The Initiatives for International Dialogue and GPPAC-Southeast Asia, together with 426 organisations from all over the region and together with one of IID’s advisors, Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta, call on Southeast Asia governments to heed the UN Sec-Gen António Guterres’ call for global ceasefire, and to ensure human rights and conflict sensitivity in responding to COVID19 crisis.
They call on States to take the following steps without delay:
(1) Declare immediate unilateral ceasefires in order to establish humanitarian corridors and delivery of aid, particularly health education and services, to affected communities. This can serve as a starting point to negotiate and forge reciprocal ceasefire agreements and ceasefire monitoring mechanisms with armed groups;
(2) Allocate adequate resources to ensure non-discrimination, transparency and respect for human dignity in the delivery of health services and humanitarian aid, regardless of citizenship, race, religion, political affiliation, gender and economic status. Utmost attention must be provided in addressing the particular needs of the most vulnerable and conflict-affected communities, such as indigenous peoples, refugees, stateless, asylum seekers, IDPs, such as their access to clean water and sanitation, to protective and hygiene equipments like face masks, and to immediate testing, quality medical care and social protection. The special needs and disproportionate risks for displaced women must be addressed;
(3) Ensure that the crisis response, including implementing state services and security forces, abides by the existing standards and principles of international human rights law. Declarations of state of emergencies, community-quarantines, lockdowns and restriction of freedom of movement must not come at the expense of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. Internet shutdowns that are in place in conflict-affected areas must be lifted, and context-specific information dissemination must be put in place in order to ensure every person is informed on the status of the pandemic and the government response. Emergency powers enacted into law must have clear limitations and have oversight and grievance mechanisms;
(4) Take steps to ensure support for and the safety of people involved in crisis response, especially healthcare workers in the frontlines, such as by providing them adequate protective gears and equipment and psychosocial support; and,
(5) Divert resources from arms and military spending to healthcare, social services and peacebuilding.
They further call on the ASEAN to initiate and facilitate the space for mutual support and strategic coordination among member-states, especially in ensuring the wellbeing and rights of conflict-affected communities, refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless, internally-displaced persons. This is the moment for ASEAN and its member-states to act as a “people-centred, people-oriented,” caring and sharing community.