Submitted at the 3rd Consultation Meeting with the High Level Panel (HLP), 28 August 2009, Jakarta
2. The ASEAN NHRI Forum congratulates the ASEAN Member States on the adoption of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and expresses its appreciation to the members of the High Level Panel (HLP) for their continual engagement with civil society organizations and the ASEAN NHRI Forum in the process.
3. The AICHR that will be set up under the ToR evidently differs from NHRIs which are fully compliant with the Paris Principles. As a regional human rights body, it lacks independence. Any protection power that it may have is severely circumscribed by its ToR. Its promotional functions are dependent upon political will of member governments.
4. This new and important regional body needs a separate, permanent and proper Secretariat to ensure that the functions of human rights, promotion and protection can be effectively carried out, i.e. investigation, monitoring, public inquiries, reports and recommendations that needed political support and administrative action.
5. Being an institution which falls outside the Paris Principles, it would be difficult for it to secure from international human rights bodies and agencies capacity building, resources, training, and funding for thematic issues. It may also not have the locus standi before treaty bodies and United Nations fora.
6. We recognize, however, that the pursuit of human rights is progressive and changes with time; we accept the noble aspiration of ASEAN to provide for the birth of a human rights body in the region. AICHR represents a hope for progressive realization of human rights in the region.
7. As an intergovernmental body, it is subordinate to ASEAN governments and might not adequately address issues arising from civil society.
8. In keeping with current human rights practices, this progressive realization demands institutionalized interaction among various stakeholders such as governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil societies, NHRIs and national, regional and international institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights. Thus, the consultative nature of AICHR is vital.
9. On Institutional Engagement, the ANF recommends:
· The AICHR should develop a mechanism for regular engagement with NHRIs. The ANF proposes a Memorandum of Cooperation between AICHR and the ANF. · The AICHR should institutionalize regular meetings with CSOs regionally as well as in individual ASEAN countries.
10. On the Establishment of a Secretariat for the AICHR:
· The AICHR should be supported by a separate, permanent, and professional Secretariat whose functions should be met by adequate and regular funding which provides for, among others, research, report writing, and creation and management of a resource center. The AICHR should have a separate and permanent identity.
11. The ASEAN NHRI Forum hopes that over time the AICHR becomes an effective, credible, and accessible regional human rights commission. Reviewing the present ToR, the ANF sees the need for the AICHR to be further vested with the necessary independence, effective protection mandate and powers. AICHR should also acknowledge the important roles of the other relevant stakeholders particularly of NHRIs.
12. We appreciate the opportunity provided by the HLP to the ANF and regional civil societies to express their views on the Political Declaration that is being drafted for the launching of the AICHR at the forthcoming ASEAN Summit in October 2009. It is the unanimous wish of all concerned today that the Heads of State of ASEAN clearly declare a joint commitment to human rights promotion, protection and universal standards in the Political Declaration.