Wednesday, September 16, 2009
As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations prepares to appoint its first set of human rights commissioners to the new ASEAN Human Rights Body at the 15th ASEAN Summit this October, the commission itself faces skepticism and uncertainty about its future. Human rights activists allege that ASEAN stripped the commission of any teeth in order to appease perennial human rights violators such as Burma.
Historically Africa has had more petty dictators, more xenophobic governments, more genocides, and more overall human rights problems than ASEAN. Despite these challenges, the African Union has developed a fairly advanced human rights system. During the 1980s, African leaders adopted the Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Since then, the region has also adopted treaties protecting children’s and women’s rights, as well as a charter on democratic governance. Africa’s human rights system exists not only on paper, but also has teeth: the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.