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Asean Affairs 7 November 2012
Bali Democracy Forum V
We, 21 Asian civil society organizations who attended the Civil Society Conference on “Advancing Substantive Democracy in Asia: The Roles of Civil Society and Democratic Governance”, held on 5-6 November 2012, parallel to the Bali Democracy Forum V, Appreciating the initiative and continued commitment of the Indonesian government in organizing the Bali Democracy Forum, Acknowledging the importance of the Bali Democracy Forum in promoting the development of democracy in the region, Welcoming the invitation extended to Asian civil society representatives to the Opening Session of the Bali Democracy Forum for the first time this year, Reaffirming our commitment to democratization in Asia based on people’s participation, pluralism, rule of law, international human rights laws and standards, Call on governments at the Bali Democracy Forum V to take into serious consideration with the aim of acting substantively on the following issues of concerns:
1. Enhancing the Inclusiveness of the Bali Democracy Forum
The Bali Democracy Forum, as an important international forum for discussions on issues related to democracy, should take progressive steps to enhance the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including civil society. As a forum that promotes the development of democracy, the Bali Democracy Forum should uphold the democratic principles of people’s participation and inclusiveness. The inclusion of all stakeholders other than governments, including civil society, would enrich the process of knowledge-sharing, exchange of ideas, and cooperation that the Bali Democracy Forum is premised on.
2. Securitization, state-centred discourse on national security and threats to regional peace
Many Asian governments are increasingly using national security laws in the name of peace and security to deny and suppress the fundamental freedoms of its peoples These laws impose overbroad and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms, often on vaguely defined grounds, such as to protect “national security”, to combat “terrorism”. There are also increasing securitization concerns using the pretext of ethno-religious conflict, defending the monarchy and all other authorities which are in direct contradiction with international human rights standards. This appears to reflect the precedence of the interests of governments over the rights of the people.
The rise of state-centred discourse of national security has also resulted in the continued employment of violence by the state with impunity, including torture, enforced disappearances, detention without trial and extra-judicial killings in the region, both within the countries and across borders.
In the context of the increase in violations of fundamental freedoms in the name of national security, an independent and effective judiciary plays a pivotal role in ensuring that fundamental rights of the people are safeguarded. However, serious concerns with regard to the independence and integrity of the judiciary remain in many Asian countries. Appointment of judges and prosecutors are often influenced by politics, nepotism and patronage, which has posed serious threats to the independence of the judiciary, and consequently, the proper functioning of democracies. Judges in many countries have also continuously failed to demonstrate their appreciation and understanding of international human rights law.
Furthermore, other remaining redress mechanisms have also largely failed to safeguard the rights of the people. This includes the general trend of the eroding independence of national human rights institutions in countries where they exist in the region, in many case as a result of deliberate efforts of governments. As a consequence, many national human rights institutions have been ineffective in protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of the people in the context of the increasing state-centred discourse and practice of national security.
There is also an escalating arms race in the region and disproportionate increase in defense budgets of many Asian governments in recent years. This has been fueled by increasing incidences of territorial conflicts and military exercises in the region which is a threat to peace. The increase in defense budgets has largely been at the expense of state spending on social protection and other essential services, exacerbating the vulnerability of marginalized individuals and groups.
3. Economic Development
In many Asian countries, there is an increasing trend of imposed development without consultation of and, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from affected communities. This includes land grabbing, forced evictions and centralization of resources which impact groups ranging from urban communities to indigenous peoples. Often, a corollary of such policies is the degradation of the environment to the extent that some countries become effectively toxic colonies of others; coupled with, inadequate or no compensation to the affected communities, the absence of relocation policies and even the criminalization of those who exercise their fundamental rights.
The current economic model which stresses deregulation of markets, increasing power of multinational corporations, trade liberalisation and privatization of social services has also created a situation of increasing poverty and inequality, while spending on social security and access to essential services are inadequate.
Imbalances in national budget allocation have to be corrected to address poverty. In today’s economic landscape, workers’ rights to association and to form trade unions for collective bargaining; and advocating for better conditions and fair wages are also suppressed. Precarious forms of labor, especially in the informal sector, which is dominant in the region has seen reduction of labour costs and wages, resulting in a deterioration of protection and standards for workers in Asia.
Corporate impunity in the forms of cronyism and favoritism in awarding business contracts must also be combated. While we are not against the market economy, modernization of the economy and attracting investment, resource-related extraction activities and economic land concessions for commercial development must not override the concerns and rights of ordinary people.
We make the following recommendations to all governments at the Bali Democracy Forum V:
i. to institutionalize full and meaningful participation of civil society in the Bali Democracy Forum
ii. to respect and protect the exercise of fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in light of increasing trends of the misuse of the Law and Judiciary to silence and oppress human rights defenders and marginalized communities;
iii. to establish and strengthen independent and effective human rights protection mechanisms, both national and regional, with the capacity to receive and address complaints, and provide avenues for redress and remedies. National human rights institutions should comply with the Paris Principles;
Peace and Security:
iv. restrictions of human rights in the name of peace and security should not be invoked without legitimate basis under international human rights law and standards. In addition there are certain fundamental rights to human dignity that can be never be derogated from under any circumstances;
v. to ensure that the rule of law is respected at all times. Law enforcement officers should undertake human rights training and education to ensure these outcomes;
vi. to ensure that victims and survivors of human rights violations are guaranteed the right to truth, justice and reparations;
vii. to undertake to formulate and implement policies towards the elimination of the threat of conflict among and between peoples and the renunciation of the use of force and peaceful settlement of disputes to bring peace in the region;
viii. to democratize economic decisions to ensure accountability and transparency in development aid and bi/multi-lateral trade agreements. This would ensure that the rights of affected communities, especially marginalized groups like indigenous peoples, and interests of local businesses and small/medium enterprises are not compromised. Participation must include FPIC to ensure equitable growth and redistribution of wealth;
ix. economic and social justice for work must go beyond rules and regulations for waged labour and include all work outside of the market, balance the inequalities between women and men, care work and industrial work, and protect local communities and migrants' rights.