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UN rights chief welcomes focus on human rights and democracy

UN rights chief welcomes focus on human rights and democracy, calls for review of ASEAN draft human rights declaration

BALI (8 November 2012) – United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday welcomed the emergence of the Bali Democracy Forum as an important platform for the promotion of good governance, the rule of law and human rights in the region, while urging ASEAN leaders to take more time to develop a regional Human Rights Declaration. The draft Declaration is due to be adopted at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Phnom Penh later this month.

The 5th annual Bali Democracy Forum, taking place on 8 and 9 November and bringing together more than 80 governments and international organisations, is focusing on promoting democratic practices, including participation, accountability and responsive governance.

“The Bali Democracy Forum is particularly relevant at this time when a new wave of democratic aspirations and change is sweeping different parts of the world,” Pillay said. “Intergovernmental regional gatherings like this one can provide effective and relevant platforms for bringing stakeholders together – but it is crucial that mechanisms exist for broad and meaningful consultations with civil society.”

Pillay commended ASEAN’s efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law with the creation of the first regional human rights mechanism in Asia-Pacific - the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), but added that “it is very important that the new ASEAN Declaration complements and does not undermine international standards.”

The High Commissioner expressed concerns about the process by which the Declaration, which has still not been officially published, was drafted. She noted that inadequate involvement of civil society and other stakeholders had prompted concerns even among some members of the ASEAN institutions.

“This is not the hallmark of the democratic global governance to which ASEAN aspires, and it will only serve to undermine the respect and ownership that such an important declaration deserves,” the UN human rights chief said.

Pillay encouraged ASEAN leaders to ensure the participation of all key stakeholders and to harness their energy and contributions, both in drafting the Declaration and building ASEAN’s new human rights mechanisms. “This has been the key to success for similar mechanisms in all other regions of the world,” she said.

While welcoming the inclusion of many fundamental rights in the draft, the High Commissioner noted blanket restrictions that are not part of international human rights law.

“I urge the governments of the region to take the necessary time to develop a Declaration that fully conforms with international human rights standards and is framed with the participation of all key stakeholders,” the High Commissioner said.


To read the speech delivered by the High Commissioner at the Bali Democracy Forum, please visit:

Learn more about the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

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