Raymond Lim’s 3 criteria for an Asean human rights body

Singapore Transport Minister Raymond Lim once again highlighted a position that Singapore tends advance – “the interpretation of most rights are still essentially contested concepts” – in his keynote address to the 7th workshop.

Straits Times
13 June 2008

Raymond Lim: Three criteria must be met

Mr Raymond Lim, Second Foreign Affairs Minister, listed three broad criteria for a new Asean human rights body when he delivered the keynote address at a workshop to discuss the human rights mechanism that is being set up under the Asean Charter:

# ‘First, any new Asean institution must have the support of all 10 member states.

To do so, it must recognise the complex history of our region, the diversity of political systems in Asean and the realities that this imposes on Asean in all fields.

This does not mean that we should lack ambition. But our policies must take cognisance of Asean’s established traditions and procedures.

# Second, advancing the human rights agenda within Asean will best be achieved through an evolutionary approach.

The fact is that while universality is an ideal that we must aspire to, the interpretation of most rights are still essentially contested concepts.

A few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that Asean would commit itself to establishing a human rights body of any kind.

But we have clearly moved ahead. Perceptions and policies towards human rights in Asean countries will continue to develop over time. So we should allow the functions of this human rights body to evolve.

Too much ambition can as easily scuttle this important project as too little.

# Third, we must not set artificial deadlines for the creation of a new institution or create an institution simply to be able to say that we have established one.

We must ensure that this Asean human rights body is credible and meaningful to its members. We must be realistic. However, a direction has been set from which there is no turning back.

Thus, as we feel our way forward, realism and the need to establish consensus should not be an excuse for inaction. An important responsibility has been placed on Asean and we should not be found wanting.’

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