Working Group emphasizes
people’s participation in a meeting with the ASEAN
“We believe that the main challenge facing ASEAN
now is how to develop from an inter-executive association
into an inter-peoples organization,” emphasized
Mr. Wigberto E. Tañada, Chairperson of the Philippine
Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, during
the Meeting of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights
Mechanism (Working Group) with the ASEAN Senior Officials
on the occasion of the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
(AMM) in Phuket, Thailand.
Speaking on behalf of the Working Group for an ASEAN
Human Rights Mechanism, Mr. Tañada cited the completion
of the Terms of Reference (ToR) for an ASEAN human rights
body, its submission to the Foreign Ministers for approval
and adoption, and the imminent creation of an ASEAN human
rights body (AHRB) as hallmarks in ASEAN’s move
towards becoming people-oriented. He further pointed out
that as a rules-based organization; ASEAN has increasingly
paid attention to human rights which is very noteworthy.
Mr. Tañada also identified some of the Working
Group’s recommendations and salient points for the
consideration of the Senior Officials. These include:
- The AHRB should not be perceived as the only venue
which deals with human rights concerns. However, since
the AHRB is the primary organ dealing with human rights,
the body should have a stronger mandate which would
include the balance between the promotion and protection
of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- A transparent and participatory selection process
should be adopted for all ASEAN member-states.
- A discretionary review of the ToR when adjustments
are useful, even before the required review after 5
years should be observed.
- The evolutionary approach, envisioned by the Working
Group, should be within the context of continually enhancing
the existing framework and adding value to the whole.
Mr. Tañada also took the opportunity to brief
the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Working Group’s
activities since their meeting in Singapore last year.
He reported that the Working Group met with the High Level
Panel on an ASEAN human rights body (HLP) in formal consultations
in Manila and Kuala Lumpur where it presented its recommendations
for a credible and effective body. It also organized an
optional program in Strasbourg, France (Europe’s
Human Rights capital) back to back with the HLP’s
11th meeting in Geneva in April 2009, where members of
the HLP exchanged views and information on other human
rights systems in other regions.
Aside from that and recalling its commitment to assist
in implementing the human rights provisions of the Vientiane
Action Programme, the Working Group has continued to work
with National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and on
other parallel processes involving the ASEAN Commission
on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women
and Children (ACWC) and the ASEAN Instrument on the Protection
and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW).
Particularly, the Working Group assists the Cambodian
government in setting up its national human rights institution.
The Working Group has also participated in the undertakings
of the ACWC and ACMW through presentations of research,
reports and knowledge-sharing,.
The ASEAN Senior Officials expressed their appreciation
and gratitude to the efforts and comprehensive work of
the Working Group. Vietnam, as the incoming chair of ASEAN,
said that its contributions are good indicators of a good
collaborative work for next year. The representative from
Thailand also noted the involvements of the Working Group
in promoting the creation of a human rights mechanism
in the region. He was also very hopeful that a credible
body will soon be established. Similarly, Singapore’s
representative congratulated the Working Group and encouraged
them to continue engaging with the AHRB and other human
rights bodies, especially in capacity-building, awareness
raising campaigns and networking. He also reminded the
Working Group that the AHRB is not the only venue asserting
human rights and that other platforms to promote and protect
human rights should be taken into consideration.
The Working Group annually meets with the ASEAN Senior
Officials during the AMM and discusses human rights issues
in the region. For this year’s meeting, The Working
Group was composed of representatives from the Cambodian,
Indonesian, Philippine, Singaporean and Thai Working Groups.