Regional Approaches to Human Rights: Towards Standards Setting

RECOFTC’s Executive Director, Tint L. Thaung, writes from a workshop “Human Rights and Business: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform”  held Nov 28 – Dec 1 in Bali, Indonesia, and organized by SawitWatch and Forest Peoples Programme, with Rights and Resources Initiative and partners Samdhana Institute and RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests.

Bali, 28 November, 2011: It is now six decades after the Universal Declaration, and the world still faces major gaps in understanding, promoting and defending human rights. Calls, such as the Bali Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness which emerges from this meeting, need to be followed by actions, monitoring and revision.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December, 1948, and was declared a common standard for all peoples and nations. In 1993, the Vienna Declaration reaffirmed the commitment to the Universal Declaration in the wake of the Cold War, and stated that human rights—comprising civil, political, economic, and cultural rights—are interrelated and indivisible.

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was launched on 23 October, 2009 with a mandate to “promote human rights within the regional context, bearing in mind national and regional particularities and mutual respect for different historical, cultural and religious backgrounds, and taking into account the balance between rights and responsibilities.” Various rights-based organizations and private sector initiatives requiring social safeguards in certification schemes have approached the issue from different angles, but the challenges remain.

RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests operates under three guiding principles that also represent the ultimate outcomes it seeks:

  1. Strong and clear rights
  2. Good governance
  3. A fair share of benefits

Our first guiding principle is support for strong and clear rights for forest people. One avenue through which we build capacity in promoting human rights is conflict management training and related research. We also support the Forest Governance Learning Group in ten countries (three in Asia and seven in Africa), in which the focus is on social justice in forestry. In our work on REDD+, we focus on ensuring social safeguards within the REDD+ mechanism to protect the rights and livelihoods of local people. We also provide training for trainers to more effectively implement certification schemes in Asia.

We continue to see more and more human rights violations related to the exploitation of natural resources. This is a politically sensitive issue in most countries, but must be addressed to achieve true representation for all people.

To move toward greater respect for human rights, greater coordination among stakeholders is critical – including governments, regional mechanisms like ASEAN, civil society, private faith groups, academics, and local people.

Recognition and consideration for traditional and indigenous laws and rights, as well as respect for cultural and gender issues, must become a fundamental norm for all kinds of development – particularly land use change. RECOFTC intends to continue our steadfast support for both people and policymakers to improve respect for human rights around Asia and the world.

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