Singapore, 17-19 January 2012

The Centre for International Law of the National University of Singapore (CIL) and the British Institution for International Law (BIICIL) have conducted a Workshop based on Treaty Law and Practice. The event which took place in Singapore ended 19 January 2012. Among the issues discussed were ASEC’s experiences in dealing with the ASEAN Treaty Practice.

The workshop was opened officially by Prof. Tommy Koh, Chairman of the CIL and Chairman of the Governing Board of the CIL. He mentioned the aim of the Workshop was to set out broad criteria on good treaty practices by examining the treaty procedures and practices of selected civil and common law jurisdictions as well as that of international organizations serving as treaty clearing-houses or depositaries.

Deputy SG for Community and Corporate Affairs for ASEAN Bagas Hapsoro warmly received the workshop. “For ASEAN this workshop is of great significance. This workshop was organized at the time when ASEAN was in the middle of transformation in becoming a rules-based organization and moving toward an ASEAN Community by 2015″.

Bagas Hapsoro went on to say that “ASEAN, at every level, including the ASEAN Leaders, is committed to intensify work toward a rules-based ASEAN and to advance the ASEAN Community building process through concrete, practical and meaningful actions”.

The transformation towards a rules-based organization comprising of 10 Member States each upholding different legal systems is not an easy task which can be accomplished within a short period of time.

“Challenge is not only the adoption or creation of laws and regulations which could be acceptable to those different legal systems, but also strengthen institutional capacities of various organs/bodies both at the regional and national level to implement or enforce them,” said Bagas.

The workshop was briefed by Prof Robert Beckman, Director of Center for International Law, National University of Singapore, Ms. Jill Barrett of the British Institution for International Law BICCL, Paul Barnett, from the United Kingdom Treaty Practice, Gerard Limburg, former Director of Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Ms. Elise Cornu, legal adviser of the Council of Europe.

In Singapore the workshop provided an opportunity for the participants to share views and practices on the organization of treaty in ASEAN member states and the ASEAN Secretariat, management of treaty collection, action on international plane, and ASEAN member states’ special sessions with the speakers.

The workshop has been organized in such a way, so that the method and approach to the treaty understanding could be found relatively easy. It discussed organization of treaty work in governments and international organization. There was also an interactive discussion among the panel and participants.

The participants discussed their respective domestic treaty practice and identify common problems, including their issues with ASEC’s management of treaties. For this Session, participants engage in a private discussion with the speaker from the Council of Europe, as well as other speakers.

It was revealed during the workshop that there were approximately 350 ASEAN agreements, which need to be monitored and supported by the ASEAN Secretariat. Despite this, there are only 2 officers of ASEAN Secretariat who are responsible for the process of depository. ASEAN Secretariat has another 3 officers working in the Legal Services and Agreements Division (LSAD). Meanwhile the ARC serves ASEAN reports, treaties, agreements, and other instruments. This unit has a daunting task and responsible for the whole process of dissemination record keeping, notifying and other treaty depositary task to all ASEAN Member States and other parties required.

At the Workshop there were some practical suggestions to improve treaty practice for ASEC. For instance adoption of internal procedure on treaty law and practice concerning management and monitoring provisions in agreements in relation to depositary functions: e.g. provision on reservation and entry into force.

Bagas Hapsoro informed some efforts that have been done in the ASEAN Secretariat. “We look at sharing of experience and best lessons learned from other organizations like the Council of Europe, that are much more older than us”, said Bagas. The objective of this idea is to develop and enhance the support to ARC as it faces its tasks to promote and develop treaty section to cater ASEAN interests in the region.

More efforts need to be done among Member States and ASEAN organs to further promote awareness and understanding of various rules, procedures and agreements/instruments concluded by ASEAN. This workshop served as capacity building and technical assistance for the officers involved.