Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inviting the less critical NGOs defeats intention of consultation with ASEAN, governments..

Now that governments, Regional bodies and the United Nations have begun consulting NGOs and civil society groups, some tigers of yesterday are starting to behave like pussy cats when it comes to engagements with governments and regional bodies. The concern was that if one is too critical, you will just stop getting invitations to these dialogue sessions, conferences with the government and regional body...

I do not believe that those who fight for justice and human rights should suddenly become 'diplomatic' to continue being in the good books of governments. By doing so, we may end up betraying the people and the causes of justice that we are trying to uphold without fear or favour. 

Governments and regional bodies also should not shut out those that are most critical - it violates the very purpose of these governmental consultations with NGOs, Civil Society Groups, Peoples' Organisations, etc... Government should welcome the honest critic for after all the intention is for the overall betterment of society ...

Well, there seem be allegations that ASEAN has shut out a critical NGO....but the ASEAN's response is that there was just no more space...Was there a 'blacklisting' of some groups? Was there a choosing of more 'friendly' groups to attend this ASEAN Peoples' Forum? Would future engagements be only with even 'more friendlier' groups? I hope not...

Maybe, coming up soon - we will see governments choosing and sending the list of 'suitable' NGOs, persons to be invited... Hopefully, we do not go down that road...

And if there is really 'blacklisting' or the invitation of friendly groups/persons only, would NGOs/Civil Society Groups/Peoples' Organisations/etc... just be thankful that they got invited, or will they strongly protest this trend and/or actions by governments/regional bodies by just ...maybe boycotting such meetings totally?? Things to reflect on...  

Hanoi - The official civil-society forum of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened Friday under a cloud after Vietnam blocked delegates from a group that had criticized its human rights record.

Vietnam, which is hosting the ASEAN People's Forum (APF) as the current chair of the organization, informed two representatives of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Tuesday that they could not attend the gathering in Hanoi.

Several delegates from non-governmental organizations at the forum criticized the move.

"Clearly here Vietnam is abusing its power as the chair of ASEAN," said Debbie Stothard, a Malaysian who heads the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, as
Myanmar is also known.

FIDH, a network of some 150 international human rights groups, attended the previous two APF gatherings last year in Thailand. On September 13, a member organization of FIDH, the Vietnam Committee for Human Rights, issued a report critical of Hanoi's human rights record.

At Vietnam's request,
Thailand blocked the group's officers from travelling to Bangkok to launch the report. On Tuesday, FIDH received an email from the APF's organizers that it was "not welcome at the Forum by Vietnamese people's organizations."

The email said the "so-called 'Vietnam Committee for Human Rights', has been conducting all kinds of provocative activities in order to sabotage the state of Vietnam, and it is not at all a truly human rights defender group as it claims to be."

Tran Dac Loi, vice chairman of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, which hosts the forum, said the FIDH delegates had been refused because of insufficient space. "

This forum was estimated to have a maximum of 500 participants, but in fact we had more than 1,200 registrants," Loi said.

Loi said the remarks condemning the Vietnam Committee for Human Rights were solely the private viewpoint of Vietnamese civil society organizations taking part in the APF.

 All Vietnamese civil society organizations taking part in the APF are linked to "mass organizations" under the direction of the country's Communist Party.

Some delegates said concerns about being excluded from future ASEAN forums were having a chilling effect on what civil society groups felt they could say.

 "People are doing a lot of kowtowing, staying in their good books, to continue to be invited and not be put on a blacklist," said Charles Hector of the Malaysian labour group Workers' Hub for Change.

Vietnam has given scant publicity to the APF in the state-controlled media, and many independent Vietnamese civil society groups were unaware it was taking place.

The government has taken steps to ensure local coverage of the event avoids controversial issues. On Thursday, Vietnamese organizers instructed local journalists to avoid issues related to sovereignty in the South China Sea, a sensitive topic due to recent territorial conflicts with China.

The forum is scheduled to close on Sunday. Working groups will draft resolutions on issues including the environment, refugees, human rights, and labour law.- Earth Times, 24/9/2010,
Vietnam blocks critical human rights group from ASEAN forum

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