KUALA LUMPUR: Asean leaders have been urged to take a more people centric approach in dealing with matters involving human rights, which must include sustainable development.Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said active participation from the civil society would strengthen Asean’s involvement in addressing issues concerning the public in Asean’s 10 member states.
“Prior to this, Asean was leaning more towards political and economic development and it lacked the people’s participation. We need to bridge the gab between the civilians and the governments of Asean.“With this new approach, civil society in the 10 countries will be given equal opportunity to interact with Asean and bring matters to their attention for immediate action,” he said after a roundtable discussion on “Asean Day: Building a People-centered Asean on the foundation of Human Rights, Inclusive and Sustainable Development”, here today.
Saifuddin, who moderated the forum along with Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria called on Asean leaders to engage with regional civil society and organisations to develop a real protection mechanism for human rights for the people.He noted that the discussion was held to pave a new governance framework (of cooperation) in decision-making process among all stakeholders in Asean, especially between the governments and civil societies.
In the four-hour roundtable discussion, 18 experts, panelists and participants shared their views, ideas and suggestions to find ways on how to strengthen the role played by civil society organisations and governments in Asean.GMM chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said people ideas should be actualised into real decision by Asean leaders.
Alternative Asean Network of Burma coordinator Debbie Stothard said Asean has to to do much more on humanitarian issues, such as on Rohingya.Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) CEO Tan Sri Dr Michael Yeoh said Asean has always been focusing on political and economic development. Now, it is time for it to have a stronger focus on people connectivity to strengthen works on human rights.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Yap Swee Seng said Asean should adopt a holistic concept of human security for the region that covers freedom from threats to people’s lives, including hunger, poverty, disease, marginalisation and exclusion.In echoing a speaker from Universiti Malaya’s faculty of arts and social sciences Khoo Ying Hooi, Professor A.K Nathan, a Principal Fellow Institute Ethnic Studies of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, suggested for Asean Day to be declared as a public holiday, and setting up a Asean University, Asean bank and credit card, and an Asean passport, to create awareness on Asean.