US critiques ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
US critiques ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
Phnom Penh Post
The US Department of State issued a statement yesterday saying that while it “in principle, supported” ASEAN’s efforts to codify human rights, last week’s newly signed Human Rights Declaration had the potential to jeopardise human rights as enshrined in well-established international declarations.
“While part of the ASEAN Declaration adopted November 18 tracks the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], we are deeply concerned that many of the ASEAN Declaration’s principles and articles could weaken and erode universal human rights and fundamental freedoms as contained in the UDHR,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland in the statement.
Nuland went on to cite many of the concerns already raised by civil society groups, including “the concept of ‘cultural relativism’,” “novel limits to rights,” and language implying that “individual rights are subject to group veto”, before noting that ASEAN “has an opportunity” to strengthen the statement through cooperation with civil society.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for its Asia Division, Phil Robertson, called the US’s statement “well conceived”.
However, he said: “I think the US is too optimistic that ASEAN is prepared to fix the problem because ASEAN has treated the views of its peoples and civil society groups with contempt throughout the AHRD draft process.”
NOVEMBER 26, 2012
Global Geopolitics & Political Economy / IPS
MANILA, Nov 24 (IPS) – Against the backdrop of growing territorial tensions in the South China Sea, inflamed by a more explicit Sino-American rivalry in the Pacific theatre, the recently-concluded ASEAN Summit in Cambodia represented the best chance at bolstering regional security through peaceful, multilateral mechanisms.With the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) gathering coinciding with the pan-regional East Asia and ASEAN+3 Summits, Cambodia, as the current chair of the ASEAN, took centre-stage in a broader international gathering, which brought together leading Pacific powers such as the U.S., China, Japan and India.
Ahead of the ASEAN Summit, many commentators as well as regional leaders expressed their hopes for some form of diplomatic breakthrough to address festering maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
“We are hoping and expecting that there will be smooth and very productive results of these meetings as far as our advocacies are concerned,” said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez. “What is important here is to underscore the ASEAN centrality and, for ASEAN it has always been our position that any initiatives (such as the CoC) should first be accepted and approved by ASEAN and only then would it be presented to other dialogue partners.” His statements echoed Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s cautious optimism regarding a more unified regional stance on the issue of maritime security.
Interestingly, the Philippines has also been very busy with thawing out increasingly frayed relations with both China and Cambodia in recent months, hoping to build positive momentum ahead of the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh.
The newly re-elected President Obama also called for easing of tensions among claimant states, warning against an escalation in disputes, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier identified the territorial conflicts as a ‘critical issue’ in need of urgent resolution.
“Among the principles that the ASEAN community has pledged to abide by is that of centrality; it should also be foremost in our minds as we address concerns in the East Asian maritime region. Prevailing tensions in the area stand to impact regional peace and stability,” President Aquino shrieked in his formal intervention during the ASEAN+3 Summit. “We reiterate our call on all parties concerned to avoid the threat or use of force, and to adhere to universally recognised principles of international law in settling disputes…because respect for the rule of law remains the great equaliser in the relations among nations.”
Aware of Cambodia’s cosy ties with China, Manila’s strategy during the recently-concluded summits was to rally the support of sympathetic and influential external actors such as the U.S., Japan, India and Australia to push for a binding CoC in the South China Sea and exert more pressure on Beijing against further military fortifications and adventurism in the disputed areas.
During the ASEAN+Japan Summit, Aquino underscored the common interest of both Japan and ASEAN states to uphold the rule of law vis-à-vis ongoing disputes by stating, “The Philippines will continue to uphold this principle in its engagement with ASEAN, Japan, and other stakeholders, as the region strives to resolve overlapping maritime claims.”
Foremost in his mind, Aquino also urged the U.S. to play a more active role to stave off rising Chinese assertiveness.
All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service, 2012.
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