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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Final statement of the Asian Civil Society Forum (ACSF) on UN reform

Yahoo! Groups : Srilanka-NGO-Link Messages: (June 13-14 2005) UN ESCAP Bangkok,

Dear friends and colleagues,

From June 13-14, as a follow-up to the Asian Civil Society Forum (ACSF) 2004[1],concerns NGOs had gathered in the United Nations (UN) ESCAP Building, Bangkok toshare their views and discuss their concerns and strategies, and eventuallyarticulate their common positions on the global issues within the current UNreform debate.
On behalf of the organizers and the participants of this forum, we are please totransmit the final statement adopted in this meeting for your kind perusal.
Considering that the global agenda-setting process on security, human rights anddevelopment has direct and indirect impact on the lives of people in Asia, andit is imperative that people in Asia should be able to voice their concerns,hopes and visions, we are circulating this final statement from the ACSF on UNReform, and is writing officially to seek your organization and network'sendorsement to this final statement.
This statement willbe updated with new signatories list accordingly and will be submitted to thePresident of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly (GA) when NGOs gatherin New York for the GA hearing with NGOs on UN reforms on June 23-24.We hope you could also help us to circulate this final statement as widely aspossible to your own networks to seek the endorsement of those that would liketo associate themselves to the position of this final statement.
Please do not hesitate to write to us or the organizers as listed below shouldyou require any further clarification and assistance.
Best wishes,Rashid KangFORUM-ASIA,
On behalf of the organizing committees
Final Statement
Asian Civil Society Forum on UN Reform
June 13-14 2005
UN ESCAP, Bangkok
Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Main Findings and Concerns1) Participation of Non Government Organizations (NGOs)
2) Development
3) Peace and Collective Security
4) Human Rights
III. The Way ForwardIntroduction
1. Throughout the year 2005, the interwoven global agenda of development, security and human rights has been addressed in the context of UN reform and the five year review of the UN Millennium Declaration + 5 (Millennium+5).
2. The global agenda-setting process on security, human rights and developmenthas direct and indirect impact on the lives of people in Asia, and it is imperative that people in Asia should be able to voice their concerns, hopes and visions.
3. The Asian Civil Society Forum, which is comprised of NGOs from Asia, met fromJune 13-14, 2005 at UN ESCAP, Bangkok, as a follow-up to the Asian Civil SocietyForum (ACSF) 2004 [2], to share their views and discuss their concerns and strategies, and eventually articulate their common positions on the global issues within the current UN reform debate.
4. The forum critically examined both the Secretary General's report entitled" In Larger Freedom" as well as the Draft Outcome Document (DOD) of the Presidentof the 59th Session of the General Assembly dated June 3, 2005.
5. The forum welcomes the call for a culture of prevention[3]; promotion ofhuman security as the guiding principle[4], and the recognition of the need fordialogue among cultures and civilization.[5] We also welcome the establishmentof a Peace Building Commission.
6. In the efforts to strengthen the United Nations, the forum recognizes that there is an urgent need to underline the spirit of Article 103 of the UnitedNations Charter, which states that "in the event of conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligationsunder the present Charter shall prevail."
7. Furthermore, greater attention should be placed on human rights and development issues in the reform agenda. While terrorism poses a major challengeto the world and should therefore be addressed accordingly by the SecurityCouncil, due weight should also be given also to human rights and the right todevelopment.
8. In keeping with the spirit of democracy and global governance at all levels,the forum calls for greater transparency and accountability in all the organs ofthe United Nations. Main Findings and Concerns
I. Participation of Non Government Organizations (NGOs)
10. The forum recalls the first three words of the UN Charter, "We the Peoples, "and the spirit of the Cardoso Report on UN Civil Society Relations in callingfor greater access to inter-governmental processes for all peoples, stresses theimportant role NGOs have played within the United Nations system, as providedfor under Article 71 of the UN Charter and elaborated in the ECOSOC resolution1996/31.
11. The following concerns and recommendations have been adopted:
  1. We reiterate that Paragraph 102 of the Draft Outcome Document (DOD) shouldbe interpreted broadly so as to ensure that NGOs' input is mainstreamed into allaspects of standard setting, decision making and implementation processes.
  2. We express our disappointment that NGO participation in the GeneralAssembly was omitted in the Draft Outcome Decision. Given the continuingimportance of the role of NGOs within the UN system, NGOs' participation shouldbe further ensured and strengthened by allowing them to contribute to theSecurity Council and the General Assembly with suitable arrangements.

II. Development

12. As civil society organizations, we are actively connected with communitiesof the people who are negatively affected by the impact of globalization. Hence,in line with the spirit of the Asian Civil Society Forum (ACSF) 2004, this forumbelieves the process of globalization should be managed in order to make it morebeneficial to the ordinary poor.

13. Current momentum derived from the on-going United Nations Reform initiativesshould be maximized in order to put forth alternatives to this economic paradigmso as to promote a more balanced, equitable, fair and just space for local andcommunity control over resources and to provide real and effective communityparticipation in decision-making processes.

14. The following concerns and recommendations have been adopted:

  1. The primary role of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as thecentral coordinating organ on all economic and social issues has been severelyundermined by the absence of strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. i. We recommend that any reform of the ECOSOC shouldenhance its monitoring and implementation mechanisms to ensure that theInternational Financial Institutions and other relate bodies abide by the valuesand principles enshrined in the UN Charter and other international human rightsinstruments.
  2. Overseas Development Aid (ODA) and debt relief are essential to the needsof developing countries, but the most important priority is the fair andequitable trade. Tariff and non tariff barriers to trade, such as agriculturalsubsidies, tariffs and duties, and limited market access deny developingcountries the opportunity to develop and realize the Millennium DevelopmentGoals (MDGs) i. We recommend that the developed countries reducetheir barriers to trade by providing duty-free and quota-free access todeveloping country exports, especially in the areas of agriculture andintellectual property rights related to public health and access to affordablemedication. ii. We call for an internationally agreed framework toensure fair and stable prices for commodities in all developing countries.
  3. There is an urgent need to protect the livelihoods of ordinary people fromthe adverse consequences of any trade, and/or financial liberalizationprocesses, in particular those socially marginalized, the disadvantaged andother vulnerable groups in society. Liberalization of all agricultural productsregardless of their importance to the nation's survival threatens the lives andlivelihoods of many farmer communities in developing countries. i. We call for an internationally agreedframework that ensures that local production of agricultural products vital tothe nation's survival and food security are protected and supported. ii. We recommend that any negotiations ontrade, whether at bilateral, regional or multi-lateral levels, should becompatible with existing international norms and standards on human rights,environment and peace and human security
  4. We underscore that one of the causes of the Asian Financial Crisis was alack of a regulatory framework on capital flows and the inability of small localbusinesses to compete with the Transnational Corporations (TNCs). i. We recommend that the General Assembly and otherrelevant financial institutions create a legal framework to regulate capitalflows, while protecting local businesses from unfair competition with TNCs.
  5. The absence of transparency in bilateral and regional trade negotiationsis a major impediment to development, security and human rights. i. We recommend that procedural mechanisms beestablished to ensure greater transparency in international and regional tradenegotiations.
  6. Good governance is best addressed via multilateral approaches rather than bilateral arrangements, which in many instances carry the conditionality to pushfor neo-liberal agenda. i. We urge all member states to ratify the UNConvention against Corruption.
  7. Good governance should encompass the private sector, including Transnational Corporations, incorporating the United Nations Norms on theResponsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises. i. We urge the United Nations to create a legallybinding framework on corporate accountability based on the United Nations Normson the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises.
  8. The Millennium Summit in 2000 and the MDGs balanced the needs of thedeveloped and developing countries. Specific reference to MDG Goal 8 to developthe "Global Partnership for Development" and the "Financing for Development" hasregrettably been omitted from the DOD.i. We recommend that a rights-based approach and themainstreaming of the gender perspective be taken into account for therealization of the Millennium Development Goals.

III. Peace and Collective Security

14. There is an urgent need to set up an agenda for peace and security withinthe framework of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The interdependence of human security, human rights and peace as well as commitment to safeguard thehuman rights of individuals and groups facing anti-terrorist measures need to beenhanced. Any genuine United Nations reform in the security sector shouldcontribute towards demilitarization of conflicts as well as promotion of humansecurity and peace.

15. The right to self-determination should be a key element within the discourseon terrorism, peace and security, and human rights. Recognizing that manyconflicts within the region are caused by the fact that States do notaccommodate this right within democratic governance, we call for a comprehensiveconvention on terrorism during the 60th session of the General Assembly, andstress the following concerns:

  1. The definition of the terrorism should include state-sponsored terrorism
  2. There is a need to distinguish between persons or groups who targetcivilians and those who are seeking legitimate self-determination.
  3. Member States must address the root causes of terrorism.
  4. Counter-terrorism measures must comply with international human rights obligations, including due process of law.

16. Chapter VI and Paragraph 3 of Article 52 in Chapter VIII of the UnitedNations Charter on regional security arrangements needs to be strengthened tofacilitate the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

17. Given the current focus of the debate on United Nations Reform initiativeson the reform of the Security Council, we recommend the following:

  1. In line with hopes to strengthen global governance and democracy, theSecurity Council should be reformed to be more representative, by allowing forequitable geographical representation of all Members States.
  2. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter should be strictly interpreted toensure that it is not used to justify pre-emptive action or the unilateral useof force.
  3. The veto serves to undermine the status of the United Nations as ademocratic global institution. As such, the forum categorically states itsopposition to the veto.
  4. In the event of the retention of the veto by the existing Permanent FiveMember States of the Security Council, we suggest that: i. The veto be reviewed in 5 ii. Veto-wielding Members be held accountable tothe General Assembly iii. The veto be not exercised when the Security Council is called to act upon allegations of genocide, crimes against humanityand war crimes. iv. Member States seeking Security Council status should be required to meet such requirements as the 0.7% target of Gross National Income for ODA. v. Paragraph 3 of Article 27 in Chapter V of theUN Charter should be strictly enforced so as to ensure that parties involved ina dispute before the Security Council abstain from voting.
  5. More comprehensive criteria need to be developed regarding the use offorce, including: i. Seriousness of the threats ii. A clear procedure and modalities ofoperations iii. Relationship between means and outcome iv. Proportionality v. A comprehensive contingency plan(including food, shelter etc) to protect civilian and to avoid inflictingcollateral damage vi. Remedial measures

IV. Human Rights

18. The human rights component constitutes the crucial pillar of the United Nations machinery in responding to the desperate calls from victims across theworld for intervention when their fundamental human rights have been violated.

19. Only by engaging in genuine reform of its bodies and machinery entrusted torespond to all human rights issues worldwide can the legitimacy of the UnitedNations be preserved in the eyes of the international community.

20. Hence, the forum critically examined the proposal for a Human RightsCouncil. Taking note of the lack of concrete details on the mandate, function, rules, regulations, procedural issues, agenda setting and composition of theHuman Rights Council, the forum recommends the following:

  1. The mandate of the proposed Human Rights Council must be enhanced from thecurrent limited mandate of the Commission on Human Rights to move fromsupervision toward enforcement measures, by empowering it to refer cases ofgross human rights violations to the International Criminal Court and to theSecurity Council.
  2. The Human Rights Council should be a principal organ of the United Nationsand be funded from the regular budget of the United Nations.
  3. The proposed Human Rights Council should expeditiously deal with theCommission on Human Rights' pending standard-setting tasks, namely the draftdeclaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Optional Protocol toConvention on Economic and Social Rights.
  4. The Human Rights Council should be a standing body which will continue to hold annual six-week meetings, in addition to convening special sittings orsessions throughout the year.
  5. The Human Rights Council should develop effective follow-up mechanisms for member states' cooperation with Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies where thecurrent Commission on Human Rights has failed to bridge implementation gaps.
  6. The proceedings of the proposed Human Rights Council should be held inGeneva, considering that most of the UN human rights machinery is based inGeneva.
  7. Members elected to the Human Rights Council should commit themselves toundertake the following measures within their tenure: i. Ratifying all human rights treaties andoptional protocols. ii. Withdrawal of all reservations to thehuman rights treaties that are contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty. iii. Submission of reports required under thetreaty monitoring bodies within the prescribed dateline. iv. Extend a standing invitation to allSpecial Procedures
  8. Members of the Human Rights Council who fail to adopt the above measures should not qualify for immediate re-election.
  9. Membership in the Human Rights Council should be limited to two termsperiods with one term as an interval.
  10. The Human Rights Council should develop a compliance mechanism to ensure that Member States fulfill their human rights obligations.
  11. The existing Sub-Commission should be retained and should report directlyto the proposed HRC.

V. The Way Forward

21. We commit ourselves to the challenges identified in this statement andresolve to build on the spirit of the Asian Civil Society Forum 2004 finalstatements[6]. In the coming months and near future, the forum will:

  1. Monitor the ongoing development in the UN General Assembly as well as the UN Secretariat and to lobby inter-governmental processes to make sure that ourconcerns are taken into consideration.
  2. We look forward to the regular civil society hearings to be initiated bythe UN Secretary General before the UN General Assembly beginning with the 60thsession of UN GA in 2005 to review the implementation of the UN MillenniumDeclaration.
  3. As civil society organizations we affirm our right to be involved in thesedeliberations and are prepared to play our part and bring local concerns to theUN agenda and to strengthen Asian civil society's participation ininter-governmental processes.

- end -

The above statement has been adopted by consensus by those present and endorsed by the undersigned NGOs and networks. This list will be updated with new signatories accordingly.

Organizers· Indonesian Working Group on Human Rights (HRWG)· Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Indonesia· South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA)· Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)· Third World Network (TWN)· Conference of NGOs in consultative relationship with the UN (CONGO)Working Group on Asia· Pax Romana ICMICA (International Catholic Movement for Intellectualand Cultural affairs), Geneva Key Contact Persons· FORUM-ASIA: Rashid Kang, (mobile: +669-023-1301) ; Anselmo Lee, Secretariat:Address: 111 Suthisarnwinichai Road, Samsennok, Huaykwang, Bangkok 10320, Thailand Phone: (662) 2769846-7; 693-4939 ext 306 (for Rashid), Fax: (662) 6934939

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