MANILA, August 20, 2021 — The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working Group) organized the “Regional Workshop on Effective Regional Human Rights Mechanisms” via Zoom last July 29 to 30, 2021. The workshop aimed to inform and update the participants on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights’ (AICHR) ongoing and upcoming projects and discuss opportunities to further strengthen AICHR’s protection mandate.

The workshop was divided into two forums across various sessions.  

In Session 1 of the first forum, Prof. Dr. Amara Pongsapich, the representative of Thailand to the AICHR, shared the salient points and issues that were discussed during the recent regional dialogue among former and current AICHR representatives and members of the High-Level Panel that drafted the AICHR’s Terms of Reference (TOR).

The second session saw a discussion by experts from Africa, Europe, and the Americas of how other regional human rights mechanisms function amidst concerns regarding state sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. The African System was discussed by Prof. Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria, the European System by Dr. Woflgang Heinz, former vice president of the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture, and the Inter-American System by Prof. Christina Cerna, co-chair of the Human Rights in States of Emergency Committee of the International Law Association.

An open discussion followed which was moderated by Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Working Group Co-Chair and former Representative of Thailand to the AICHR. The participants shared their suggestions and recommendations on how ASEAN and AICHR can move forward to effectively fulfill the latter’s protection mandate. The discussion provided insights and reflections that AICHR can use for stronger protection and promotion functions. It also reiterated that the sovereignty of states is not a barrier to create robust mechanisms on human rights with independent experts as members.

The first forum was attended by current and former representatives of AICHR, participants from Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and participants fromcivil society organizations in ASEAN. 

The second forum of the workshop was a closed session among current and former representatives of AICHR, some representatives of Ministries of Foreign Affairs of ASEAN Member States. It was moderated by Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, former Co-Chair of the Working Group. 

Prof. Muntarbhorn emphasized the point that the protection and promotion of human rights do not infringe the principles of sovereignty and non-interference as these can co-exist. The discussions focused on who the key actors are, what actions should be taken next, and how to constructively engage through a strategic and multi-tracked approach to address the need to strengthen human rights protection and promotion in the region.

The workshop was made possible with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.