, especially in the areas of the comprehensive security, will require the full participation of the various stakeholders with their distinctive identities. Each of these stakeholders takes on different roles and operate within a specific set of values at the various stages of the comprehensive security framework.
The ASEAN Charter should recognize clearly this diversity and the potential contributions of these key stakeholders in the full realization of the vision of the ASC. These key stakeholders include, inter-alia:
i. Peoples Movements/organizations
ii. Trade Unions
iii. NGOs
iv. Media
v. Parliamentarians
vi. National Human Rights Institutions/domestic human rights institutions
vii. Academic institutions
The ASEAN Charter should facilitate the effective engagement of these diverse stakeholders within ASEAN mechanisms.
The ASEAN Charter should clearly provide for the participation of the people in the policy making processes which affect them.
V. Advancing a Process for an ASEAN Charter
The ASEAN Charter outlines the responsibilities and obligations of Member States as well as the rights and freedoms of ASEAN people, and determines how much of their national flexibilities they will yield in favor of regional agreements. As such, 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. While constructive engagement is one of our responsibilities as civil society, it is the obligation of ASEAN and its Member States to provide mechanisms for transparent and democratic participation and genuine consultation.
We propose a democratic and inclusive process for the ASEAN Charter that will include the following:
• Regional civil society consultations must be called not only by the EPG but also by the ASEAN Leadership when considering the EPG recommendations. Consultations initiated by the EPG must not supplant national processes and mechanisms for consultations and discussions meant to gather as many views and inputs on the Charter from the widest possible segment of the population.
• Civil society should be encouraged to initiate consultations and discussions among their constituents and community partners on various aspects of the Charter, and submit the results of these discussions to the designated national and/or regional mechanisms as their formal inputs to the Charter. This should give us the space to conduct our own consultations and discussions, and ensure that our inputs from such engagement are recognized as official contributions to the Charter.
• ASEAN must adopt mechanisms for consultation at the regional level. This is particularly important for countries where there is little space for civil society to engage or even be consulted at the national level.
• For both the EPG and ASEAN processes, broader national consultations on the Charter must be conducted. There must be parallel national EPG consultation processes similar to the ones  carried out in the Philippines.
• When mainstreaming the idea of a Charter, creative forms of communication should be employed to reach the widest segment of the ASEAN population. Such forms of communication should enable concerned citizens not otherwise able to participate directly in consultation meetings to register their views on the process and substance of the ASEAN Charter.
We in SAPA are more than willing to engage in this process, to devote time and other resources to facilitate the inclusion of various stakeholders, and to work with the EPG and ASEAN to create awareness and develop a discourse on the ASEAN Charter. We offer our distinct strengths: experience with grounded reality, engagement at the national level, commitment to regional solidarity, and global perspective.
We will be conducting national and regional civil society meetings to discuss regionalism and the ASEAN, and to gather inputs for the ASEAN Charter. In these meetings, we expect the participation of the EPG members and ASEAN related bodies, at both national and regional levels.
In addition to this initial submission, we will continue our engagement and contribute further submissions in subsequent EPG consultation processes, and our members will actively participate in parallel national EPG processes. In particular, we express our desire for a similar open consultation process to be held for the EPG meeting to discuss economy and trade in Singapore in June, and register our intention to join that process.
List of Non-Conventional Security Issues
1. Banned weapons;
2. Trans-boundary environmental issues (e.g. haze and pollution, over extraction);
3. Transnational crimes;
4. Drug trafficking;
5. Trafficking in persons (including women and children for prostitution and labor);
6. Terrorism;
7. Transnational Corporate crimes;
8. Enforced slavery;
9. Economic crimes;
10. Trans-boundary health problems (e.g. SARS, HIV/AIDS, etc.);
11. Internal conflicts (including issues on refuges and internally displaced persons);
12. People’s mobility, including undocumented migration;
13. Non-objective security threats (e.g. food security, economic/structural adjustments);
14. etc.
SAPA Working Group on the ASEAN
c/o SEACA: [email protected]
Forum Asia: [email protected]