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Philippines happy with move on human rights

Asean member nations agree to promote and protect human rights in the region

Gulf News

Manila: Philippine delegates were elated that their call to fellow member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make a proposed Asean Human Rights Declaration reached universal standards, sources said.

During the group’s annual leaders’ summit in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Asean countries are expected to sign the Asean Human Rights Declaration which contains provisions that were not earlier expected, said a source from Cambodia who requested anonymity.

Asean member countries agreed to cooperate in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region, said the source, adding this means that member countries “could check on each others’ human rights records,” whether they are failing or not, based on the provisions they have included in the Asean Human Rights Declaration.

The Declarations’s most controversial inclusion was a provision that governments must uphold civil and political rights of everyone in the Asean, said the source, adding that this could mean that newly democratized member countries could be now chastised for not upholding human rights.

Almost all Asean countries have a history of authoritarianism, dictatorship, and military rule.

The Declaration has a provision for the establishment of mechanisms to uphold the economic rights of all Asean nations, said the source, adding this would help enlarge the middle class and reduce inequalities in the member countries.

The Declaration also included a provision to uphold residents right (whoever they are) to development, said the source, adding this would impose better governance in the Asean region and could curtail corruption in governments that gets in the way of development in the region.

The Declarations included social and cultural rights, which means that Asean countries must uphold the intrinsic and indigenous cultures which are abound in all member countries, most of whom have a history of colonization which resulted in the erasure of intrinsic cultures, the source explained.

Moreover, the Declaration also called for the upholding of rights of children and women, said the source, adding this would impose on Asean governments to work for equality of sexes, prevent human trafficking, including bad labour practices such as child labour and low wages for women workers.

Earlier, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines worked quietly and steadily for member countries to support the crafting of a strong Asean Human Rights Declaration.

“Asean has this unique privilege to speak up firmly for all those who may not be able to do so,” Del Rosario said, hinting that some member countries were truly hampered by old culture.

He also praised President Beingo Aquino for being “a staunch advocate of human rights,” a hint that the Philippines was behind the strengthening of the Asean Human Rights Declaration.

Earlier, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights claimed that the Asean Human Rights Declaration had not reached the international standards were embraced by other groups.

Asean is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.