in 2008: WG to Support Crafting of Terms of Reference
for ASEAN Human Rights Body
Members of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights
Mechanism (Working Group) held their strategic planning
meeting in Singapore on February 21-23, 2008.
Working Group members define the strategy in small
The Working Group took stock of key developments for
human rights in the region in the past year. 2007 saw
the ongoing progress for the creation of a national human
rights institution (NHRI) in Cambodia that is compliant
with the Paris
Principles. These are the minimum guidelines which
human rights institutions follow in order to effectively
promote and protect human rights in a country. As for
the existing NHRIs of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
and Thailand, cooperation among the four was formalized.
The year concluded on a bright note, with the adoption
of an ASEAN Charter
which will turn the region into a legal, rules-based entity.
A provision in the Charter calls for the establishment
of an ASEAN human rights body.
During their meeting in Singapore, the Working Group
received word that ASEAN foreign ministers- who were also
holding their ministerial retreat at the same time- had
agreed to establish a high level panel of officials who
will draft the terms of reference (TOR) which will spell
out the mandate and scope of the ASEAN human rights body.
The foreign ministers have decided to discuss the TOR
for the individuals who will comprise the high level panel
on the human rights body during the ASEAN Ministerial
Meeting on July 2008 in Singapore. Once the TOR of the
high level panel is approved, those sitting in it could
proceed to draft the actual TOR of the human rights body.
Ms. Karen Dumpit, a director from the Commission on
Human Rights of the Philippines and PWG member, leads
a brainstorming session.
As such, Co-Chairperson Marzuki Darusman said that most
of the Working Group’s efforts in 2008 will be channelled
towards strategically supporting and sharing its human
rights expertise with the high level panel which will
be drafting the TOR.
“It is encouraging to know that ASEAN is already
taking concrete steps towards creating a TOR for the ASEAN
human rights body,” said Darusman, “We will
be exploring how else we can contribute to developments
in ASEAN this year, especially now that the ASEAN human
rights body- which we had been advocating since 1993-
is taking shape”.