Giving A Boost To Asian Civil Society Groups

An United Nations initiative reviewing human rights records in countries across. The globe is strengthening civil society organizations within Southeast Asia by allowing them to be part of the process. However, the organizations are not able to ensure that the rights of people are protect in their respective 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 10 Southeast Asian countries that make the group of ASEAN The ASEAN countries. Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand. Vietnam have been through two cycles of reviews and a handful of countries are waiting for the next round.

In the course of this procedure, states submit their reports to the commission. Every four and a half years, and given its recommendations. Reviewers focus on the progress of human rights within the state, as well as the application of recommendations previously made. The state being review can choose to accept or note the recommendations.

The most common recommendations that states accept include recommendations for improving. Equal gender representation, accessible to those handicap. And the rights of children. Which have given a particular importance in the course of the review.

The recommendations that aren’t so popular are usually based on hard questions of politics. That concern the rights of citizens and their political freedoms. It’s not surprising that it’s these issues that are outline in the reports of civil society groups.

A Role For Civil Society

Participation of civil society organizations in the periodic review universal of ASEAN countries has increased significantly between both cycles. There were 592 organizations that were part of the first cycle, 2008-2012 and submitted 188 reports; The second one (2012-2016) saw a substantial rise, with 811 organizations submitted 310 reports (personal not published research).

The increase in social groups in the center in the UN human rights process for improving human rights. This isn’t the first time that these organizations have been at center of human rights advocacy in the region.

The civil society organizations like the coalition called the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. Helped in urging countries to join in the 2010 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 has been absent out of the system. Instead, the commission has an opaque peer-review process which the groups not given a official role.

the Promotion Of Civil Human Rights

While AICHR was supposed to be involved in the promotion of human rights and protection work. It’s not able to offer any protection at all. It’s not mandated to investigate complaints about human rights violations, and is not able to exercise. The authority to investigate and make perpetrators accountable. In reality, the majority of AICHR activities are centered around meetings, discussions. And research that follow the consensual method of operation.

In the same way, human rights organizations in the country are not able to contribute. Effectively to the region’s arsenal of protection. Studies show that, as the AICHR National institutions are unable to fulfill their role in protecting effectively.

The weak mechanisms raise the issue of whether the national organizations for human rights. In Southeast Asia can fill the protection gaps. They also render protection of human rights in Southeast Asia weak and desperately in need of enhancement and improvement.

Due to the weaknesses of AICHR and the national human rights institutions engaging in. The Universal Periodic Review is crucial for the progress and protection of human rights throughout Southeast Asia.

It’s A Matter Of Being Clever About It

Since the introduction of the periodic universal review, civil society organizations within the region have received training, making submissions, and even traveling to Geneva. In 2015, for example five civil society groups from Singapore took a trip to Switzerland to discuss the rights of citizens in the city-state.

Civil society groups have been involve in monitoring the state’s recommendations and their execution, and also in addressing the process of review within the review process itself. A number of them have received international support and funding to carry out this work. American-based The Carter Center, for example, has recently released an article titled Universal Periodic Review: Training Manual for Civil Society.

While countries in the region embrace the notion of collaborating with civil society groups in reviews, they’re however being cautious about these groups

Governments usually only offer attention to human rights organizations and the regular review is not any different. The issue was brought up during 2015 by civil society organizations in protest against Laos government in protest of the disappearance and disappearance Sombath Somphone and persecution of Lao Christians.

The Current Arrangement

In general, it appears that states are in favor of the current arrangement as they can make use of it to limit the involvement of civil society organizations to the procedure. They are able to create legal barriers or target groups, put restrictions on activities of civil society as well as harass and intimidate activists.

In a report released in 2015 the civil society organisation CIVICUS examine instances from Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam in which the authorities have responded to the cases with false information and arranged for numerous submissions by NGOs that are organise by governments and conducted consultations with political groups, refusing to collaborate with civil society organisations that have a more critical view of government policies.

Certain organizations have signed up to participate in sessions during the adoption of the work panel report that the commission. Some, like Vietnam has resisted the conferring the status of consultative to certain non-governmental organizations.

Southeast Asian Civil Society

However the review has been a success in the case of Southeast Asian civil society groups this review has proved to be an effective method of placing human rights issues on the agenda, and also engaging governments in discussions on important questions, including LGBTI human rights issues in Indonesia.

But there systemic issues to overcome when engaging with others. They include the need to follow recommendations and the review’s capacity to tackle complex political issues, for instance, the lese-majeste law in Thailand which prohibits citizens from insulting or defaming such people, as well as other freedom of speech issues.

In order for the review to have an impact, civil society organizations must reflect on what they’ve been up to and come up with more strategic plans for the third cycle that will begin in 2017. They’ll need to move beyond coalition-building and organizing submissions, and consider what they can do to ensure that human rights protections are legal.