EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Recommendations to the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights

On behalf of the CSOs[1] that participated at the 2nd EU-Southeast Asia CSOs Forum held on October 24-22, 2022 in Jakarta, and in parallel with the 4th EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, we would like to express our gratitude to the EU-ASEAN Forum on Human Rights for the space and opportunity to engage in a dialogue with civil society representatives. We believe that this is proof of commitment for improved communication, coordination, and meaningful engagement between CSOs, ASEAN, and the EU to achieve our common aspiration to leave no one behind.

On this occasion, we hereby submit the following recommendations to strengthen human rights protection within the ASEAN and the EU. The recommendations are based on present and emerging challenges faced by human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, and on recommendations submitted by CSOs at the EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue in 2019. We request for the inclusion of the attached submission as part of the official meeting notes. In this light, we urge immediate steps to be taken, collectively with civil society organisations across both regions, towards the implementation and monitoring of our recommendations.

Present and Emerging Challenges

After the First EU-ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue with CSO in 2019, the socio-political and economic situations in the ASEAN and the EU have tremendously regressed. These were mainly brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, and the rise of militarism and authoritarianism. With respect to critical security issues, the Russian invasion of Ukraine led by President Vladimir Putin has resulted in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. Since 1 February 2021, the attempted military coup in Myanmar has spurred a cross-regional political, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. As of this writing, more than 1,000,000 people have been displaced, with more than 2,000 civilians killed, and 15,000 arrested. The use of excessive force by police and military against civilians claiming their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms has been perpetuated with impunity across the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, indeed, aggravated the shrinking of civic spaces. Instead of meaningfully addressing challenges and needs of the vulnerable, authoritarian states have even accumulated more power by convoluting health emergencies and national security approaches. Numerous documents have revealed how COVID-19 was used as a pretext to adopt restrictive laws to curb access to information, justice, and basic services. State-sponsored disinformation and misinformation were intensified. Dissenting opinions towards government pandemics measures were purged. Furthermore, measures to mitigate viral infection limited peoples’ movement and participation in social, economic and political affairs. The proclivity towards securitized approaches has led ASEAN to further exclude civil society and neglect peoples’ voices. This is in breach of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which aims to promote a people-centred and people-oriented regional community.

The climate crisis has led to the global health emergency, political upheavals, gross human rights violation, and humanitarian disasters. Climate change has disproportionately affected planetary health, which is closely linked with the health of its population and their ability to achieve their right to life. These have contributed to the uncertainty and instability of the future, particularly of those who live in fragile situations. In fact, Southeast Asia is already bearing the brunt of climate emergencies. Moreover, rising sea levels, flooding, and typhoons have tremendously increased more recently.

The current economic systems have perpetuated capitalist greed. Extractive industries have greatly contributed to multiple rights violations, particularly land grabbing. Moreover, they have put the lives of indigenous communities and environmental human rights defenders. With respect to climate action, communities' access to decision-making processes and participation remains virtually absent. As their concerns are neglected, this crisis continues to hinder State obligations to protect and fulfil human rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Worse, more and more people have become vulnerable and disempowered.

Amidst these crises, communities with pre-existing intersectional vulnerabilities are further discriminated against and marginalised. Pandemic recovery plans have failed to meaningfully address the specific needs of women, youth, children, LGBTQIA+ communities, and persons with disabilities. Furthermore, conflicts and climate emergencies have forcibly displaced people, rendering many stateless and without protection.

The steady rise of militarism and authoritarianism has many lives at greater risk. Repressive laws and practices, both in offline and online spheres, have become dangerously normalised. These include systematic proliferation of censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, violence, misinformation, and state-sponsored propaganda. As of this writing, human rights and environmental rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, dissenters, children, youth, journalists, academics, LGBTQIA+ communities - historically marginalized based on their sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sexual orientations and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are finding themselves on the edge of uncertainty and danger.

These shared lived experiences have proven the urgent need to establish and sustain safe and brave transnational and cross-sectoral networks and solidarity. It is crucial for marginalised individuals and communities to meaningfully engage in multilateral advocacy on human rights, and intersectional issues that matter to them the most.

Recommendations

Building on the 2019 Consolidated Recommendations from the first EU-ASEAN CSO Forum, our key recommendation is for EU and ASEAN Member States (referred to as ‘States’) to develop policies, implement measures, and invest in programmes that are inclusive, non-discriminatory, participatory, and proportionate. These should promote greater accountability and sustainability in order to address issues related to public health emergencies, security and climate crises, and the rise of authoritarianism.

States should ensure that development programs, which are in line with international human rights standards and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are designed and implemented to fully advance inclusion, equality, dignity and justice in all corners of ASEAN and the EU.

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Civic space in Indonesia is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.