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A Critic and Input of the Guidelines on the relation between AICHR and Civil Society Organizations in South East Asia  

Excellency Mr.Rafendi Djamin, Indonesia’s Representative for ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR),

On behalf of KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence), a Human Rights organization working since 1998, we would like to review as well as convey our critical thoughts on Draft of Guidelines on ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) Relations with Civil Society Organizations.

In this regard, we would like to express our concern that ideally a regional body, such as AICHR must have a mechanism to communicate with civil society in various background. As a reference, we could refer to some precedent already existent in the Inter-American system and European system.

In relation with the other regional mechanism, Navi Pillay stated “Other regions have shown how regional human rights systems can evolve and improve over time, and I am confident this will be the same for ASEAN. Looking ahead, it is essential that ASEAN ensures that any language inconsistent with international human rights standards does not become a part of any binding regional human rights convention.”

Now, through this letter, we are trying to deliver our following points as the result of our review and our critical thinking toward the Draft of Guidelines on AICHR’s Relations with Civil Society Organizations which we convey respectfully, for the sake of pushing AICHR effectiveness, especially in its relations with the Civil Society Organizations in upholding Human Rights throughout ASEAN:

Clear definitions of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Institutions

Article II of the draft guidelines says: Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are defined as the association of persons, natural or juridical, that is non-profit and non-governmental in nature, which are organized voluntarily to promote, strengthen and help realise the aims and objectives of ASEAN cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights. CSOs advocating the use of violence or any other issue incompatible with the objectives of ASEAN Charter, or which are emanations of political parties should be excluded. Institutions are institutions or network of institutions, which can be national, regional or international stature, dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights.

We see the need for further clarification of what is defined as the CSOs and what is defined as Institutions. Because, between CSOs and Institutions (national, regional/international stature dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights) cannot be equated due to CSOs and Institutions have different mandate and different ways of working. Revision in this point is needed to prevent overlap role between CSOs and Institutions in the context of working to promote and protect human rights based on AICHR’s duty.

More clear and transparent process of selection to CSOs receive the Consultative Status, Status of Advisory Panel, and Quota of eligible CSOs

There is a need to include more transparent and clear explanation about the selection process – what will be AICHR done before deciding which CSOs are entitled to receive the endorsement of Consultative Status and which are not – on the article III of the draft guidelines that talking about the eligibility - the principles to be applied to reveive Consultation Status.

Therefore, we think it’s necessary to have more explanation about the Advisory Panel of AICHR which will established to assess the suitability of CSOs, institutions, entities, and or voluntary organizations for consultation. What kind of Panel – is it a temporary or permanent body?; Is there any other mandates of this Advisory Panel besides to screen all applications and submit their recommendations to AICHR?; etc.

Not less important, it’s also necessary to have the clear information about the quota of eligible CSOs that will receive the endorsement of Consultative Status, who are they, and why they’re selected.

What’s behind the Revocation of Consultative Status process and Eligibility for Re-consideration

As written on the article V of the draft guidelines, the consultative status of CSOs may be suspended or withdrawn by AICHR due to some grounds. Unfortunately, there is no further explanation about the process behind the revocation of consultative status, and especially, the further step that AICHR will take after revoking the consultative status of certain CSOs. AICHR members and public surely need to know much more details about this.

This guideline also have to reconsider the period of re-consideration of suspended CSOs which must wait up to three years, noticing the struggle for human rights takes time and enormous energy, does not three years sound too long? In addition, this guideline also needs to explain in details about how the process of re-consideration of suspended CSOs will be taken by AICHR.

Every types of Consultative Relations should produce a Clear-yet-Concrete Output and Outcome

There’re a lot of ways in conducting consultation between AICHR and CSOs written on the guidelines. But unfortunately, we didn’t see any specific goal for each consultation activity mentioned on this draft guideline – yet we need a clear and concrete resolution in order to improve our performance of work. And also to keep every consultation activity held effectively, this guideline desperately need to provide the expected clear yet concrete output and outcome as our common purpose.

Ideal Standard of Relations with Civil Society Organizations

It should be admitted that determining the ideal standards for relations, especially the relations between Civil Society Organizations with Regional Body such as AICHR is difficult. But presumably, there are some points that can be considered and used as a reference for building relations with CSOs in order to make it harmonious and effective. These standards, expected to be included in the Guidelines on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) Relations with Civil Society Organizations and concretely implemented. They are:

  • Availability of Terms and Conditions of Partnership that is explicitly and clearly defined in a “Partnership Agreement”, with roles, contributions and responsibilities, decision making, accountability, etc
  • Developing respectful dialogue on intent and mutual aspirations for all parties
  • Establishing mutual expectations prior to program planning
  • Maintaining the prerogative to determine own objectives and functioning of each parties
  • Ensuring the relation is go beyond interactions to implicate broader impact
  • Establishing mutually agreed conditions and mechanisms for ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and accountability with all parties

We humbly to appeal to you as Indonesia’s Representative for ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), to highlight our review of Draft of Guidelines on AICHR’s Relations with Civil Society Organizations above, which hopefully would be included in your talking points in any AICHR’s process of finalizing Guidelines on AICHR’s Relations with Civil Society Organizations.

We look forward to hear back from you. Shall you need further information and clarification, please email to kontras.1998@gmail.com, or harisazhar@kontras.org
Thanks in advance.

22 April 2014,

 

Haris Azhar
Coordinator