About ASEAN

ASEAN’s gradual adoption of human rights language and instruments is documented below. Only two core UN human rights treaties have been ratified by all ASEAN Member States; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

1967

ASEAN is Established

1976

First ASEAN Summit The five Member States sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the Declaration of ASEAN Concord, non-interference in the internal affairs of Member States as a basic principle of the Association.

1983

Declaration of Principles to Strengthen ASEAN Collaboration on Youth is adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers. The Declaration recognises the need to involve youth in development and to facilitate youth exchanges at the regional and national levels.

1984

Brunei Darussalam joins ASEAN

1988

Declaration of the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region is adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers. The Declaration does not refer to women’s or human “rights”.

1993

World Conference on Human Rights. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers endorse the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action and states that ASEAN should consider the establishment of a regional human rights institution.

Resolution on the ASEAN Plan of Action for Children is adopted by the ASEAN Social Welfare Ministers (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand). The Resolution does not refer to child or human “rights”.

1995

Viet Nam joins ASEAN

Viet Nam ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). All ASEAN Member States, including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, who are yet to join ASEAN, are now signatories to CRC.

The Human Rights Committee of LAWASIA creates the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism to advocate for the creation of an ASEAN Human Rights Body. The Working Group is a coalition of national working groups comprised of representatives of government institutions, parliamentary human rights committees, academics, and NGOs. The Working Group is the only ASEAN-accredited organization working exclusively on human rights. Accreditation means that ASEAN will enter into dialogue with the Working Group.

1997

Lao PDR and Myanmar join ASEAN

Kuala Lumpur Agenda on ASEAN Youth Development is adopted by the ASEAN Ministers responsible for Youth Affairs. The Declaration includes an undertaking to actively promote the understanding of sustainable and balanced development among the younger generation.

1998

Indonesia begins the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule

1999

Cambodia joins ASEAN

2000

ASEAN Declaration On Cultural Heritage is adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Thailand. The Declaration recognizes the importance of protecting indigenous knowledge systems and practices and the ASEAN Committee on Cultural and Information is tasked with developing a work program on cultural heritage.

2001

First Workshop of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism involving government, and civil society representatives on the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Body. The workshop becomes an annual event, jointly organized with the host country’s Foreign Ministry, to discuss what kind of human rights mechanism ASEAN should adopt. ASEAN takes note of the various concept notes resulting from these workshops.

Declaration on the Commitments for Children in ASEAN is adopted by the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Social Welfare. The Declaration specifically refers to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

2003

Declaration of ASEAN Concord II is adopted at the 9th ASEAN Summit. ASEAN Member States commit to forming an “ASEAN Community” comprising three pillars, namely political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation.

2004

The Vientiane Action Program (VAP) for the establishment of the ASEAN Community is adopted at the 10th ASEAN Summit. This plan for regional integration includes the promotion of human rights under the ASEAN Security Community. The Action Program lists a number of priority actions such as the elaboration of an ASEAN Instrument on the Rights of Migrant Workers and the establishment of an ASEAN Commission on Women and Child Rights.

Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children is adopted by ASEAN Heads of State.

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region is adopted by ASEAN Foreign Ministers.

2005

First meeting of the ASEAN Plus Six, also called the East Asia Summit, comprising the ASEAN countries plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The Second ASEAN-UN Summit is held in September 2005. ASEAN leaders and the UN Secretary General issue a Joint Communique expressing their, “common concern in the promotion of peace, security and the rule of law, as well as the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

2006

Brunei ratifies the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). All ASEAN Member States are now party to CEDAW.

2007

ASEAN Charter is adopted. Article 14 requires the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Body.

Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers is adopted by ASEAN Heads of State and a Committee established to oversee its implementation.

ASEAN Heads of State adopt the ASEAN Commitments on HIV and AIDS that includes a commitment to, “ensure that persons living with HIV and affected groups are protected and are not subjected to stigma and discrimination.”

The National Human Rights Institutions of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand sign a Declaration committing to greater cooperation between the four institutions, and establishing an annual coordination meeting.

2009

The ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is inaugurated at the 15th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

Roadmap for the ASEAN Community 2009-2015 is adopted. Replacing the 2004 Vientiane Action Program, the Roadmap comprises of three “Blueprints” for establishing the ASEAN. The Roadmap replaces the 2004 Vientiane Action Program. The Political-Security Blueprint includes a commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and the Socio-Cultural Blueprint refers to the establishment of an ASEAN Commission on the Rights of Women and Children.

Joint Declaration on the Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in ASEAN is adopted by ASEAN Heads of State. Member States commit towards balancing economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

2010

The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights and Women and Children is established in April as a sectoral body under the ASEAN Social-Cultural Community.

Ha Noi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children is adopted by ASEAN Heads of State in October.

The First ASEAN Children’s Forum (ACF) is held in the Philippines. The ACF is an ASEAN forum through which children from the Member States can come together, express their views and participate in regional development.

2011

ASEAN Heads of State and Government adopt the:
  • ASEAN Declaration of Getting to Zero on New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths
  • The Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in ASEAN

2012

The Second ASEAN Children’s Forum (ACF) is held in Singapore.

The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration is adopted at the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Providing limitation of rights in the general principle is one of the main reasons why the declaration is criticised by human rights defenders for failing to meet minimum international human rights standards.

List of ASEAN Human Rights-related Declarations

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Children and Youth

Women

Migration

HIV/AIDS

Persons with Disabilities

Other