Members of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism Discuss Future Plans in Face-To-Face Meetings in Bangkok and Indonesia

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.

WG-AHRM holds Regional Workshop on Effective Regional Human Rights Mechanisms

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.