[Statement] “Walk the Talk”: Housing Rights Activists Call on ASEAN to Match Pro-People Claims with Human Rights Actions

The Centre on Housing Rights  and Evictions (COHRE)Asia  and  housing rights activists in the region call on the Association of  Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),  to match its avowed goals of building  a people-centered and “sharing and caring” regional community with concrete actions that will seriously address the persistent housing and human rights issues, as well as the growing  social and economic justice concerns in the region.

Ït is now time for the ASEAN to move beyond mere aspirational goals and best-endeavor language into concrete policies, strategies and action plans that address   the stubborn housing and human rights challenges in the region. Failing to do this, will render ASEAN’s lofty aims, empty and meaningless for the vast majority of the region’s poor who are on the receiving end of the costs and burdens of  ASEAN’s regional integration.

Housing and human rights violations and insecurity in Southeast Asia

Tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, endure various levels of housing rights violations and insecurity of abode and tenure. They are mostly the poor and the vulnerable, in both the cities and the countryside and include women, children and the elderly, who often bear the disproportionate cost and the brunt of sufferings.

Housing rights violations in Southeast Asia often occur as a result of a combination of governments’ economic and development policies, widespread poverty, marginalization and exclusion of the majority of the region’s impoverished, and their  lack of access to effective remedies.  Massive displacements also take place  in situations of armed conflicts such as in Burma as people are driven away from their homes and lands. These violations  are compounded by the prevailing climate of impunity and perception of widespread corruption in the region

The construction of mega-projects and resource extraction activities including those funded or bankrolled by the IMF-World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and transnational corporations dispossess vulnerable people of their lands and homes and drive them away from sources of subsistence.

Housing and human rights violations continue to seriously challenge ASEAN’s  goal of establishing a “sharing and caring” regional community  where human rights and  social justice  should prevail and  the costs and benefits of regional integration are equitably shared by all. ASEAN and the SEA community should seriously address and secure housing and human rights for all and make them truly work, particularly for  those who have the least in these entitlements.

ASEAN:”Walking the talk”

ÄSEAN should ensure that human rights and social justice should be the cornerstone of its policies and programs, and a pillar of the entire ASEAN system. This entails the review and possibly the reversal of policies and programs that harm the people, the crafting of policies and programs with genuine people’s  participation , and a reframing of development and economic policies that put ASEAN people’s interests before profits and the people’s welfare and well-being over the demands of  markets..

COHRE recognizes that the main tasks of ensuring that  human rights and social justice occupy the centrality of ASEAN’s people-centered agenda, polices and programs  currently reside with the regional body’s newly-established ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children (ACWC).

The AICHR and ACWC should ensure  its human rights functions are both protection and promotion. They should address a broad range of human rights, including economic social and cultural rights. They should ensure  and institutionalize effective  participation of  the CSOs and the human rights claimants in their respective functions and activities. They should help ensure the ASEAN governments’ adherence to their international human rights commitments and compliance with their respective human rights treaty obligations. They should develop effective standards and mechanisms to ensure that non-state actors  such  as corporations and multi-lateral agencies, respect the human rights of  peoples in the region and provide restitution, compensation and similar redress for individuals and communities harmed by their activities

Towards a People-Centered ASEAN for a Just Global Community

To help ensure that housing and human rights is placed on the agenda of the ASEAN civil society in its engagement with ASEAN, COHRE-Asia  is actively participating in the forthcoming 11th ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) /ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) 2011, from May 3-5, 2011 in Jakarta Indonesia. The ACSC/APF 2011 has for its theme, “Claiming a People-Centered ASEAN for a Just Global Community”.

COHRE-Asia  will organize a workshop on “Securing Housing and Human Rights and Economic Justice for Southeast Asia: A Major Challenge to the ASEAN”on  May 4, where various housing rights activists from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia will share the housing and human rights situation on the ground in order to develop a better understanding of the Housing, land and property rights (HLPR) issues in their various context and dimensions, and as a common human rights challenge in the region. The role of non-state actors and their impacts on housing and human rights, focusing on the WB projects, will also be critically examined. The workshop also aims to formulate a set of recommendations and call to action addressed to the ASEAN, the governments in the region and other duty-bearers. The workshop is being co-organized by COHRE, Human Rights Education-Institute Burma, ADHOC-Cambodia, YLBHI-Indonesia, Dignity International and the Bank Information Center (BIC).

COHRE-Asia  will also convene a meeting of a core group of housing and human rights advocates in the region to explore the establishment of a housing and human rights network  that will amplify, assert and help realize housing and human rights for all in Southeast Asia. The core group meeting will be participated in by COHRE’s national housing rights partner-organizations and interested housing and human rights advocates.

For further details, please contact: Sammy Gamboa, Sammy@cohre.org , Tel. 0821.22.852773

Jakarta, Indonesia
May1, 2011


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