News / Asia

    ASEAN Approves Controversial Human Rights Declaration

    Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, left, with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan after the ceremony for the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration,  during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, November 18, 2012.
    Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, left, with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan after the ceremony for the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, November 18, 2012.
    Irwin Loy
    Southeast Asian leaders have signed off on a controversial region-wide human rights declaration in what they say is a landmark moment.  But critics say the declaration is insufficient and will give countries an excuse to ignore, rather than protect, human rights.

    Heads of state from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hailed the agreement as a significant milestone for the region. In a ceremony on Sunday, leaders from the 10-member bloc etched their signatures on a region-wide Human Rights Declaration.

    ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan had only praise for the accord when speaking with reporters afterwards.

    “I think that is a major, major development... the leaders have just signed that into a declaration committing themselves, every government, every country, to the highest standards, existing and available. And this certainly can be used to monitor the practice, the protection, the promotion of human rights here in the ASEAN countries," he said.

    However, many rights groups say the declaration will likely fall short of minimum standards, even though ASEAN leaders have touted recent additions highlighting the importance of existing international laws.

    Of particular concern, critics say, are sections included in previous drafts that suggest rights will be considered in light of “regional and national contexts." The same passage remains in the final declaration released publicly late Sunday. 

    “You cannot have a national or regional exception," said Phil Robertson, who is with New York-based Human Rights Watch. "You cannot set out a wide range of instances, like public morality, when all these rights would not apply.  All they have done is they have put the loopholes up front and then they have tried to decorate around them.”

    About five-dozen rights groups from across ASEAN have also signed statements criticizing the declaration.  Critics have also slammed the process behind drafting the declaration.  An ASEAN committee was formed to create initial drafts, but these were never released publicly, even during limited consultation sessions with civil society groups.

    “So far, we are working on leaked drafts, or sometimes just rumors," said Mora Sar, who is with the ASEAN Grassroots Peoples’ Assembly. "If they signed it in this current form, we as civil society, we are really upset.”

    Rights groups have tried to make human rights a pressing issue during these meetings, particularly ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated visit, which is scheduled to begin Monday following a stopover in Burma.  But it is likely that ongoing debates over territorial claims to the South China Sea, as well as discussions on the economy and potential new free-trade areas, will dominate upcoming summit meetings.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ajay Chaturvedi from: India
    November 18, 2012 8:23 AM
    ASEAN Summitis important not only for the members of the ASEAN but also for India and the regional security. India needs to move fast and support the endeavour of ASEAN to stand up against China's coercive tac in South China Sea. It is an opportunity India should not miss.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora