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Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Role of Civil Society and ASEAN Bodies in Achieving a People-Centered ASEAN



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The final day of the ACSC/APF 2016 examined the progress and efficacy of ASEAN and its mechanisms in achieving a people-centered community.

H.E. Mr. Xanana Gusmao, Minister of Strategic Investment in Timor-Leste, engaging participants in an open dialogue, commented on the historical importance of ASEAN as a people’s movement, stating: “When Timor-Leste was suffering and the rest of the world had forsaken it, international civil society, ASEAN civil society, stood with us.”

Minister Gusmao also discussed the ongoing need for civil society to monitor and restrain the actions of the state, keeping the state accountable. To this end, he said, “We must celebrate the success of ASEAN…but we must have a growing sense of solidarity and plan of action for the future.”

Minister Gusmao concluded his address with a request for solidarity from ASEAN civil society, once again, in checking the actions of government. “I ask of you one last thing. The Timorlese have a final struggle to achieve our sovereignty. Determining our maritime boundaries is a matter of sovereignty. It is the final step in our struggle. We fought for sovereignty over our land, and now we are fighting for sovereignty over our seas.”

In the second session of the day, representatives from various ASEAN bodies examined the effectiveness of ASEAN bodies in achieving a people-centered approach, and the way forward towards this vision.

To this end, Mr. Sinapan Samydorai of AFML emphasised the need to finalise the Draft ASEAN Instrument on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, in order to acknowledge the critical role played by migrant workers in ASEAN economies, and to achieve an inclusive ASEAN community.

Professor Aurora Javate, ACWC Philippines Representative, highlighted the implementation of commitments under CEDAW and CRC as a priority of ACWC, stating that, “Without a gender perspective, and people-centered framework, a caring and sharing ASEAN community is impossible to achieve.”

Edmund Bon, the Malaysia representative to AICHR, shared an aspirational view of AICHR in adopting a people-centered approach that upholds human rights, saying, “ AICHR must be a body that sets standards. It must be a charter body, in that it interprets the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and talks about its scope and applicability, and it must be a body that can issue statements on areas of concern.”

As emphasised by Minister Gusmao and the representatives of the various ASEAN human rights mechanisms, the way forward lies with civil society’s continued activism and solidarity, as well as their diligence in pressuring and shaping the existing ASEAN bodies towards a truly inclusive and people-centered ASEAN.

The ACSC/APF 2016 Conference is taking place on 02-05 August 2016, at the Dili Convention Center in Timor-Leste. The full programme of the ACSC/APF 2016 can be viewed at aseanpeople.org.

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