ASEAN Four Hailed
as an Inspiration to the Region
International parliamentarians praised the national human
rights institutions (NHRIs) of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand,
and the Philippines last October 15-17, 2007 for partnering
with each other on a regional level. The grouping, which
calls itself the "ASEAN Four", presented their
of Cooperation during the Workshop on the Establishment
of National Human Rights Institutions which was held in
Manila, the Philippines. Participants, comprised of members
of NHRIs and human rights-related government agencies
from Asia-Pacific countries, likewise lauded a recent
outcome of their collaboration- a Position Paper that
urges for the mention of a regional human rights mechanism
or organ in the ASEAN Charter.
"The important role that NHRIs play at the international
level is undeniable," said United Nations (U.N.)
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, "I
sincerely congratulate the NHRIs of the Philippines, Thailand,
Malaysia, and Indonesia. These initiatives represent not
only a great achievement for NHRIs but also an important
contribution in the field of human rights in the ASEAN
The National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (KOMNAS
HAM), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM),
Commission on Human Rights
of the Philippines (CHRP) and the National Human Rights
Commission of Thailand (Khamakarn Sit) presented their
respective best practices on human rights promotion and
protection. As ASEAN Four, they talked about their areas
of cooperation, which mainly covers terrorism and human
rights, migrants and migrant workers, trafficking, economic,
social and cultural rights, and human rights education.
The grouping is also set to meet during the first quarter
of 2008 to address the human rights areas that are to
be mentioned in the ASEAN Charter through joint activities.
Other participants also noted ASEAN Four’s success.
Ms. Aruna Sharma, joint secretary of the National Human
Rights Commission of India, said that ASEAN Four should
serve as an inspiration to countries in the region without
national human rights infrastructures. "ASEAN Four
is a platform which addresses a country's (sovereign)
decision to have an NHRI for itself and also its need
to cooperate with other NHRIs," she highlighted.
Currently, there are only 20 NHRIs in Asia, four of which
are in ASEAN member-countries.
Cambodia is seen to be the next in the region to follow
suit. Ms. Sudary Khoun, a member of the Cambodian National
Assembly, revealed that a first draft of the law which
will call for the establishment of a Cambodian NHRI had
already been completed by an independent working committee.
She promised her full support for the legislation, once
this is formally presented to parliament.
Participants urged Cambodia and other countries in Asia
without NHRIs to seek assistance and advice from United
Nations Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights
(U.N. - OHCHR), U.N. Country Teams, the Asia
Pacific Forum on NHRIs, and ASEAN Four. "NHRIs
are pillar elements of strong, effective national human
rights protection systems and key to the realization of
human rights at the country level," High Commissioner
Arbour concluded, "this workshop...identified the
numerous advantages of having an NHRI, and it is my wish
that this will only be the beginning of a constructive
and collaborative partnership between governments, the
U.N., the Asia Pacific Forum, and NHRIs in the region
aimed at the establishment of NHRIs in compliance with
the Paris Principles."
The workshop was organized by the U.N.- OHCHR, held in
cooperation with the CHRP, and was supported by the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines. Its main objective
was to provide participants, mainly parliamentarians from
Asian countries with NHRIs, with a clear picture of how
NHRIs should function and their effectiveness in the promotion
and protection of human rights.