January 10-15, 2007
Working Group Celebrates Quiet Victories
|Working Group Secretary General Carlos Medina
Jr. (left) and members of civil socety with former President
Fidel Ramos (center), one of the members of the EPG
While the Philippines celebrated the success of its recent hosting
of the 12th Association
of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) summit from 10 -15 January
in Cebu City, the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism(Working
Group), one of the partners of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation
(FNF), marked quiet victories in the ASEAN leaders’ adoption
of two of its core projects.
ASEAN government heads endorsed completely the Eminent Persons
Group (EPG)’s recommendations in its blueprint for an ASEAN
charter. The EPG is a group of highly-regarded statesmen and leaders.
Their proposal noted the possibility of setting up an ASEAN human
rights mechanism as a “worthy idea [that] should be pursued
further.” This is something the Working Group has been lobbying
for consistently for years.
Another success for the Working Group is the ASEAN Declaration
on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
While it does not contain specifics, it nevertheless is a move
towards the creation of a sectoral instrument to protect their
rights. It is also a step further in the implementation of one
of the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP)’s mandates. ASEAN
heads of state approved the VAP during their 10th summit. It calls
for political development, conflict prevention and resolution
and peace building throughout the region through the promotion
of human rights.
“These are positive developments,” said Working Group
Program Manager Ray Paolo “Arpee” Santiago. “It
demonstrates that ASEAN recognizes that human rights is a pressing
concern in the region that must be properly addressed,”
he said. “There are still many challenges ahead for the
Working Group,” he added. “We will continue to meet
with ASEAN, not merely to lobby for paper victories, but to ask
how we can work together to realize these commitments.”
“ASEAN has come a long way in acknowledging the key role
that human rights protection plays in building modern, stable
societies,” said FNF Resident Representative Siegfried Herzog.
“The Working Group’s contribution to this process
has been invaluable,” he added.
The Working Group has been engaging ASEAN closely since 1996.
With the support of FNF, It has been conducting workshops, round
table discussions and meetings with senior officials in order
to push for concrete action on human rights protection.