Southeast Asian Civil Society Submission to the AICHR Guideline for Engagement with Civil Society Groups Phnom Penh. Cambodia, 19 September 2012


1.Taking the momentum of the incoming 10th Meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) on September 21-24, 2012 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, we, the representatives of civil society organizations coming from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, gathered together on 18-19 September 2012 in Phnom Penh to discuss the key point of inputs and concerns regarding the AICHR Guideline for Engagement with Civil Society Groups (The Guideline).

2. We applaud the intention of AICHR to finalize The Guideline as a way to ensure that civil society involvement will be the practice of working of the AICHR. We envisage that this submission will be discussed and further integrated into the finalization of The Guideline.

3. We emphasize that The Guideline must be guided by the international norms and standards embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments, including international human rights treaties, international humanitarian law and the core labour standards.

4. We believe that recognizing and engaging civil society is and must be an essential pre-condition for democratically legitimate decision-making process of AICHR, aimed at ensuring the guarantee for the respect, promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights and freedoms for all people in ASEAN, and that the voice of the people is heard. The existence of an active civil society and its organizations is an important element of a people-centered ASEAN.

5. We trust that AICHR's commitment to human rights will provide the adequate space for civil society organizations to constructively and responsibly engage with AICHR, with a view to harmonizing the laws and policies of Member States with best practices under international law.

6. We are convinced that the engagement with civil society is integral to adherence to the purpose of the ASEAN as stipulated in the Charter Article 1.13, "to promote a people-centered ASEAN, in which all sectors of the society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building".

7. We take into consideration the Section 4 of the Terms of Reference of AICHR on the mandate and functions in paragraph 4.8, which states, "to engage in dialogue and consultation with other ASEAN bodies and entities associated with ASEAN, including civil society organizations and other stakeholders, as provided for in Chapter V of the ASEAN Charter", and the following paragraph 4.9, "to consult, as may be appropriate, with other national, regional and international institutions and entities concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights", and

8. We appreciate the reference to the Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on the inauguration of the AICHR Paragraph 6 which requests acknowledgement of the contribution of stakeholders in the promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN, and encourages their continuing engagement and dialogue with the AICHR,

9. We are inspired by the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint Section II para.7 - the APSC shall promote political development in adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as inscribed in the ASEAN Charter. It shall be meant by which ASEAN Member States can pursue closer interaction and cooperation to forge shared norms and create common mechanisms to achieve ASEAN's goals and objectives in the political and security fields. In this regard, it promotes a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society regardless of gender, race, age, religion, language, or social and cultural background, are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building. Furthermore, according to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprints; ASEAN is required to create greater public awareness of the AEC and ASCC in all ASEAN countries, as well as to keep all stakeholders and peoples of ASEAN informed of the progress of ASEAN Community building."

B. Principles for engagement

10. AICHR is committed to progressively establishing required conditions to ensure the creation of an enabling environment for a meaningful civil society participation, by developing a common understanding on the means of engagement, providing clearer procedures and encouraging ASEAN Member States to align the national and regional legal framework which support the participation of civil society.

11. The achievement of the purposes and principles as set out in the ASEAN Charter as well as the TOR of AICHR cannot be fully realized without engaging all other sectors of the society, in the spirit of upholding accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, diversity, which is aimed at a common good, and the building of mutual trust.

12. Civil societies' meaningful and constructive participation shall be considered as essential to the human rights framework that promotes good governance, peace and harmony in ASEAN.

13. The civil society's engagement and participation shall be guided by The Guideline, which will facilitate access for civil society to a meaningfully structured and fruitful dialogue with AICHR.

C. The Purpose of the Guideline

14. The Guideline aims at clarifying the relationship and modalities for engagement between AICHR and civil society organizations in order to respect, promote, protect and fulfil human rights.

15. The Guideline shall recognize civil society's broad knowledge and experience as a valuable resource to its work and therefore afford the necessary platforms to facilitate constructive engagement.

D. Definition of Civil Society Groups

16. In the Guideline, the Civil Society Groups refer to groups of people that serve in public interests either voluntary, professional, independent, formal or non-formal, non-profit, non-governmental organizations, and any kind of associations or networks, think-tanks and the institutes of learning, trade unions and religious bodies, community based organizations, as well as private and public foundations.

17. Civil society groups advocating the use of violence or any other issues incompatible with the objectives of ASEAN Charter should be excluded.

E. The Conduct of Engagement

18. AICHR is encouraged to facilitate civil society engagement and meaningful participation at all levels including being the source of information, participate in a consultation, be dialogue partner, and partnership, in a regular manner.

Areas of Engagement

19. AICHR should establish mechanisms which allow civil society groups to engage in the process of agenda-setting, drafting the document, decision making, implementation, monitoring and reformulation, such as but not limited to:

Criteria of Civil Society Groups:

20. The engagement and participation in the AICHR shall open for any civil society group which has the following criteria:

Mutual Code of Conduct

21. In building constructive and fruitful working relations, all parties involved shall refrain from any conduct going against the respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

22. All parties involved shall take all possible measures to ensure that the engagement is structured, and fruitful, and that two-way communication process is observed.

23. All relevant information pertaining to participation opportunities need to be easily and openly accessible in a timely manner to civil society.

24. In consultations and providing input to AICHR processes, civil society groups request AICHR to timely respond on the following: a) clarity on when review of civil society groups' input is taking place, b) that a response will be formulated which outlines how this input is being taken forward, c), enabling civil society representatives to be present in the discussions.

25. AICHR shall not share the detail information regarding civil society groups to any parties without obtaining prior consent from related entity.

26. Official transmission of documents from civil society groups should be submitted to the ASEAN Secretariat who will then circulate them to the AICHR Representatives.

Registration of Civil Society Groups with AICHR:

27. Registration in AICHR should be voluntary. Civil society groups that are in the process of registration can continue to engage with AICHR.

28. Civil society group registration with AICHR will be handled by an Advisory Panel, as a focal point within the AICHR, which consists of two AICHR Representatives and a staff of ASEAN Secretariat. The role of the panel should be limited to presenting the application to the AICHR. The Advisory Panel should be free to consult with members of civil society, if required.

29. If an application is rejected, grounds for rejection of application should be clearly stated and give fair opportunity for the organization to respond.

30. The organization desiring to register with the AICHR is required to submit the application with the following information:

31. Application for registration can be sent via mail or electronic to ASEAN Secretariat.

32. E-application should be made available in the website of ASEAN Secretariat.

Termination of registered status with AICHR

33. A Civil society group that has been registered by AICHR has the option to terminate its status with AICHR at any time with prior communication to ASEAN Secretariat.

34. The status of being registered with AICHR will be terminated once civil society group is no longer satisfy the criteria of registration and only after due process of hearing.

Responsibilities of the registered civil society groups:

35. Civil society groups will be responsible to act in the interests of the ASEAN peoples in the light of AICHR's purposes and principles.

36. Civil society groups shall be held accountable for any actions, especially those found in contrary to human rights principles.

37. Civil society groups shall submit a written summary of its activities once in three years to the AICHR.

38. Civil society groups shall inform the AICHR of changes in its officials and memberships (if any), as well as changes of address, and contact details.

Endorsed by:

  1. Asian Peace-building and Rule of Law Programme, Singapore
  2. Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia
  3. Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, Cambodia
  4. Ateneo Human Rights Center, the Philippines,
  5. Persatuan Kesadaran Komuniti Selangor, Malaysia
  6. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Thailand
  7. Peoples Empowerment Foundation, Thailand
  8. Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Indonesia
  9. Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Cambodia
  10. SILAKA, Cambodia
  11. ADHOC, Cambodia
  12. Kalyanamitra Foundation, Indonesia
  13. Women Council of Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam
  14. NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child, Cambodia
  15. CRC-Asia

For further information, please kindly contact:

Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Indonesia, Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, e-mail:

SILAKA Cambodia, Ms. Thida Khus, e-mail:

By: AICHR Guideline for Engagement with Civil Society Groups
When: 7/2/2014

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