Asia and International Law

Law of Development –  In new development report, UN spotlights ‘string of successes’ in Asia-Pacific region (UN News, 26 January 2015)
Launched by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Asia-Pacific Regional Report Achieving Development Results in Asia and the Pacific highlights the accomplishments of programmes implemented in 2013 and 2014. “The report documents the achievements of UNDP’s $2 billion delivery in the region during the past two years, focusing on key priority areas: innovative solutions to persistent development challenges and scaling up those solutions for greater impact,” UNDP Administrator’s Helen Clark said.
International Organisations – Ban stresses UN’s impact in past 70 years, urges States to recommit to collective security, rights (UN News Centre, 23 February 2015)

In a Security Council meeting on 23 February in which Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Charter, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN was an organization with major achievements to its credit, multiple crises on its agenda, and tremendous opportunities ahead. Mr. Ban described how the world had “starkly” changed since the Charter was drafted and how those changes were reflected within the UN, with four times as many Member States and new items, such as climate change, on the international agenda. Despite those changes, the aspirations contained within the Charter remained “valid, valuable and vital”, especially the commitment to prevention of armed conflict through the peaceful settlement of disputes and the protection of human rights.

Despite that flexibility, he noted that UN Member States needed to fortify a sense of unity on the meaning of the term ‘collective security’, which he stressed was the core purpose of the Organization. States were also falling short in their personal responsibility to prevent conflict, something about which the Charter was very clear, and he stressed that the collective work of the UN was based on consent and respect for the sovereign equality of all members. UN human rights action often caused concern among Member States because of fears such action could harm national sovereignty, he said, stressing that in fact, early action to prevent conflict and protect human rights helps to strengthen sovereignty, rather than challenge or restrict it, and that serious violations of human rights that weaken sovereignty.

International Economic Law – Opportunities and fears as Asean prepares for single market (The Guardian, 3 February 2015)

The world’s seventh largest market, home to 10% of the world’s population, ASEAN is expected to grow 5% each year by 2018, surpassing the US, EU and Japan. But the scope of each individual country in the bloc varies wildly, prompting scepticism that a single market can be successfully created by the end of the year. In the poorest member state, Burma, three-quarters of the population still lack electricity after half a century of dictatorship; in the richest, Singapore, citizens are among the wealthiest in the world. “The business community wants ASEAN to be integrated as one entity,” says Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s trade minister. “The fact is that there are border issues, customs, immigration and different regulations.”

While the vast differences in language, culture, political and economic models among ASEAN member states may make some investors wary, ASEAN is not likely to suffer the same debt concerns as the EU, primarily because the bloc has never planned to adopt a single currency or parliament.The variance among its economies, however, means certain countries already benefit more from the united marketplace than others, a report has found. Singapore remains the preferred regional base for 80% of multinational companies thanks to its international finance hub and open markets, according to recent findings from global law firm Baker & McKenzie. Up-and-coming economies with strong manufacturing pulls such as Indonesia and Burma are expected to profit as well, with companies naming them as their preferred factory locations over the next five years.

Human Rights – UN rights chief requests 'one time only' deferral of key report on Sri Lanka conflict (16 February 2015)
At the request of the Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has agreed to temporarily hold off its consideration of a long-awaited report into alleged rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka for six months until September 2015. He said that there are good arguments for sticking to the original timetable, and there are also strong arguments for deferring the report's consideration a bit longer, given the changing context in Sri Lanka, and the possibility that important new information may emerge which will strengthen the report.” Mr. Zeid noted that the three distinguished experts, appointed by his predecessor Navi Pillay to advise the investigation, had informed him that, in their unanimous view, a one-off temporary deferral would be the best option to allow space for the new Government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues.
International Economic Law – Educating a future generation of trade negotiators in Asia (UNCTAD, 20 Jan 2015)

The Memorandum of Understanding between UNCTAD and the University of Perdana signed in February 2014 was designed to assist Malaysia enhance the capacity of trade and competition officials to negotiate and effectively apply relevant rules and laws. It has as its first output the Master of International Trade  offered by Perdana University, in collaboration with UNCTAD and Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Management and Law (ZHAW), with the support of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia. Although the first batch of students are all Malaysians, it is intended that the course be gradually opened to trade negotiators from other ASEAN and Asian countries.

International Economic Law – India-ASEAN services & investment FTA to be in force from July (Economic Times,15 Jan 2015)

India's free trade agreement (FTA) in services and investments with 10-member ASEAN Grouping will come into force from July this year, paving the way for freer movement of professionals and further investment opportunities. India signed the FTA in services and investment in September 2014. India signed a free trade agreement (FTA) in goods with the bloc in 2009. India was keen on the services deal as it did not gain much from the pact on goods due to already lower tariffs in the region.

International Economic Law – WTO informal talks to ascertain positions (Business Standard, 21 Jan 2015)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is to hold an informal meeting in January with the heads of delegations in Geneva. The aim is to ascertain the positions of countries on the post-Bali work programme, an important element being a solution to the food stock issue. “The informal meeting is to kick off the negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on the post-Bali work programme and wider Doha Round in the near future. This meeting will outline the countries’ positions on how to proceed and where there could be difficulties,” an official said. The outcome is expected to “feed into the ministers’ discussions in a way” when they meet in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Saturday for a ‘mini-ministerial’. The official added that negotiations on a permanent solution had started and should intensify in the next couple of months.

Human Rights – UN rights office appeals for halt in executions for drug crimes (UN News, 20 Jan 2015)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed concern over the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in Southeast Asia and urged authorities to abolish the punishment amid reports that eight more people had been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking. “According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment could only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva, where the Office is based. “Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships did not fall under the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ required under international law for application of the death penalty,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

Human Rights – Human Rights Watch says China draft terrorism law a ‘licence to commit abuses’ (Reuters, 20 Jan 2015)

Human Rights Watch has urged China to revise draft legislation aimed at combating terrorism, saying it was little more than “a licence to commit human rights abuses”. The law, which was made public for consultation last November, would establish a new counter-terrorism body that would have the power to designate organisations and members as terrorists without any protections of due process. The draft’s definition of terrorism includes “thought, speech, or behaviour” that attempt to “subvert state power”, “incite ethnic hatred” or “split the state”. Subversion and splittism are catch-all charges that have been used against dissidents. Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson called for the draft law to be brought in line with international standards, saying that “in its present form this law is little more than a licence to commit human rights abuses”. “The Chinese government needs to respect rights, not build a new architecture of surveillance,” Richardson said in a statement. The law would require all telecommunication and internet service providers to help the government in preventing the spread of terrorism-related content. Public areas would be outfitted with facial recognition equipment – a system that “could easily be abused for personal or political ends”, Human Rights Watch said.

See also: China wages "people's war" on terrorism (Xinhua, 5 Jan 2015)

International Organisations – United Nations General Assembly and Security Council elect four Members of the Court (ICJ Press Release No. 2014/32, 7 November 2014)

The General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations yesterday elected four Members of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a term of office of nine years, beginning on 6 February 2015. Judges Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) and Joan E. Donoghue (United States of America) were re-elected as Members of the Court. James Richard Crawford (Australia) and Kirill Gevorgian (Russian Federation) were elected as new Members of the Court.

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