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  4. March 1996 - Volume 3
  5. Our Common Humanity: Asian Charter on Human Rights

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FOCUS March 1996 Volume 3

Our Common Humanity: Asian Charter on Human Rights

The drafting of an Asian Charter on Human Rights is a joint project of the Asian Human Rights Commission and International Affairs Section of the Christian Conference of Asia. The purpose of this project is to initiate a discussion throughout Asia on some of the most fundamental issues relating to the concept of human rights as well as problems relating to their enforcement. The present draft was prepared by a group of human rights activists and workers based on comments and ideas provided by various human rights groups in the region. The final document is expected to be used as an educational material and as a basis to develop solidarity action for the protection and promotion of human rights in Asia.

In order to gain further input to the draft charter, three sub-regional consultations were organized inviting human rights organizations in South , Southeast and East Asia. The last one, the East Asian Consultation, was held from 30 January to 1 February in Hong Kong. Human rights workers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan participated in the consultation. Mr. Higashizawa and Ms. Amy Furuya of Japan Civil Liberty Union and Mr. Akio Kawamura of HURIGHTS OSAKA represented Japan.

The consultation was aimed at generating two different kinds of input to the draft charter. The first is based on country experiences while the other is comprised of direct comments on the provisions of the draft charter. The country presentations demonstrated clear differences in human rights situations among the East Asian countries depending on the political and developmental situation. At the same time, it showed common features reflecting the Confucian background. All countries in this sub-region have more or less authoritarian governments that prevented the development of participatory democracy. It was also pointed out that even the concept of accountability, which is different from responsibility, is not existing in any of the countries in the sub-region.

It is expected that the present draft charter will be redone by distinguished lawyers from the region including Professor Yash Ghai of Hong Kong and Justice P.N. Bhagwati of India integrating the input given in different consultations and communications . The final draft will then be re-distributed for comments. This process is expected to take place in mid-1996. For more information, please contact Asian Human Rights Commission at Flat E, 3rd Floor, Kadak Building, 171 Sai Yee Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Phone: 852-2698-6339, E-mail: ahrchk@HK.Super.NET. and fax: 852-2698-6367.