An United Nations initiative reviewing human rights records of nations around the globe is indirectly empowering civil society groups across Southeast Asia by allowing them to take part in the process. However, these groups are not able to ensure that the protection of human rights within their own countries.
It was in 2006 that the UN General Assembly established its Human Rights Council and introduced the universal periodic review of human rights situation of its member countries in the year 2006. The Ten Southeast Asian countries that make ASEAN ASEAN The ASEAN countries Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam are currently undergoing two cycles of reviews as well as a handful of other countries are waiting for the next round.
As part of the procedure, states submit their reports to the commission every four and a half years and get its recommendations. The reviews focus on the development of human rights within the state and the implementation of the previous recommendations. The state that is under review can choose to accept or note the recommendations.
The most common recommendations that states accept are those on improving the equality of gender, access for people handicapped, and the rights of children. These have become more prominent in the course of the review.
The recommendations that aren’t so popular are usually based on hard political issues relating to the protection of civil and political rights. It’s not surprising that it’s the latter which are discuss in the submissions of civil society groups.
A Role For Civil Society Human
Participation of civil society organizations in the annual review of the universal periodicity of ASEAN countries has grown significantly during both cycles. There were 592 organizations that took part in the first cycle, 2008-2012 and submitted 188 reports; The second one (2012-2016) witnessed a substantial growth, with 811 groups submitted 310 reports (personal and non-published studies).
The growing popularity of groups from civil society at the forefront of the UN human rights process for improving human rights. This isn’t the first time that these organizations have been at the forefront of human rights advocacy throughout the region.
Groups of civil society, like the group called the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, helped in urging countries to join this year’s ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) as well as The 2012 ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights.
Since the inception of the AICHR civil society groups have been omit out of the system. Instead, the commission has an unofficial peer-review procedure in which the groups are not given a official position.
Promotion Of Human Rights
While AICHR was suppose to be doing the promotion of human rights and protection activities, it’s not able to offer any protection at all. It’s not mandate to take complaints regarding human rights violations and is not able to exercise the authority to investigate or the perpetrators to be held accountable. The majority of AICHR activities are focus on discussions, meetings and research with the consensual method of operation.
Similar to the national human rights institutions can’t contribute in a meaningful way to the regional arsenal of protection. Studies show that, as the AICHR National institutions are unable to carry out their duties of protection efficiently.
The weak mechanisms raise the issue of whether the national organizations. For human rights in Southeast Asia can fill the protection gaps. These weak mechanisms also make protection of human rights. In Southeast Asia weak and urgently in need of enhancement and improvement.
In light of the weaknesses of AICHR and the national human rights institutions engaging. Universal Periodic Review is crucial for the progress the protection of rights for all people in Southeast Asia.
Be Clever About It
Since the inception of the process for universal periodic reviews, civil society organizations. Throughout the region have received training, making submissions, and even traveling to Geneva. For instance, in 2015 five civil society groups from Singapore made a visit. To Switzerland to discuss human rights within the city-state.
Civil society organizations have been involved in monitoring the state’s recommendations. And their implementation and also in addressing the process of review in itself. A number of them have received international funding and support in this effort. American-based The Carter Center, for example, has recently released the document Universal Periodic Review: Training Manual for Civil Society.
While the states of the region promote the idea of collaborating with civil society. Groups in reviewing processes, they’re in the same way being cautious about these groups.
Governments usually only offer the lip service to human rights institutions and the annual review is not any different. This issue was brought up this year by the local civil rights groups in protest against Laos government. In protest of the missing activists Sombath Somphone and persecution of Lao Christians.