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Press Release: 2nd ASEAN-EU Policy Dialogue on Human Rights 29 November 2017, Bohol, the Philippines

Posted on: 30 November, 2017

On the 29th of November 2017, the European Union (EU) and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held the 2nd ASEAN-EU Policy Dialogue on Human Rights, in Bohol in the Philippines. The meeting was hosted by AICHR and followed the 1st EU-ASEAN dialogue held in October 2015 in Brussels.

The dialogue was co-chaired on the ASEAN side by H.E. Leo Herrera-Lim, Chair of AICHR, and on the EU side by Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

Also participating in the dialogue were the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) and the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC).

The second Policy Dialogue on Human Rights was held in an open and constructive atmosphere. The two sides expressed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties as well as the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and other human rights related regional instruments, and exchanged views about recent developments in human rights in ASEAN and in the EU.

Topics addressed during the Policy Dialogue included trafficking in persons, achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, rights of the child, rights of migrant workers, business and human rights / corporate social responsibility, as well as rights of persons with disabilities.

The EU and ASEAN agreed to continue their cooperation and identified specific areas where the EU and ASEAN would work more closely together, including trafficking in persons, business and human rights as well as women’s and children’s rights, and the rights of migrant workers. They agreed to explore holding their next dialogue in 2018.

AICHR Reviews ASEAN’s Implementation of the AHRD with Partners, SOMs and CSOs

Posted on: 30 November, 2017

The great strides ASEAN has made in the field of human rights towards ensuring a more equal, just and peaceful ASEAN Community was celebrated on 28 November 2017. As part of its commemorative activities for the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, and on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD), the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened a Roundtable Discussion (RTD) on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) on 28 November 2017 in Bohol, the Philippines. The RTD was a  platform to discuss the AHRD with representatives of ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Consultative Relationship with the AICHR.

The AHRD is the foundation of the AICHR’s work in the region. The AHRD affirms all the civil and political rights, and all the economic, social and cultural rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and includes newly-recognised collective rights to a sustainable environment, to development, and to peace. It provides a framework for human rights co-operation and consultation between ASEAN Member States in advancing ASEAN’s aspiration to be a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred Community. It was adopted through the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD on 18 November 2012 where the ASEAN Leaders affirmed their commitment to the full implementation of the AHRD to advance the promotion and protection of human rights in the region.

The RTD highlighted the importance of the AHRD, and allowed the delegates to take stock of the current ASEAN rights landscape; gaps and challenges faced by the region; and opportunities to enhance the AICHR’s efforts in mainstreaming human rights values to all three ASEAN Pillars.

The first session gathered the participation of ASEAN officials working on the issues of labour; migrant workers; women and children; health development; education; and information and media. The session noted attending bodies’ commitment to support each other’s upcoming activities and develop new formats of collaboration to enhance the implementation of ASEAN’s commitment on human rights.

Pursuant to the AICHR’s on-going efforts to broaden and deepen partnerships with CSOs, the AICHR has now accredited 22 CSOs, and more applications are pending. The second session of the RTD saw a robust and constructive dialogue between the AICHR and CSOs in Consultative Relationship with the AICHR. Delegates highlighted the complementarity between the AHRD and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and explored means for more effective engagement with the AICHR using the AHRD as the region’s reference point.

The RTD was jointly organised by AICHR Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia with the support of the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument Human Rights Facility (READI-HRF).

ASEAN conduct training on the linkages between business activities and human rights

Posted on: 21 November, 2017

BANGKOK, 21 November 2017- The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the AICHR Training Programme on Business and Human Rights on 13-16 November in Bangkok, Thailand. The discussions revolved around the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights in ASEAN. The training brought together around 100 participants and resource persons from the AICHR, representatives of relevant ministries and chambers of commerce from the ASEAN Member States, Dr. Surya Deva (Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights), representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), civil society organisations, business enterprises and academics

In the opening session, H.E. Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, underscored that this activity is part of the AICHR’s continuous effort to conduct trainings on relevant human rights issues in ASEAN. This year’s training intended to provide an overview on the UNGP which affirmed role of business enterprises in the fulfilment of human rights. Dr. Nonthasoot highlighted that “realising the UNGP on business and human rights could help ASEAN to become a people centered people oriented Community.”

During the four-days training, the participants discussed the development and implementation of the UNGP, which are grounded in the recognition of States’ existing human rights obligations, obligation of business enterprises to comply with applicable laws and to respect human rights, as well as the need for appropriate and effective remedies. It was noted that business enterprises have a key part in addressing human rights violations resulting from business activities. They are, therefore, encouraged to instill human rights in its mission and vision to prevent harm to the society and the environment.

Resource persons from the ASEAN Member States shared their experiences in developing National Action Plans (NAPs) in their respective countries. One of the points highlighted by the participants was the need for ASEAN to develop a regional framework on business and human rights to further forged the agenda on business and human rights in the region. On the third day, the participants went for field trips to the Judicial Training Institute of Thailand (JTI) and Stock Exchange of Thailand where they discussed how the principles of the UNGP are being implemented in Thailand.

This activity was organised by AICHR Thailand with support from partners, including the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection of the Ministry of Justice Thailand, the UNDP, and the ASEAN CSR Network, with the support of the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument Human Rights Facility (READI HRF). The Minister of Justice of Thailand, H.E. Mr. Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, kindly came to open the programme.

Press Release: AICHR Regional Dialogue on Mainstreaming of the Right to Education in the ASEAN Community, 10-12 November 2017, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Posted on: 16 November, 2017

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the AICHR Regional Dialogue on Mainstreaming of the Right to Education in the ASEAN Community. The three-day Dialogue aims at: (a) raising awareness of the right to education as a cross-cutting issue in ASEAN; (b) garnering inputs from ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and stakeholders to mainstream the right to education across the three community pillars of ASEAN; and (c) creating a platform to strengthen regional cooperation on education and human rights.

The Dialogue gathered more than eighty participants, coming from the ASEAN Member States, the AICHR, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, as well as various stakeholders of ASEAN and its partners – including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED), ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD), ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Senior Officials Meeting (TELSOM), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR, H.E. Polyne Hean, underscored that mainstreaming the right to education requires a concerted effort as the challenges and barriers to realising that right are cross-cutting in nature. In the Keynote Speech, H.E. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and Secretary of State of the Office of the Council of Ministers, emphasised that in order to make education a meaningful right, it should be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. He highlighted some of ASEAN’s commitments and initiatives in the realisation of the right to education, among others, the 2009 “Cha Am Hua Hin Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation on Education to Achieve ASEAN Caring and Sharing Community” and the “ASEAN Community Vision 2025”. He recognised and underlined education as a fundamental human right and as an empowering right in itself.

The experts and participants shared good practices and challenges to enhancing the right to quality and inclusive education and discussed possible ways forward for the AICHR as well as ASEAN’s bodies to contribute to the mainstreaming of the right to education across the three Community Pillars of ASEAN. Discussions by the participants highlighted common points such as the lack of quality teachers, budgetary challenges, gaps between urban and rural schools, disaster resilience, the need for an inclusive education, and lack of reliable disaggregated data. They also highlighted that partnerships play a key role in tackling these issues and to find possible ways forward.

At the end of the Dialogue, Group Discussions discussed ways and means to mainstream the right to education across the three Community Pillars of ASEAN; and identified possible approaches to enhance the right to quality and access to different levels of education (e.g. basic education, higher education, technical and vocational education and training, lifelong learning, disaster risk reduction, education for sustainable development, and education through the use of ICT). At the close of the Dialogue, the Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR, as the host, expressed confidence that the Dialogue would be a strong platform to strengthen regional cooperation on education and human rights.

The Dialogue is organised by the AICHR-Cambodia with the support of the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund (ACCF).

ANNOUNCEMENT: Winners of the ASEAN Youth Video Competition: “ASEAN Against Trafficking: Humans are not for Sale”

Posted on: 9 November, 2017

We are pleased to announce the Regional Winner and People’s Choice Award Winner for the ASEAN Youth Video: “ASEAN Against Trafficking: Humans are not for Sale”.

  • Regional Winner:  Chhorn Soklin from Cambodia with a video entitled “Nightmare”

This video tells a story of Sophie, a girl who was a victim of human trafficking and became an agent who spread awareness of human trafficking to other people specially women and children. The link to the video, https://www.facebook.com/aseansecretariat/videos/10155791371753854/

  • People’s Choice Award Winner: Muhammad Asraf Bin Ab Aziz from Malaysia with a video entitled “Nasir” 

The video portrays the grief of a father whose child falls victim to trafficking. The link to the video, https://www.facebook.com/aseansecretariat/videos/vl.353920421698520/10155791390268854/?type=1

The winners are invited for the Award Ceremony on 27 November 2017 in Bohol, the Philippines.

We would like to thank all participants for their creative work to raise awareness of ASEAN youth on the inter-relatedness between human rights and trafficking in persons (TIP).

The ASEAN Youth Video Competition was co-organised by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR).

 

Press Release: ASEAN Meets to Develop a Common Approach and Position on the Right to Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation Under Article 28(e) of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD)

Posted on: 7 November, 2017

The AICHR’s Regional Consultation on the Right to Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation in ASEAN (with emphasis on rural communities) gathered more than 50 stakeholders to discuss ASEAN Member States’ work in delivering safe drinking water and sanitation to the peoples of the region.

KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA, 25 to 27 October 2017 – The AICHR’s Regional Consultation on the Right to Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation in ASEAN (with emphasis on rural communities) gathered more than 50 stakeholders to discuss ASEAN Member States’ work in delivering safe drinking water and sanitation to the peoples of the region.

Among others, Government representatives from the Senior Officials Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (SOMRDPE), the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) and the ASEAN Working Group on Water Resources Management (AWGWRM); national health officials; and experts from the national human rights institutions of Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), WaterLex, and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), shared country situations, experiences and challenges regarding the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation to rural communities.

The Right Honourable Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman, the Sabah Chief Minister, in his Keynote Address (delivered by the Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, the Honourable Datuk Ir. Edward Yong Oui Fah) encouraged the AICHR to “accelerate its work programmes to inspire the region by infusing into ASEAN’s framework a common set of human rights principles and good practices in handling the competing demands and needs especially for those in the rural communities”.

Earlier, His Excellency Edmund Bon Tai Soon, the Representative of Malaysia to the AICHR, said that there were operational challenges facing ASEAN where many still had no proper access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

“Article 4 of the AHRD declares that the rights of women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and vulnerable and marginalised groups are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“In our discussions therefore, we must not forget that many in ASEAN still have no proper access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The most vulnerable groups include asylum-seekers, refugees, displaced persons, ethnic minorities, trafficked persons, the indigenous and non-citizens.

“These groups are unable to realise the right to water and sanitation themselves by means they have at their disposal, and require assistance. We should stand in their shoes. We should attempt to see the issues from their perspective, and not from comfort or from cloistered surroundings,” Bon said.

Ms. Virginia B. Dandan, the former United Nations Independent Expert on International Solidarity and the former Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) called on the delegates to “deliberate on what it means for ASEAN to have a right to safe drinking water and sanitation”.

“We could perhaps explore what it means for water and sanitation to be available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and of good quality in the ASEAN context. We must consider not just water but also sanitation – what commonalities do they have and how do we bring these principles together so that they will mean something as a system. We must also not forget hygiene, which perhaps can also be brought into consideration somewhere along the way.

“When we are doing this, let us not forget to pay attention to the gender dimension in the enjoyment of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Achieving equality in safe, available, accessible and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene; can serve as an entry point to ensure that women and girls fully enjoy this right,” Dandan said.

Dandan also urged the meeting to come up with an interpretation and understanding of what Article 28(e) of the AHRD means. “That’s first base, and it would be a great accomplishment.”

The following conclusions were emphasised and noted during the robust discussions:

  • Article 28(e) of the AHRD guarantees the right to safe drinking water and sanitation as part of a person’s right to an adequate standard of living;
  • Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) seeks to ensure universal, equitable and adequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030;
  • under international human rights law, States are obliged to respect (by refraining from interfering directly or indirectly with the right), protect (by preventing third parties from interfering in any way with the right) and fulfil (by adopting necessary measures to fully realise the right) the right to water and sanitation;
  • the right to safe drinking water and sanitation cross-cuts other levers of sustainable development such as non-discrimination, the right to health, the right to be free from poverty and the right to peace;
  • while there has been rapid progress by all States in the region regarding the provision of water and sanitation, there are still challenges facing the poor, rural and indigenous communities to access safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • these challenges may be overcome by the greater engagement and co-operation of ASEAN bodies such as the AICHR, ASOEN, AWGWRM, SOMRDPE and the Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD); and,
  • the right to safe drinking water and sanitation requires that they must be available, accessible, affordable, acceptable, adequate and be of good quality.

It was proposed that a summary of the Consultation outlining the discussions including the applicable rights principles and ASEAN’s baseline position be drafted for further action.

The Consultation was organised and hosted by AICHR Malaysia, ASEAN-Malaysia National Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia; with the support of the Sabah State Government, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Embassy of Switzerland in Indonesia and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/aichrmalaysia

ASEAN explores framework for an effective environment impact assessment to ensure sustainable development

Posted on: 1 November, 2017

AICHR Workshop on Rights-based Approach to Regional Management Strategy for an Effective Environmental Impact Assessment was held on 29 to 30 October in Yangon, Myanmar

The AICHR convened its third workshop on human rights, environment and climate change on 29-30 October 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar.

This year’s workshop’s discussions revolved around a rights-based approach to regional strategy management for an effective environmental impact assessment. In the opening session, Ambassador Hla Myint, the Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR remarked that “… there have been encouraging developments in this part of the world that reflect strengthened regional cooperation and collaboration in this regard. The Pacific countries and territories have been able to formulate the guidelines for strengthening EIA and similarly the six countries of Mekong Sub Region have been able to formulate regional guidelines for public participation in EIA. In view of these developments, the question is whether ASEAN does need such a regional framework for itself”.

The workshop brought together participants from ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings on Environment (ASOEN) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the representatives from ASEAN Member States ministries, civil society organisations and academics dealing with environmental related matters, as well as experts from various regional and international organisations. It saw not only the sharing of national and regional good practices and policies on EIA and the challenges in their implementation, but also the experience of transboundary EIA assessment as overseen by the Mekong River Commission, and good practice of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in Korea and by the Asian Development Bank for its projects.

As highlighted in the keynote speech video of Mr. John Knox, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, environmental harms interferes with the full enjoyment of a very wide range of human rights, such as right to life, right to health and others, hence States have the obligation to have effective legal framework to address environmental issues and to take additional steps to protect those who are particularly vulnerable to environmental harm. The right to a safe, clean and sustainable development itself is enshrined under article 28(f) of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).  All ASEAN Member States already have either laws/policies and/or EIA processes in place, and to make it an effective tool to promote and safeguard environment and human rights it should ensure that public participation, the right to information and access to justice/remedies are encompassed throughout the processes.

This workshop is organised by AICHR Myanmar with the support of the ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund. As with the two previous environment workshops organised in Myanmar, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, Dr Seree Nonthasoot, co-hosted and served as the rapporteur of the event.