Asia in Focus – The work of the Rule of Law Programme

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The requirement for and the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in international cooperation are among the core principles to which the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) has always been committed. In this regard, open debate on controversial political issues is a fundamental element of a free democracy. As a complex region situated between tradition and modernity, between regional contradictions and commonalities, Asia presents very special challenges to the work of the Rule of Law Programme at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The KAS Rule of Law Programme, based in Singapore, works regionally in many countries in the area of eastern and south-eastern Asia and, primarily in the ASEAN arena, it focuses on projects which target precisely the implementation of the processes which are essential for a constitutional state. In this regard, what is indispensable for the work in the individual countries is an intensive dialogue with the partners of the Rule of Law Programme on the ground, along with a continuous exchange with the individual KAS country offices, whose work is complemented by the activity of the Rule of Law Programme. A particular concern here is not only to encourage improved networking among the individual stakeholders of the constitutional state in different countries, but also to foster a culture (of a state) governed by law, which takes into account the specific political, economic and socio-cultural circumstances of the region. For this, we can draw on over 10 years of continuous work on the rule of law in this multifaceted region of the world. This has given rise to a comprehensive wealth of experience and an unparalleled network of experts in various fields – from constitutional courts and universities to think tanks and non-governmental organisations. Moreover, it has been possible to build up a level of trust between the cooperating partners which is essential for the work of the Rule of Law Programme. In particular, the possible recourse to the insights of partners and other stakeholders in the rule of law on the ground which this provides is of enormous importance for the effective and lasting work of the Rule of Law Programme, because they are of special significance for the KAS as “intercultural interpreters“.

The principle of the separation of powers, together with its implementation, constitutes a focus of the work. One concern of the Rule of Law Programme Asia is to create platforms for exchanging information between decision-makers in the region, offering the space and opportunity to discuss best practices for implementing this principle in the various countries of the region. This is intended to ensure that procedural systems in compliance with the rule of law and the transparency of administrative actions are strengthened in the light of the developmental context of each country. In addition, seminars and workshops serve to provide the knowledge which the participants can then introduce, apply and thereby further disseminate in their professional work. In this regard, in addition to an exchange on the expert level, it is also important to actively involve citizens, so that, as much as possible, a public discussion can also take place on urgent issues of the rule of law. This should enable individual citizens to understand the relationship between a functioning constitutional state and the concrete circumstances of their own lives.

A further pillar of the work of the Rule of Law Programme Asia is to encourage the safeguarding of fundamental and human rights, especially with regard to the implementation of international covenants guaranteeing human rights. Special emphasis is placed here on disadvantaged population groups. Thus, the events and publications of the Rule of Law Programme are intended especially to sensitise the relevant decision-makers to the special needs of these people and show them ways in which social peace can be created and the effective implementation of fundamental rights can be ensured for all parts of the population. Another important link is the offer by the Rule of Law Programme to act as a support in treating conflicts in the region that relate to the rule of law, especially through specialised seminars disseminating information on how crimes that have been committed can be prosecuted under the rule of law and how they can be prevented in the future. This, in turn, should lead to the strengthening of trust in democratic structures in the individual countries.

As has already been mentioned, in regional cooperation it is essential that the rule of law be entrenched in the societies of Asia. In this regard, a functioning, independent, constitutional jurisdiction is a mandatory foundation for the guarantee of human rights and a developmental engine for the constitutional framework of each state. The Rule of Law Programme Asia supports this on-going process through a number of educational measures, such as expert panels and specialised publications, but also through collaboration with networks of experts that span generations and countries. For the implementation of effective constitutional structures, the emphasis is placed on events organised for each target group, which in their turn should serve as multipliers and contribute to specialised discussions and the independent working out of results and new approaches to solutions.

The successful and continuing work of the KAS Rule of Law Programme Asia on the ground demands that consistent transparency and authenticity be ensured and that the specific needs and characteristics of the Asian arena be addressed. As well, the programme actively exchanges information with political and social decision-makers in Germany.