This colloquium set out to fulfil three main objectives:
– To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights, to review the record, and to recommend practical improvements for a more effective enforcement of human rights
– To give former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and his associates an opportunity to present their Draft on Human Responsibilities and to discuss its merits and demerits
– To foster better mutual understanding between Asians and Europeans on human rights and human responsibilities, to broaden the convergence and narrow the divergence between them.
Two participants from each of the 26 ASEM member countries attended the colloquium, which was held over three sessions. Session One assessed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after 50 years. Thomas Hammarberg, advisor to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN representative of human rights in Cambodia, reviewed the evolution of the Universal Declaration into the subsequent covenants. Professor Han Sung-Joo, Director of llmin Research Institute, pointed out that while human rights were universal, each country must be allowed to move at its own pace to achieve the same levels of human rights according to the cultural climate of the country.
Session Two featured Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of West Germany and George Yeo, Singapore’s then-Minister for Information and the Arts. Schmidt gave personal account of the motives and origins of the Draft of Human Responsibilities. Yeo stressed the need in our globalised world for a consensus on moral values.
Session Three looked into the tasks ahead. Freimut Duve, OSCE representative on the Freedom of the Media, pointed to a new danger: The violation of human rights by non-governmental actors. Sabam Siagian, a board member of the Jakarta Post in Indonesia, shared his personal views on the current situation in Southeast Asia, concentrating on the freedom of the press, the role of the military, and their involvement in human rights. Daniel Thiirer, member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, gave an account of the complementary role played by international humanitarian law.
Prof. Tommy Koh, then Executive Director, ASEF
Dr. Theo Sommer, Co-publisher, Die Zeit