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301번 게시글
Thousand Flowers May Bloom! THE ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER
Date : 2008-10-24     Hit : 3772








That thousand flowers may bloom is the spirit in which the ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER -- a people's charter is offered. That there should be a state-sponsored human rights charter and that this would come about only through the efforts of the Asian people themselves are two premises that have been discussed by many persons and groups for over a long period of time. The reluctance and even the resistance of the Asian governments to discuss and agree on a human rights charter is well-known. In fact, Asia is the only region in the world where several governments has raised the objection to human rights to an ideological level. The Asian Values debate is quite well-known.

In this context the resistance to the ideological stance of the Asian governments against human rights has been lead mainly by the Asian people's organizations, NGOs and intellectuals. For people to express their views no authority need to be taken from the state. People's autonomy and the autonomy of the civil society are fundamental ideas and does not depend on any need for an authority. Moral conviction is the only authority on which the people's expression of opinions is based.

Consensus of the people can only be achieved by open debate in which all persons are invited to participate. This process must be open and as much advertised as possible. The process leading to the ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER was one which was totally open to all persons and groups and as much advertised as possible within the limited resources available. The process has taken over 4 years and the Charter was repeatedly sent back to thousands of organizations and persons for comments and suggestions.

A process of achieving people's consensus in the whole Asian continent can only be done through various stages. This ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER is another significant stage of working towards such consensus. The persons and organizations who have participated in this process does not claim this Charter as a final product. This Charter is offered for the purpose of taking the debate further and taking the debate to as many more persons as possible. Tens of thousands of copies of this Charter which are being distributed in English as well as in local languages is an attempt to reach a far wider audience than it had ever been attempted on a document of this nature in the Asian region.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have played and will play only a role of a facilitator. This document does not derive its authority from the AHRC or any other organization. The document's source of strength are the thousands of people who have read the document and a very large number of people who have been intimately linked in the 4-year consultation and drafting process. A number of people who are so connected with the process is quite representative from the point of view of different nations, different identities, different genders and different view points. As it is said before, such a process could never be exhaustive enough.

The purpose of the declaration of this Charter is to seek greater publicity for this endeavor and to get many thousands of others involved in this debate. So far it has been a mass education exercise. We hope with this declaration it shall be even greater mass exercise. In this context the AHRC has not harbored any petty consideration of credit for itself. If credit is due for this Charter, it is due to thousands of persons who have voluntarily, spontaneously and with great generosity have participated in this process. And we hope that everyone else too would respond with that same spirit of equanimity and same determination to pursue the human rights of the Asian peoples.

We hope that as a result of this effort a greater consensus will emerge and even a better document or documents of this nature will emerge from collective efforts of groups of Asian people. We also hope that the pressure generated in this way will intensify to bring about a state-sponsored Asian Human Rights Charter which will measure up to the expectations of the Asian peoples and in keeping with the international norms of human rights contained in the UN instruments of human rights.

This ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER – a People’s Charter is an important landmark in a thousands miles journey for the achievement of human rights of the Asian people.








Background to the Charter




Asia is passing through a period of rapid change, which affects social structures, political institutions and the economy, the Charter explains further the need for its existence. Traditional values are under threat from new forms of development and technologies, as well as political authorities and economic organisations that manage these changes.



In particular the marketisation and globalisation of economies are changing the balance between the private and the public, the state and the international community, and worsening the situation of the poor and the disadvantaged. These changes threaten many valued aspects of life, the result of the dehumanising effects of technology, the material orientation of the market and the destruction of the community. People have decreasing control over their lives and environment, and some communities do not have protection even against eviction from their traditional homes and grounds.

There is a massive exploitation of workers, with wages that are frequently inadequate for even bare subsistence and low safety standards that put the lives of workers in constant danger. Even the most elementary of labour rights and laws are seldom enforced.

Asian development is full of contradictions. There is massive and deepening poverty in the midst of growing affluence of some sections of the people. Levels of health, nutrition and education of large numbers of our people are appalling, denying the dignity of human life. At the same time valuable resources are wasted on armaments, Asia being the largest purchaser of arms of all regions. Our governments claim to be pursuing development directed at increasing levels of production and welfare but our natural resources are being depleted most irresponsibly and the environment is so degraded that the quality of life has worsened immeasurably, even for the better off among us. Building of golf courses has a higher priority than the care of the poor and the disadvantaged.

Asians have in recent decades suffered from various forms of conflict and violence, arising from ultra-nationalism, perverted ideologies, ethnic differences, and fundamentalism of all religions. Violence emanates from both the state and sections of civil society. For large masses, there is little security of person, property or community. There is massive displacement of communities and there are an increasing number of refugees.

Governments have arrogated enormous powers to themselves. They have enacted legislation to suppress people’s rights and freedoms and colluded with foreign firms and groups in the plunder of national resources. Corruption and nepotism are rampant, and there is little accountability of those holding public or private power. Authoritarianism has in many states been raised to the level of national ideology, with the deprivation of the rights and freedoms of their citizens, which are denounced as foreign ideas inappropriate to the religious and cultural traditions of Asia. Instead there is the exhortation of spurious theories of 'Asian Values' which are a thin disguise for their authoritarianism. Not surprisingly, Asia, of all the major regions of the world, is without a regional official charter or other regional arrangements for the protection of rights and freedoms.




Universality and Indivisibility of Rights




The Charter has 16 chapters covering the rights to life, peace, democracy, cultural identity and freedom of conscience, development and social justice and the rights of vulnerable groups of women, children, differently abled persons, workers, students, prisoners and political detainees. The document also details the enforcement of rights and the importance to have regional institutions for the protection of rights.

On the general principles for promoting rights, the Charter stresses on the universality and indivisibility of rights, the responsibility for the protection of human rights and the sustainable development and the protection of the environment.
The document states: We believe that rights are universal, every person being entitled to them by virtue of being a human being. Cultural traditions affect the way in which a society organises relationships within itself, but they do not detract from the universalism of rights which are primarily concerned with the relationship of citizens with the state and the inherent dignity of persons and groups.

We also believe that rights and freedoms are indivisible and it is a fallacy to suppose that some types of rights can be suppressed in the name of other rights. Human beings have social, cultural and economic needs and aspirations that cannot be fragmented or compartmentalised, but are mutually dependent. Civil, political and cultural rights have little meaning unless there are the economic resources to exercise and enjoy them. Equally, the pursuit and acquisition of material wealth is sterile and self-defeating without political freedoms, the opportunity to develop and express one’s personality and to engage in cultural and other discourses.





People’s Increasing Awareness of Rights and Freedoms




In contrast to the official disregard or contempt of human rights in many Asian states, the Charter states that there is an increasing awareness among the people of the importance of rights and freedoms. They realise the connections between their poverty and political powerlessness and the denial to them of these rights and freedoms. They believe that political and economic systems have to operate within a framework of human rights and freedoms to ensure economic justice, political participation and accountability, and social peace. There are many social movements that have taken up the fight to secure for the people their rights and freedoms, the document says.



Our commitment to rights is not due to any abstract ideological reasons, the Charter stresses. We believe that respect for human rights provides the basis for a just, humane and caring society. A regime of rights is premised on the belief that we are all inherently equal and have an equal right to live in dignity. It is based on our right to determine our destiny through participation in policy making and administration. It enables us to develop and enjoy our culture and to give expression to our artistic impulses. It respects diversity. It recognises our obligations to future generations and the environment they will inherit. It establishes standards for assessing the worth and legitimacy of our institutions and policies.





Process of Preparation of the Charter





The accomplishment of the Charter relies on the efforts of over 200 NGOs, which have directly participated in the drafting process, and thousands of others that have also taken part in one way or another. They include human rights NGOs, NGOs involved in various sectoral groups (such as women’s, children’s, workers’, migrant workers’, students’ and the like), as well as several NGOs involved in development work with human rights perspectives. Lawyers’ groups, judges, academics, journalists and civil liberties groups were also involved in the process.
The first meeting for the Charter was held in 1994 in Hong Kong. This was followed by a meeting in the Philippines in the same year, and a further meeting was held in Hong Kong. A basic draft was produced as a result of these meetings by December 1994. It was then translated into seven Asian languages and was widely distributed all over Asian for feedback.
The first sub-regional consultation was held in Sri Lanka in January 1995 for South Asia. Two meetings in Bangalore, India (Indian Consultation on the Draft ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER) and Kathmandu, Nepal (Nepal Consultation on the Draft ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER) followed during the same year. The Southeast Asian consultation was held in Hong Kong in August 1995 while the East Asian consultation was conducted in Hong Kong in January 1996. The final drafting meeting by a senior group of persons took place in Hong Kong in May 1996. This final draft was again distributed widely throughout Asia.



People’s Increasing Awareness of Rights and Freedoms

In contrast to the official disregard or contempt of human rights in many Asian states, the Charter states that there is an increasing awareness among the people of the importance of rights and freedoms. They realise the connections between their poverty and political powerlessness and the denial to them of these rights and freedoms. They believe that political and economic systems have to operate within a framework of human rights and freedoms to ensure economic justice, political participation and accountability, and social peace. There are many social movements that have taken up the fight to secure for the people their rights and freedoms, the document says.



Our commitment to rights is not due to any abstract ideological reasons, the Charter stresses. We believe that respect for human rights provides the basis for a just, humane and caring society. A regime of rights is premised on the belief that we are all inherently equal and have an equal right to live in dignity. It is based on our right to determine our destiny through participation in policy making and administration. It enables us to develop and enjoy our culture and to give expression to our artistic impulses. It respects diversity. It recognises our obligations to future generations and the environment they will inherit. It establishes standards for assessing the worth and legitimacy of our institutions and policies.




Conference and Issues to be Discussed



The four-day conference on 14-18 May will thus be an occasion for the affirmation of the Asian solidarity for all the victims of human rights both in the spheres of political and civil rights as well as economic social and cultural rights. A group of very committed people from all over Asia will attend the meeting to deliberate on future initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Asian region.

The conference discussions will also include an assessment of the protection and promotion of human rights during the last 50 years in Asia and a prognosis of the challenges ahead in the coming millennium. Participants will make use of the opportunity to confer on a state-sponsored ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHARTER, a Regional (Asian) Human Rights Court, a Regional Human Rights Commission and a regional instrument on refugees.

As the Charter declaration takes place in the context of massive economic crisis that is affecting the Asian region, the meeting will devote a session to the economic issue. The currency crisis causes enormous problems for the people living in this region. It is essential to try to understand the impact of the crisis on human rights of the people living in the region. Of utmost important are the human rights problems of the poorest sections of the society and those of women and children.

Besides discussions, press conferences, cultural/religious events and exhibitions will also be held during the meeting.



Posted on 2001-11-22




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Rights: Asian Human Rights Commission
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