Human Rights: Everyone Matters

Posted by Sinapan Samydorai under Public Forums on 10 March 2000

Speech by Sinapan Samydorai, Programme Coordinator, Urgent Appeals Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong.


1. I am pleased to see you all here today for this important forum. I would like to start by paying tribute to the efforts of every Singaporean who has worked very, very hard to create more humane and dignified living conditions. I think everyone will agree that the ordinary person in the street is equal in dignity with all of us here [academics, professionals, students, politicians]! They, the ordinary Singaporeans, especially women who celebrate the International Women's' Day on 8th Match, are not merely digits of economic growth - they are human beings with equal dignity. I want to express my appreciation to those who have helped to sow the seeds of renewal. We are rediscovering the meaning of building a Singapore where everyone matters, everyone is respected, and everyone is treated equal with dignity! This is certainly a challenging agenda for all Singaporeans to engage in.

2. Despite the growth of human rights movements in Asia, the opportunities for discussions on human rights are very rare in Singapore. Increasingly the people of Asia, realize that peace and dignity are possible only when the equal and inalienable rights of all persons and groups are recognized and protected.

B. HUMAN RIGHTS PRINCIPLES: International recognition of human rights

3. At the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, all member countries of the United Nations [UN] reaffirmed the UDHR. Human rights are universal; every person is entitled to them by virtue of being a human being.

4. The UN official policy is that all human rights are of equal value, indivisible and interdependent. The principle of Equality and Non-Discrimination applies to all human rights, that is, everyone benefits from these rights. This is the principle underlined by the UN on the elimination of discrimination against women, eradication of racism and racial discrimination, and respect for the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, etc. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] and the accompanying covenants aim to protect the victims of human rights violations and not those who are the perpetrators of the abuse.

5. The key purpose of the United Nations is to promote and protect human rights. The UN has established International Human Rights Standards and encourages member states to comply with these standards. The basic instruments which constitute the International Bill of Human Rights are:

· The Universal declaration of Human Rights [UDHR]; · The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR]; · The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR]; and · the two Optional protocol to the ICCPR concerning individual complaints and the abolition of the death penalty.

6. There are hundreds of other human rights instruments, most of which have been adopted by the UN and related organizations like:

· the International Labour Organization [ILO]; · the UN Education, Science and Cultural organization {UNESCO], and other regional organizations like · OAS - Organization of American States · OAU - Organization of African Unity, and · OSCE - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

7. As of Spring 1995, the two International Covenants ICCPR and ICESCR had been ratified or acceded to by 129 states and 126 states respectively; the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] by 174 states; and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [CERD] by 138 states. Singapore has ratified with reservations the CRC and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW].

8. Central to human rights is the concept of equal treatment. Human rights laws are based on the premise that everyone is equal. In some treaties, equality means no one is above the law and that everyone in all respects should be treated in the same manner by law. In particular it means that no-one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender, race, religion or disability. For example, men and women should be guaranteed equal pay for work of equal value.

9. The responsibility for implementing the human rights standards is with the states/the governments. There are some international and regional mechanisms to check on states/governments, but Asia has no regional or sub-regional Human Rights mechanism and our continent is without a regional official charter.

10. Governments are expected to incorporate the international human rights standards into national laws and policies and create independent national [human rights commissions] to promote and protect human rights under the rule of law. The states have equal responsibilities for both the ICCPR and ICESCR, which oblige the states to respect, protect and fulfil the standards set out in these documents. Failure to implement any one of these three obligations constitutes a violation of such rights.

11. The political and economic system has to operate within the framework of human rights and freedoms to ensure economic justice, political participation and accountability, and social peace.

12. Governments are expected to provide Human Rights education to empower people to claim their rights and to ensure others respect their rights, including public officials. Human Rights training is necessary for police, prison officers, the military, lawyers, judges, teachers, parliamentarians, journalists, workers, women, children, parents, doctors ...etc

C. HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICE: Human rights violation in a globalized world

13. Human Rights violations occur in all continents and maybe in all countries. Non-respect for human rights presents a dark scenario - sometimes it makes for massive and gross systematic violations against humanity.

14. Bishop Belo: "it is becoming more and more evident in Asia that in the process of globalization, the state has become the servant of the market and is unable secure the rights of the individual and the community. At a time when the state as well as globalizing forces has turned out to be the most hardened violators of human rights, civil society has a crucial role to play. The post-colonial states of the South, both authoritarian and those apparently democratic, have aggregated more power in the name of development. Coupled with economic liberalization and the market, development has become an ideology and a justification for violating the basic rights of people." [The search for human rights, Asiaweek August 20-27, 1999]

15. Since 1990 economic globalization has taken centre stage. With the globalization of production and finance, most states have lost their policy initiative and now merely react to global forces with limited resistance. The United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] says: "everywhere the imperative to liberalize has demanded a shrinking of state involvement in national life, producing a wave of privatization of public enterprises and, generally, job cuts. And everywhere the opening of financial markets has limited governments' ability to run deficits - requiring them to slash health spending and food subsidies that benefit poor people. [UNDP 1997,88]." Thus all issues including human rights have become subordinate to the interests of globalization.

16. In the cold war period, the USA often claimed that the guarantee of freedom was not extended to those who challenged the free market concept or resisted the so-called liberal democratic "capitalist" process of economic development - promoting a global economic system that is blind to structural human rights violence. Now, the former tension between the state and individuals' rights is transferred to the tension between globalization and individuals' rights. The rules for acceptable social behaviour are set at the global level, supportive of the interests of global capital. Global order takes precedence; the role of the government is limited, and the people become accountable to remote centres like World Trade Organization [WTO], World Bank [WB], International Monetary Fund [IMF] and the Group of Eight [G8], etc.

17. We are aware that new instruments for restricting states and freeing capital are actively created by international institutions like the WB and the IMF. We should encourage governments to build an effective state that is responsive to the needs and long term interests of the people based on a system that gives meaning to citizenship rights and participation. The state must be able to regulate the market and place the long-term interests of society before the short-term interest of private business.

18. It is often argued that globalization leads to economic liberalization stimulating both economic growth and liberal democracy. It's a well-known fact that liberal democracy operates under capitalism with a growing bourgeoisie and a high per capita GNP. It's further argued that constitutional liberalism limits the power of the government to directly intervene in the economy, politics, social and cultural aspects of the nation. Often by empowering the state, the political elites do empower themselves, but the real issue is unchecked capitalism! Neo-liberal globalization will not solve the problems of equality. Nor will it feed, clothe, educate, and empower the majority of the world's population. What will empower is the capacity of the people, the citizens, to participate in the process of building a viable political and economic system - a system that will not solely rely on the market forces! I believe that under this new system the Singapore government would take the necessary steps in the direction of empowering the people through education including human rights education and capacity building to deal with a complex global society!

19. Globalization challenges the states' ability to protect human rights and provide the conditions necessary for a dignified life. Let's think together as a nation to respond to this changing time. For this to happen we need to clarify the role of human rights in Singapore.




20. [Presentation of transparencies on how the local media and other overseas organisations view Human Rights in Singapore, neighbouring countries, and other regions.]

21. Now there are no flagrant and gross violations of human rights in Singapore. There are no more political prisoners detained under the ISA. This does not mean there are no human rights violations in Singapore, for example:

· 38 Jehovah's Witnesses, conscientious objectors to military service, were imprisoned in 1998. · Caning - which is considered as cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment - remained mandatory for 30 crimes and is being extended even to undocumented migrant workers. · At least 28 executions by hanging were reported mostly for drug-related offences thanks to Singapore's use of the Death Penalty.

22. "No one claims torture as part of their cultural heritage. Everyone has a right to be recognized as a person before the law. There are such rights that must be enjoyed by all human beings everywhere in the civilized world. All cultures aspire to promote human dignity in their own way." [Statement by Mr. Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore, World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 16 June 1993]

23. As we are now in the twentieth century, we can celebrate many remarkable gains in our living standards. In the late 60's and early 70's we were poor, with high unemployment, poor housing, lack of water and electricity. We should be proud of this achievement. Infant mortality is gone, malnutrition is gone, and almost all children are attending primary school. From 1966 to 1990, Singapore's economy grew at an average of 8.5% per year; employment grew from 27 to 51% of the population. In 1966 50% of the workforce had less secondary education; by 1990 2/3 of the workforce had secondary education. Singapore has a 40% investment share in the economy. These by themselves are remarkable achievements for the people of Singapore. The 1999 average household income stands around US$40,464 and per capita income reaching US$24,500. But each Singaporean seems to be interested only to accumulated wealth for him or herself and for their own families to achieve their dream five C's - Cash, Credit-Card, Car, Condominium, and Country-club membership! To get 5 C's at all cost our paternalistic fathers often remind us to just listen and keep the nose clean and everything will be all right - otherwise, you will be nipped in the bud! Is it really possible for us go beyond the material chase - is it merely a personal problem or is it a structural problem as a whole society?

24. During the past 30 years we have managed to achieve some decent economic and social development. From the 60's to 1990, the Singapore government has focused on developing the economy and nation building. So the argument goes that we need "stability" to create a positive investment environment and deliver the material goods to the people. Any political dissident was suspected. Any attempt to resist change or even question the ruling party was seen as a potential danger out there to rock the boat.

25. Economic development and growth for the good of the future generation somehow legitimizes the suppression and coercion - the list of ISA detentions from 1960 to 1990 is long. The government argued then that national security, social stability and public order was key for economic progress. So it's not surprising that Singapore promotes Asian values that emphasize respect for authority and community rather than for the individual and his/her human rights. Where is the obligation of rulers to respect the people, the citizens?

26. The denial of human rights in the process of economic development both by the governments and non-state actors [TNCs] shows a pattern of systematic abuse of rights in the name of the future generation. The 1996 UNDP Human Development Report unraveled in its conclusion that " human development over the past 30 years is a mixed picture of unprecedented human progress and unspeakable human misery." In the cold war period, 1945 to 1990, those who "constructively engaged" in the "business as usual" manner with repressive regimes claimed it is for the greater good of the world to defeat communism and human rights will take second place. The East Asian economic crisis has open the eyes of many as to the sustainability of these models of development pursued in the last three decades.


27. Back in 1987, many young people were gripped by fear of detention without trial especially under the ISA. The devastating impact of such fears and threats are real, not illusions - long-term imprisonment, torture, isolation, rejection by others...etc. Many of us know that Mr. Chia Thye Poh, a former member of parliament, was detained without trial under the ISA for 23 years and only in November 1998 were his restrictions removed. We can claim today that there are no more political prisoners under the ISA in Singapore. But the ISA remains and so does fear - a sense of insecurity. Everyone knows that when the mid-night knock comes, no one is safe! This atmosphere of fear does not encourage or motivate many concerned citizens to dare to imagine building a civil society or even dare to think of political participation. I hope Singapore 21 is trying to address this conflict and confusion regarding the participation of the citizens in civil society.

28. Citizenship entitles one to some rights and obligations - right to vote, pay taxes, perform National Service, respect the law, etc. It also means that each citizen is entitled to exercise the same rights and is compelled to undertake the same obligations - there is equality! Do people know their rights and obligations so that they can practice it - ignorance will not help! If everyone matters should all persons be given the chance to defend themselves? Whatever crime they're accused of, especially those involving a person's conscience, it's wrong to detain a person without due process of trial.

What do they say?

29. PM GOH: "Not for subversives. It's in the nature of subversion that you don't bring them to trial. You study the pieces and make out a pattern to assess what they're up to. And you detain them, some more or less to tell them that [though] they might not be aware [of it] this is what they were being used for. Hopefully for those people they will learn their lesson and cut off their links." [Asiaweek July 28, 1993]

30. About the ISA detentions without trial of professionals and church workers in 1987: PM GOH "of course it hurt our image - not just abroad but internally. It cost us something. But we looked at this from the longer-term good of Singapore. And security for Singapore is always the No. 1 consideration". [Asiaweek July 28, 1993]

31. The person who drafted the ISA, Mr. Hickling: "Since I drafted the original act, the ISA has been tightened up and tightened up until now there's no provision for judicial review. Unfortunately, over the years the powers have been abused. Instead of locking up people suspected of organizing violence, which is the phrase used in the preamble of the ISA, it's been used to lock up political opponents, quite harmless people." [Asiaweek July 28, 1993]


32. Everyone has the right to take part in government directly and indirectly through chosen representatives and has the right to equal access to public services. The law should enable and protect the individuals who want to exercise their right to participation. He/she should be given the necessary information to make informed decisions. Each person should feel the necessity to participate in society to ensure its proper continuity, progress and security. In this process, the persons develop a sense of responsibility, justice, service and care towards the society. Participation is a prerequisite for a genuine democracy. If the representation is only confined to merely voting in periodic elections it does not guarantee participatory democracy. Participation in decision-making gives people a sense of control over their lives and environment. In the process problem solving they also learn skills and leadership skills.

33. Local governance begins by giving priority to citizens' needs and satisfying their needs. How are we to know the Citizens' needs - through leaders' feedback, public hearings and direct feedback units? How representative is their views? Citizens who come to public hearings or give direct feedback are self-selected individuals. The collected data may not reflect the constituency's needs, so there is a need for much wider consultation. The citizen-defined priority for the constituency is a concern that should be serious and should also be something that the government is not yet doing anything about. [Survey-based monitoring and protesting of citizens' priority concerns and needs for constituency-sensitive governance - No.2, 1998, Washington Sycip Policy Forum, Asian Institute of Management, Philippines]

34. Question marks remain on whether there are choices and opportunities for people to participate more fully in decision-making! Is there a spread of political democracy, economic democracy and good governance? [how do people understand these words?] If people do not understand what is meant by "democracy", "good governance" and "human rights" is it because they are de-politicized and remain politically immature?

35. Since the PAP come to power in 1959, the party has formed several party-based local organizations including the Community Centers [CC], the Community Center Management Committee [CCMC], the Residents Committee [RC], the Citizens Consultative Committees [CCC], the Town Councils [TC], and the Community Development Councils [CDC]. In 1997, there were 109 CCMCs, 81 CCCs, 433 RCs and 16 TCs. These party-based organizations are meant to increase the local participation in community activities. A 1994 Survey by Singapore Press Holdings [SPH] of 435 Housing Development Board [HDB] residents reveals the following: 83 % were unwilling to participate in the RCs, only 1% approach the RCs for assistance and another 1% provide feedback to RC leaders; 2% participate in RC-organized activities. As for the CCs, 66% hardly or never went to CCs and 6% participated in CC-organized activities. The People's Association [PA] manage and supervise these organizations - the PA is an organ of the PAP, thus all associated organizations are perceived to mobilize and strengthen support for the PAP. All members in the above organizations are appointed and not elected. The 1994 survey reflects a lack of citizen participation in local organizations. [M. Shamsul Haque, Local participation in Singapore: Limits and opportunities, in Local Economic Development: A new role for Asian cities, United Nation Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) Report series no. 24, Nagoya, Japan, 1997]

36. Good governance ensures that the government is efficient and accountable. Efficient public administration should include the following key aspects: accountability, participation and empowerment. Public services should respond to the needs and preferences of the people, and the public officials should answer and justify their actions, decisions and management.

37. The economic progress that has been made these past few decades has shown that as long as we have political will we can achieve any goals we set. It is about time we wake-up from our sleep and take our own responsibilities as citizens more seriously. It may be an ambitious goal, but it is not a utopian dream. Would there be more detentions - for even talking on this topic? Hope Not!


38. I believe we can achieve more great things if only we put our hearts, minds and political energies to the task. The most important challenge is to change the attitude and viewpoints of the government officials towards human rights. They should create an enabling environment for deeper transformation of each Singaporean to use their creative energy in a meaningful way. Otherwise, the majority will remain just digits of economic growth and with no possibility to participate in society. We are living in a global society - how do we organize this modern society? How to ensure a balance between government intervention, and the individual and his/her family responsibilities; between enforced order and freedom! This balance can come about with mature and creative individuals willing to participate in civil society without fear or want. We need to change our outdated patriarchal attitudes and values, which have become an obstacle to the implementation of human rights for all. The political culture should promote the five stars: democracy, equality, peace, progress and justice to ensure human rights for all is implemented. To make "everyone matters" come true - here are my suggestions:

39. Every women and child matters. The resurgence of backward patriarchal attitudes, which tends to dominate our elite and leaders, has to go! We have to discard some backward "social behaviors" and "Asian Values" which refuse to go away. This is surely a challenge to those with patriarchal behaviour; male dominance is responsible for sexual and physical violence to women. Those irresponsible men who refuse to share equal responsibility at home - cleaning, cooking, childcare, are destroying the family! Both the men and women from working class and lower-income families are working today, but women are expected to bear double or triple responsibility [with the in-laws to make matters worse] - no wonder the divorce rate is going-up. The rate of single mothers will continue to grow with men refusing to bear responsibility for their child and abandoning their partners! They seem to be holding on to an ancient social behaviour, which does not relate to today's reality! Of course, it's good to watch 'period movies'. It's dramatic for those who are hooked to such taste - but it is not reality! We should advance towards full equality between men and women within the family, in workplace and in society.

40. When children are young, both boys and girls should learn to do household chores! Otherwise, they just copy the bad habits and behaviours of their parents - boys will develop dominant male bahaviour and girls will learn to be submissive. For the child to grow into a mature and creative adult they should learn to question their parents. When the child reaches reasonable maturity the parents should learn to decide together with the child any matter that directly affects the child. Parent should also learn to explain to their children, even if the questions are odd. In that environment, the child will grow to take initiative, learn social skills and will grow to respect others' opinions and be creative. The child knows he or she matters!

41. Every person and worker matters. Moreover, if the person is conditioned to authoritarianism in the family or the school and has no experiences of participating in organizing or decision-making in the workplace, the neighbourhood or voluntary organisation, he/she will not be an active citizen. They will not feel responsible for the conditions in society or feel the need to participate and contribute to society. Respect for elders should not be the respect for authority. The government may have upgraded the vice of "willing subjugation to authoritarianism" into a value - thus a majority of our people suffer from "mental paralysis". They complain that they cannot think and decide and would rather wait for the authorities to think and decide the best for them! Yet they often willingly practice the act of self-censorship and censoring others in the hope of self-preservation.

42. Commodification of labour power reduce the use of a person's productive power - most workers' sell their 'creative power' to the company to receive their wage. The lower the skill and rank of the worker, the fewer the opportunities and choice of jobs. Those of low skill and rank will continue to face meaningless jobs and harsh working conditions, long-hours of work and low wages. Most industrial workers fall into this category. The working class and lower middle-class continue this mechanical activity without possibilities for their "creative power". Thus their personal growth is stunted by mechanical, monotonous and joyless job. They turn their desires to material possessions to have more things, and hence the consumer market increases! They become alienated from their fellow beings, neighbours, community and society. This alienation is not a personal problem - he/she cannot change the situation, as it needs a re-orientation and re-structuring of society.

43. Together we can create the environment through positive changes in the education system, living conditions and working conditions with the key objective of releasing the human creative power. This has to be firmly supported by allowing the creation of more space and time for family, community and society. Civil society organizations freed from party organs will surely create space for such participation and creativity. The creative juice will motivate the young to be enterprising and they will dare to risk seeking new ventures in technology, commerce, and other fields to better human life. This re-orientation will create conditions that will ensure each person has the possibility to contribute and participate to his or her best. When that happens we can genuinely claim that everyone matters in Singapore, everyone will walk in dignity. Each person will know they matter - solidarity and care for other grows, as their creative energy flows to build a brighter Singapore. Then we can all withstand any change as a nation, as each person shares the responsibility for the nation and they know whatever they contribute has a meaning for themselves and for others in the family, community and society. A Singapore with no more fear or want - a people willing to offer their creative power for the betterment of the nation, the region and the world.


44. Eradicating "fear" and promoting human rights is not a simple task and it is sometimes difficult to know where to start. How do we build confidence and trust if people remain ignorant and disempowered - it's difficult to overcome their fear. So it helps to set some priorities. To achieve this proposal will take a process lasting a number of years - possibly 5 to 10 years. Here are a few suggestions for discussion, consultation and hopefully some will be implemented:

45. First, Singapore needs to enact policies that will promote and provide the resources to create an enabling environment for political participation. So our choice should be clear: the government should allow the expansion of public space. If not there will be very limited participation and fear and self-censorship will take even deeper roots.

46. Second, the Singapore government should decide in the parliament to set priority to meet the basic needs of an active citizenship. How? For example, remove some old and outdate policies, laws and restrictions on public speech, gatherings, and if possible abolish the ISA. ...Etc! The ISA has become a permanent part of our society - part of our ordinary laws! If the ISA is to remain, it should be part of an emergency legislation. The ISA should be applied under a State of Emergency and approved by the parliament. Preventive detentions under ISA now apply even in times where there is no emergency or threat to the security of the state. To allow the ISA to continue in a democracy like ours is not encouraging for citizens to participate!

47. Third, effort is required to sensitize the Singaporeans to the value of freedom of expression, association and the importance of dissent. It needs to be recognized that a dissenter is a citizen with equal rights. When there are doubts we should resolve the issue in favor of expression rather then suppression.

48. "International law also considers a persons' situation in society when restricting freedom of expression. The "duties and responsibilities" of a person, as called in ICCPR Article 19 (3), may differ from person to person. A person's right to protection against defamatory or slanderous speech, therefore, must be analyzed in relation to his societal duties. For example, in Lingens V. Austria, the European Court of Human Rights held that a government official accused of holding an 'accommodating attitude' towards Nazis had to endure more criticism as a result of his public position. The court ruled that public figures must endure more criticism than private persons in order for public debate, essential in democracy, to properly function. Defamation laws must honor this distinction." [Human Rights Brief, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Washington College of Law, American University, Vol. 6. Issue 3. 1999]

49. Fourth, ensure that the working population has a living wage and sufficient time for meaningful participation [if a person has low wage and does over-time he/she will have no time for his/her family, community or society]. To make matters worse, last year, there were 80,000 unemployed persons due to structural reasons. The government bears the primary responsibility to ensure their participation. Enlightened leadership is especially relevant in this regard. A politically enabling environment is crucial. That is, we need a commitment by our leaders to freedoms and practices that will release the creative energies of people. We have reached that stage where economic and political development should go hand in hand - we cannot separate them anymore! I should stress that the enactment of these policies is a matter of enlightened self-interest. Singapore should be increasingly open to the participation of the civil society. [See recommendation at note}

50. Fifth, a National Human Rights Institution [NHRI] to promote and protect human rights. The NHRI is a means to effectively promote and guarantee human rights. It should be an independent authority established by law to protect the human rights of the people of this country. The functions of the national human rights institution may include the following: · To submit recommendations, proposals and reports on any matter relating to human rights to the government, parliament or any other competent body; · To promote conformity of national laws and practices with international standards · To receive and act upon individual complaints of human rights violations; · To encourage ratification and implementation of international human rights standards and to contribute to the reporting procedure under international instruments; · To promote awareness of human rights through information and education and to carry out research; · To co-operate with the United Nations, regional institutions and national institutions of other countries and non-governmental organizations. [Refer to the Paris Principles - principles relating to the status of institutions, 1991]


51. 1. Introduce basic human rights education from primary school as part of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education 1995 -2004 [Refer to Guidelines for the national plans of action for human rights education]. Allow NGOs to promote human rights education to the public especially focusing on the CRC and CEDAW, which are ratified by Singapore.

52. 2. The Singapore government should ratify the both ICCPR and ICESCR in the coming five years The above education for students and the public will create an enabling environment to ratify both the ICCPR and ICESCR;

53. 3. ASEAN Regional mechanism - Singapore should play a positive and active role in the initiative to set up the regional mechanism. Singapore has already ratified the CRC and CEDAW. Encourage active participation of Singaporeans in the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. [Refer to The Asian Intergovernmental Meeting Bangkok 29 March to 2 April 1993 - Bangkok Declaration and the Joint Communiqué of the 26th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting 23-24 July 1993; Initiative for the Establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism]

54. 4. Initiate a Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. We can benefit from the experience of other neighbouring countries that have already set-up human rights institutions. We should learn through exchanges facilitated by the ASEF within the framework of ASEM.

55. 5. To deliver human rights the government needs to establish a range of institutions, procedures and mechanisms. This may include a Parliamentary Committee, Human Rights Commission, Equal Opportunity Committee, Bills of Rights, freedom of information legislation, etc. We have a long way to go together in establishing these institutions and delivering human rights.

56. 6. To establish a Centre for Human Rights Studies. One of its tasks is to conduct post-graduate studies in International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. [It could be a Masters course leading to an MA in Human Rights Law. A similar programme is already being facilitated by the Hong Kong University Law Department and by Mahidol University in Bangkok.] Such a Centre for Human Rights Studies could do the following: · Act as depository for materials on Human Rights education and mechanisms, etc · Open its library for public human rights education · Conduct regular courses and lectures on relevant Human Rights topics · Conduct a Human Rights training programme on the use of communication technology for Singaporeans and others from the ASEAN region · Conduct research and documentation of human rights violations to analyze the trends that exist · Act as an "early warning system", thus enabling us to play a preventive role or open space for mediation by concern parties. The early warning systems and human rights appeals would play a positive role and engage the concerned parties through mediation and dialogue within ASEAN; supporting the functions of the UN Center for Human Rights. · Promote dialogue jointly with the Asia-Europe Foundation [ASEF] on mutual understanding regarding the promotion and protection of human rights within the ASEAN and EUROPE.

57. Singapore-21 indicates a realization that old ways may have to give way for the good of the future. The S21 ideal is: "Singapore 21 is about thinking 'we, rather than me'. When we say that 'everyone counts', it means that everybody's hopes and aspirations are important, and we want to help everyone achieve his [or her] potential. But it also means that every person's contribution counts." [David Lim, Minister of State (Defence, Information and the Arts, August 3, 1999, Straits Times]

58. Let us make that hope and aspiration come true! It may take ten years but it's worth struggling to make our hope come true!

Note: UN Economic and Social Council E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/19 6 July 1990 The New International Economic Order and the Promotion of Human Rights Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Page 59:

2. A piece of good fortune: guaranteed security for the family

207. With the assistance of a group of families directly concerned and of the social and political authorities of a French town, Father Wrensinki was able to try out what he felt should be a means of promoting a future of dignity and participation and guaranteed security for the family.

208. On the basis of the experiences of the families concerned, this expression "guaranteed security" is very similar to the wording of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which refers to "freedom from fear and wants":

Security: This is in fact freedom from fear, a fundamental assurance of having something to fall back on in all the areas essential to the exercise of human dignity. It is the peace of mind which enables one to look towards new horizons and possibly to move towards them; security of existence is a requirement for being able to take part in development while accepting its risks;

Existence: This term is in contrast to survival. It is related to the right to life in dignity, the right to lead a human existence that promises development. Existence is a term which opens on to the future;

Family: For the poorest, success in living as a family determines the success of individual and professional life project. This is why security of existence must as a matter of priority provide protection for the family unit and the means for its success, so as to prevent the failure in life of its members;

Guarantee: This security of family existence must be ensured by an adequate and regular income, derived preferably from work but guaranteed when work is lacking.

(The opinions expressed in this article are my own and may not reflect the opinion of AHRC.)

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