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Human Rights Declarations in Asia-Pacific Category

Conclusions and Recommendations of the Experts Meeting on Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific

July 26-28, 1995, Osaka, Japan

I. Universality and indivisibility of human rights

1. All human rights are universal, indivisible, and interdependent and interrelated. The Asia-Pacific community must treat all human rights in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

2. Respect for and implementation of human rights provides the basis for peaceful and harmonious coexistence among peoples with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. This diversity of cultures and religions enriches the universal meaning of human rights at the national and regional levels.

3. A holistic approach should always be adopted in the implementation of human rights programmes. Equal attention should be given to civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

II. United Nations activities

4. Activities for the promotion and protection of human rights have been excessively compartmentalized within the United Nations system. Major development, financial and humanitarian agencies have not shown much interest in the human rights implications of their activities. All UN agencies, including those directly responsible for implementing human rights programmes, should take full account of international human rights law in all their activities and coordinate their policies and programmes in line with human rights norms. They should be held accountable for their actions in this regard.

5. The United Nations should continue setting human rights standards designed to further promote, protect and realize the rights of the socially disadvantaged such as indigenous people and minorities.

6. The existing UN mechanisms and procedures for the promotion and protection of human rights should be further strengthened and made more effective.

7. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be provided with sufficient funding and staff to enable the High Commissioner to comply effectively with his mandate including the ability to respond effectively to human rights challenges and coordinate UN activities related to human rights. Governments should recognize the importance of the Office of the High Commissioner and extend all possible cooperation to the High Commissioner.

III. United Nations' role in the region

8. The United Nations should consider holding some of its human rights meetings in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, some of the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and human rights treaty bodies should be held in the region. Such meetings should be substantive rather than simply ceremonial, ensure full involvement of local and regional NGOs and should be a means for facilitating a better understanding of the region for members and agencies involved in such meetings.

9. The High Commissioner should consider submitting to the United Nations General Assembly a plan of action for undertaking programmes in the region and include in the plan of action a critical review of human rights activities undertaken by relevant UN agencies in the region. It is recommended that the High Commissioner consult as much as possible the human rights organizations in the region in preparing the plan of action.

10. The United Nations should consider establishing a regional office in the Asia-Pacific region to represent the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner should consider the possibility of establishing an expert body, consisting mostly of experts from the region, to provide assistance to the programmes conducted in the region.

11. The High Commissioner should expand and coordinate extensive technical cooperation programmes designed to strengthen domestic laws and structures that will promote human rights in Asia-Pacific countries. Technical cooperation programmes should provide for participation of relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of these programmes.

12. NGOs in the region should be provided with training, employing participatory methodologies, on the effective use of UN mechanisms and the means of implementing human rights instruments. Regional organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS Osaka) as well as universities and research centres in the region should facilitate such training. Technical assistance should be provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for this purpose.

IV. Regional mechanisms

13. Asia-Pacific is yet to establish a regional inter-governmental institution for the promotion and protection of human rights. Any discussion concerning the feasibility of establishing a regional mechanism should take into account serious violations of human rights that still occur in many countries in the region, the low level of ratification of human rights treaties, the non-observance of treaty-obligations after ratification, and the tendency of some prominent individuals in some states to advocate a cultural relativist position on human rights as opposed to universality of human rights.

14. Despite a number of UN-sponsored workshops on regional human rights mechanism for Asia-Pacific, states in the region have so far failed to reach a consensus on such a mechanism. Cultural, linguistic and religious heterogeneity, and the lack of agreement on the geographical definition of the region are cited by states as obstacles to such a consensus. The human rights community in the region is of the view that heterogeneity of language and religion is not an impediment to the establishment of such regional mechanism.

15. Respect for and observance of the principles of existing human right instruments and recognition of the universality and indivisibility of human rights should be the foundation stone upon which any regional mechanism is established. Such a mechanism must not in anyway restrict full access by individuals from the region to the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

16. A two-step strategy should be pursued to establish a regional inter-governmental organization for promotion and protection of human rights. The first step would be the establishment of a regular inter-governmental forum to facilitate discussion and debate among governments on the establishment of a regional mechanism. The second step would be the establishment of a regional or sub-regional inter-governmental bodies for the promotion and protection of human rights.

17. Considering the lack of consensus among governments in the region, establishment of human rights mechanisms in different sub-regions may be more feasible and should be pursued with the objective of eventually establishing a single mechanism for the whole region.

18. The United Nations and its Specialized Agencies should coordinate their efforts to facilitate creation of a regional mechanism for promotion and protection of human rights . Similarly, regional and sub-regional non-governmental organizations and issue-based networks should also work toward persuading the governments in the region to help establish a regional mechanism.

19. Discussion forums for representatives of governments on this issue should be encouraged. The United Nations University and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan should be congratulated for organizing a seminar on regional human rights issues recently in Tokyo and encouraged to follow-up on their joint efforts.

20. The Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS OSAKA) and other regional organizations in Asia-Pacific are encouraged to interact and form a network to enhance the promotional and educational activities that emphasize the importance of a regional human rights mechanism.

V. Governments in the region

21. It is now fully accepted by all member-states of the United Nations that human rights are universal and indivisible. In order to give operational effect to this agreement, it is urged that those governments which have not ratified major international human rights instruments should do so. It is a matter of international concern that many states in the Asia-Pacific region have not yet ratified the International Covenants on Human Rights.

22. Following the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as well as declarations and programmes of action of other UN world conferences, all governments should formulate national plans of action for realizing human rights at the domestic level. The implementation of such plans should be monitored by the United Nations, national institutions and NGOs.

23. Following the practice on civil and political rights questions, governments should make a clear commitment to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights at the national level. That commitment should be cast in terms of human rights terminology which is inherently empowering. The commitment of governments should include time-bound plans to realize those rights.

24. In accordance with the Copenhagen Declaration, governments should promote social development (comprehensive human development) rather than mere economic growth by ensuring that all human rights are respected and promoted through their economic policies.

25. Official Development Assistance (ODA) should be so rendered as to promote civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights by encouraging and assisting recipient governments to develop a plan of action for the realization of these rights.

VI. Human rights defenders

26. The Asia-Pacific human rights community has not sufficiently addressed the existing inequalities in society and their human rights implications. There is a need to strengthen its links to disadvantaged communities and to develop the latter's capability to deal with more sophisticated human rights issues affecting them in a more sophisticated manner. Adequate knowledge and skills in using multi-disciplinary approaches in addressing the underlying causes of human rights violations should be developed.

27. The human rights community in all regions of the world face challenges in ensuring an adequate response to sociocultural practices such as discrimination against women. The Asia-Pacific human rights community must take up this challenge.

28. The category of human rights defenders should encompass all those who are working for civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Special efforts should be made to protect them at regional and international levels.

29. Initiatives by the human rights community in formulating human rights principles in the form of people's charters, declarations and other statements are effective means of educating people on human rights. These efforts should be encouraged and supported.

30. The human rights community should develop more creative human rights education and training programmes to help communities make use of human rights norms as effective tools. They should conduct programmes to develop capabilities at the community level of effectively monitoring human rights violations and contributing to the development of remedies. Training, for instance, on monitoring violations of economic, social and cultural rights and finding the means to redress them should be held.

31. The human rights community should take necessary steps to ensure that all relevant UN agencies are held accountable for their policies and programmes relating to human rights. The human rights community should realize the potential benefit of the High Commissioner's role in responding to human rights issues in the region. They should be prepared to provide assistance to the High Commissioner whenever necessary.

VII. Issues

32. Training programmes should be further developed to enable women and their organizations articulate the demand for gender sensitivity in all areas of national and international structures and institutions. Teachers at all levels of educational systems and decision-makers in government should be particularly involved in these training programmes.

33. Both women and men should develop strategies for creating a gender sensitive society. Social structures which cause gender discrimination must be given special attention. Monitoring the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Beijing conference is one opportunity for realizing this objective.

34. Networking among women's groups, particularly on thematic issues, should be further encouraged and provided with full resource support. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is urged to provide support through its technical assistance programme for the advancement of the human rights of women.

35. In many countries in the region, judicial and administrative structures do not provide sufficient safeguard against human rights abuses by governments at all levels and by other actors. This applies in particular to the denial of human rights as a result of the acts and omissions of public authorities. Human rights discourse in the region has focused principally on setting norms and not on implementation and enforcement of those norms. The weakness of the rule of law and absence of independent judiciary, for instance, have not been sufficiently addressed by the human rights community.

36. National jurisprudence should take into full account the international human rights norms and standards. The United Nations should assist in developing or strengthening national judicial and administrative structures that will enforce human rights norms and standards. Regional and national experts may be asked to assist in this regard.


37. The public should be made aware of these norms and standards as well as the mechanisms for their implementation. Facilities and institutions should be created for this purpose.

38. The media should be considered as having an important responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights. At the same time, media persons should be protected against human rights abuses. NGOs should give this matter special attention and undertake programmes designed to inform and train media persons on human rights issues.