MANILA, October 28, 2022 – After almost three years of virtual meetings, members of the Working Group (WG) for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism finally met face-to-face in Bangkok and Jakarta last October 7-12.

The preliminary event took place at the Sukosol Hotel in Bangkok where WG members from various ASEAN countries actively participated in a strategic meeting facilitated by the Ateneo Human Rights Center–the WG secretariat–through its Executive Director, Atty. Ray Paolo Santiago.

Among those present in the two-day strategic meeting in Bangkok were delegates from Malaysia Working Group, Philippine Working Group, Singapore Working Group, Thailand Working Group, Vietnam Working Group, and the Secretariat.

The meeting centered on in-depth discussions of WG’s objectives moving forward. This includes its short- and long-term goals.

The organization’s short-term goals, to name a few, include the intention to actively contribute to ASEAN’s Post 2025 Vision and create an annual institutionalized program carrying the brand of the WG.

Among its long-term goals are (a.) to build and strengthen relationships with partner institutions including but not limited to civil society organizations, media, parliamentarians, and human rights institutions and (b.) to widen WG networks by expanding to other ASEAN countries.

The onsite meeting also paved the way for members to assess the coalition’s successes and challenges over the past few years. Some of the most significant highlights were WG’s distribution of ASEAN COVID-19 Policy Paper at the beginning of the pandemic and its consistent online visibility through its online webinars and workshops.

Following the two-day strategic meeting in Bangkok were a series of meetings of the WG delegation with key officials in Jakarta, Indonesia from October 10-12.

In anticipation of Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2023, WG hopes to explore more opportunities with Indonesia in terms of strengthening human rights mechanisms in the region.

WG delegates spoke with Indonesia’s ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Representative, Her Excellency Yunyun Wahyuningrum at the MFA Training Complex on October 10. The conversation highlighted AICHR Indonesia’s plans and priorities which include climate change, business and human rights, and right to a healthy environment, among others.

The group also consulted with other key officials in Indonesia to discuss WG’s plans and potential partnership and support for human rights initiatives. Among those who generously received the WG delegation were His Excellency Robert Mattheus Michael Tene, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Political-Security Community and His Excellency Mr. Rolliansyah Soemirat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia.

With the fruitful discussions of future plans and assessments of previous initiatives that transpired in Bangkok and Jakarta, the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism positively looks forward to an ASEAN that cultivates stronger and more sustainable human rights mechanisms across the region. This, of course, will only be possible with its stakeholders’ support including the ASEAN people.