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AICHR Thematic Study: Women in Natural Disasters: Indicative Findings in Unraveling Gender in Institutional Responses

Posted on: 9 July, 2018

As the ASEAN moves toward efforts at responding to natural disaters as a region, it has yet to fully integrate the gender approach in its regional disaster response. Already in the community-building phase of its institutional evolution, certain issues still remain in the norm-construction stage. In the case of women’s human rights in particularly difficult circumstances (e.g. natural disasters situations), there is very faint discursive recognition in institutional agreements. In the case of individual ASEAN Member States (AMS), there are more evident efforts as regards mainstreaming gender in natural disaster institutional infrastructure and mechanisms – although with some countries fairly more advanced than others.

This study was undertaken in order to compile policies and practices on women’s protection in situations of natural disasters and to document best practices in gender mainstreaming in natural disaster response and assistance, particularly, those that provide spaces for women’s participation. It was guided by an institutionalist perpective that sought to locate gender in laws, policies/plans, institutions, and practices.

Based on the indicative results of the study, the summary observations are the following:

    • The natural disaster context of countries in Southeast Asia varies, with some more prone to large-scale disasters than others.
    • Framing institutional and governance responses to natural disasters depends on its impact on societal systems. All AMS have existing natural disaster institutional infrastructures and mechanisms. Their respective natural disaster management governance follows both vertical (i.e. national to local) and horizontal (i.e. inter-agency) directions and most entities at the national level are mirrored in the local level.
    • Supporting the institutional infrastructure are different mechanisms in the form of national laws, policy directives, and/or actions plans. The natural disaster discourse is usually integrated into the meta-framework of sustainable development, climate change adaptation, or national security.
    • Integrating the gender approach into these meta-frames depends on: (a) the maturity of gender mainstreaming in the whole governance architecture; (b) the extent to which gender is recognized as an issue; and (c) the discursive construction of women in these societies.
    • There are also varying appreciations for and on women’s participation in the different aspects of natural disasters from the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Nonetheless, integrating the gender approach in the institutional infrastructure of natural disasters can be a substantive entry point to operationalize women’s protection and empowerment, primarily because of the care roles they play in their families and communities.
    • However, women’s specific concerns – such as sexual and gender-based violence, violence against women and girls, women’s economic and political empowerment – are difficult to surface, discuss, and make a matter of concern in natural disaster and emergency/crisis institutional infrastructure and mechanisms.
    • In terms of identifying the efforts of each AMS on mainstreaming gender in their natural disaster institutional architecture and instruments, the deduced categories are: (a) incipient efforts (i.e. initial recognition but not yet institutionalized at the strategic level); modest efforts (i.e. early stages of inclusion at the strategic level and/or efforts done more in practice by government or non-government organizations); moderate efforts (i.e. gender-mainstreaming evident at the strategic level); and strong efforts (i.e. gender-mainstreaming evident at both strategic and operational levels).
    • From the perspective of community women and non-government actors from different countries, the need to mainstream gender should be reflected not just in the strategic and operational levels but more so in implementation on the ground.
    • And lastly, particular patterns at the ground level should also be recognized and considered in the design of natural disaster and emergency/crisis institutional governance. These are women’s contribution to early warning and prevention, the intersection of gender and culture in disaster relief and response, gender dimensions of migration, and women’s access to resources in post-disaster situations, to name a few.


The full report is available for download:

  AICHR Thematic Study on Women in Natural Disasters (9.3 MiB, 141 hits)

AICHR Interregional Dialogue: Sharing Good Practices on Business and Human Rights, 4-6 June 2018, Bangkok, Thailand

Posted on: 8 June, 2018


The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the Interregional Dialogue: Sharing Good Practices on Business and Human Rights on 4-6 June 2018. More than 200 participants attended the Dialogue from the AICHR, ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, relevant UN agencies, regional human rights mechanisms from the European Union and Arab League, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), diplomatic corps, CSOs, business representatives and other relevant stakeholders.

H.E. Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, in his remarks highlighted the Royal Thai Government’s commitment to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and encouraged other ASEAN Member States to also follow the UNGPs to help improve the region’s economy as a whole. Furthermore, he emphasized that “conducting business that respects human rights can create a culture of fairness and decrease social disparities in many aspects such as decreasing dispute between employer and employee, minimizing environmental problems that affect health and utilizing natural resources that will not affect the local communities.”


This Dialogue was part of the AICHR’s continued efforts to elevate business and human rights in ASEAN and marked the first occasion that the AICHR convene a dialogue among regional human rights mechanisms and NHRIs from the Asia-Pacific region. The Dialogue provided an avenue for the participants to discuss challenges as well as good practices on the implementation of the UNGPs in the region and beyond. Each session generated a constructive discussion with resource persons coming from different parts of the world on various issues, for instance, gender perspective to business and human rights, supply chain management, and human rights due diligence.

Over the course of the three-day Dialogue, the resource persons and participants highlighted that in relation to multinational companies, supply chains stand out as one of the challenges in the implementation of the UNGPs. Big multinational companies engage with different suppliers in several tiers and it is difficult to ensure that the UNGPs are observed in the operations of each tiers. Collective actions should be the way forward to address the adverse human rights impact from business activities. Business sector is one of the key elements in this effort and to ensure their meaningful participation in the implementation of the UNGPs, awareness-raising program is crucial to increase the understanding of the business sector on the importance and benefit of complying with the UNGPs.

This Dialogue was organized by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, with support from UNDP Asia-Pacific, the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection of the Ministry of Justice Thailand, the Australian Human Rights Commission, ASEAN CSR Network, UNESCAP, and OECD.

The AICHR Annual Report 2017

Posted on: 11 April, 2018

On its 50th Year, ASEAN has seen significant achievements in terms of advancing the cause of human rights. Article 14 of the ASEAN Charter of 2008 called for the establishment of a human rights body in the region. This body came into being in 2009 in the form of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Three years later, the ASEAN Heads of State/Government adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).

Consistent with its mandate “to develop strategies for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms to complement the building of the ASEAN Community,” the AICHR has undertaken various activities at the regional and national levels since its establishment. Seminars, workshops, and consultations were made; thematic studies were conducted; and partnerships were forged.

ASEAN’s milestone this year has also created greater expectations on the part of the peoples of the region as ASEAN tries to advance its efforts to establish a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community. The AICHR must be able to respond to this challenge and take a more active role in advancing its advocacy for greater awareness on and respect for human rights.

This Annual Report covers the period between July 2016 and June 2017. The full report is available for download:


Summary of Activity Report: AICHR – SOMTC Consultation Meeting on Human Rights Based-Approach in the Implementation of ACTIP and APA, Jakarta, 29-30 September 2016

Posted on: 11 November, 2016

The ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP) is the first product of ASEAN that demonstrates a desire to work together as member states to combat a particular form of transnational crimes. Being a serious nature of the crime that continues to affect and take tolls on the lives of people using various modus of deception, abduction and exploitation, efforts to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) need a human-rights based approach for a number of reasons.

First, because the modus operandi of TIP grows fast and complex, abusing existing cultural traditions (such as arranged marriages), lifestyle (such as desire to work abroad, to adopt children, or to enjoy lavish life), tourism, education, and vulnerabilities of families by using various means that is not easy to detect. Second, because the efforts to combat TIP more often lead to the victims and at individual recruiters rather than the mastermind and the demand side of the crime. Third, TIP is often mistakenly seen as merely immigration problem. Fourth, attention for victims and potential victims is only present to the extent that they are relevant for law enforcement purposes.

AICHR appreciates the warm gesture of the SOMTC to work together through a regular Consultation and Cooperation with AICHR to ensure that ASEAN’s effort to combat TIP is victim-oriented while also effective in combating the crime from its roots. This event in Jakarta is the First Consultation Meeting between AICHR and SOMTC which were attended by SOMTC Representatives, many of whom are in the leadership positions in the country’s units of anti transnational crime, the ACWC, SOMSWD, government officials and non-government organizations with consultative status of AICHR. AICHR is humbled by the enthusiastic participants who stayed fully through the event and the fruitful exchange of information and thinking to further human-rights based approach to combating TIP.

The Consultation highlighted the following points for going forward. First, AICHR noted the joint intention from the participants to continue working together across sectors with AICHR and SOMTC to implement human-rights based approach in combating TIP both through formal mechanism as well as informal means of cooperation. The informal means were usefully built through the consultation and the various activities AICHR is organizing on the topic of anti-TIP, which was recognized as needed for immediate response. Second, ASEAN noted the experience of Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore, the countries of ASEAN that have ratified ACTIP on how they prepared legal frameworks, capacity building activities, and financial support to combat TIP. ASEAN also learned how countries in Europe and the United States develop their procedures to interview victims and to investigate the crime to the roots. Third, segments of law enforcer and AICHR Representatives highlighted the importance of preventing this crime to cut down the crime cases given that investigations are taking some time and a mechanism for human-rights based approach in prosecution and victim rehabilitation is still undergoing.

As the outcome of the consultation, the participants recommended to provide tailored support for the specific needs of individual ASEAN member-states towards ratifying and strengthening ACTIP implementation. In the future, a number of delegates in the forum proposed that this AICHR consultation meeting can act as the institutionalized consultation among ASEAN bodies related to combating TIP. In addition, the SOMTC Action Plan will be studied so that there is no overlap. Furthermore, there are a number of ways to prevent TIP that need to be further explored by ASEAN sectoral bodies outside of law enforcement, including by expanding the roles of community members, parents, and survivors of TIP.

We thank AICHR Indonesia for organizing this Consultation. We also recognize the work of AICHR Vietnam to recognize the importance of various means of communication and languages to promote human-rights based approach and the work of AICHR Cambodia to facilitate dialog on developing national action plans on anti TIP.  (*)

Press Release: Special Meeting of the AICHR, 27 – 28 October 2016, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

Posted on: 29 October, 2016

The Special Meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was convened on 27 – 28 October 2016 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. During the two-day Meeting, the AICHR discussed the progress of implementation of its Priority Programmes/Activities for the years 2015 – 2017 and adopted several new projects. The Meeting was also briefed on the outcomes of several AICHR Programmes/Activities which were recently concluded. The AICHR intends to enhance the mainstreaming of human rights into the three pillars of the ASEAN Community based on ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

As part of its contribution towards the commemorative activities for the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN in 2017, the AICHR agreed to convene the fourth AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights with a special theme of “Forging Ahead Together towards a Sustainable Community” and to undertake human rights related activities during the celebration.

The AICHR met with the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism and agreed to explore possible areas of cooperation.  They also met with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) and identified common areas for future cooperation.

The Meeting deliberated applications of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) seeking for Consultative Relationship with the AICHR. The list of successful applications will be announced in due course.

The Meeting thanked the Government of Viet Nam for the gracious hospitality and excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The 22nd Meeting of the AICHR under Lao PDR’s chairmanship will be held on 23 – 25 November 2016, in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR.

The AICHR Annual Report 2016

Posted on: 1 August, 2016

This Annual Report covers the period between July 2015 and June 2016.

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened six AICHR Meetings, which included Special Meetings, and organised a series of activities in line with the annual Priority Programmes/Activities 2015/2016 for the period under review. In 2015, the AICHR convened workshops on ASEAN legal instruments on human rights, environment and climate change, rights of persons with disabilities, and trafficking in persons (TIP). The AICHR also held two regional events involving youths from all ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) to raise awareness of human rights among the young people of the region.

In support of the work of other ASEAN Sectoral Bodies dealing with human rights issues, the AICHR and the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) co-organised a Workshop on the “Human Rights-based Approach to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” in November 2015.

On the external relations front, the AICHR, together with the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), and the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) met with the European Union for the first ASEAN-EU Policy Dialogue on Human Rights.

Another notable progress in the work of the AICHR include the operationalization of the Guidelines on AICHR’s Relations with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and the granting of ‘Consultative Relationship’ status to eleven organisations. A new thematic study on women affected by natural disasters has commenced and is due for completion in 2017.

The AICHR has embarked on their second Five-Year Work Plan 2016-2020 with emphasis on a programmatic approach and regularisation of activities, for example, the second phase of the programme on the mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities. The beginning of 2016 saw a transition in the AICHR with eight new Representatives to the AICHR – from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Viet Nam – assuming office.

In line with the recommendation of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on Strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat and Reviewing the ASEAN Organs, the unit in the ASEAN Secretariat supporting the AICHR, now renamed as the Human Rights Division, moved from the ASEAN Community and Corporate Affairs Department (CCAD) to the ASEAN Political-Security Community Department (APSC) to provide dedicated support to the AICHR.

 The full report is available for download:

  The AICHR Annual Report 2016 (481.3 KiB, 2,586 hits)

PRESS RELEASE: AICHR – SOMTC Joint Workshop on Human Rights-based Approach to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, 5 – 6 November 2015, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Posted on: 9 November, 2015

As ASEAN draws closer to the adoption of the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP) and the ASEAN Plan of Action (APA), the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) organised its first ever joint workshop on “Human Rights-based Approach to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children”. Among its objectives is an exchange of ideas between the AICHR, SOMTC, and other relevant ASEAN bodies/sectoral bodies on how human rights and gender perspective should be applied under the ACTIP and its APA.

The Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR, Mr. Rafendi Djamin, underlined that no ASEAN Member State (AMS) is free from the issue of trafficking of women and children, and that it takes place in any form – whether during or after disasters, in the movement of migrant labour, irregular migration caused by war, internal armed conflict, as well as extreme poverty. He emphasised that all forms of trafficking – including force labour, sex labour, or child force labour – are against human dignity and should not exist in modern era. He further stated that trafficking does not come in vacuum, but could be the excess of poverty, irregular migration, war and natural disaster. Finally, he identified that the crosscutting nature of trafficking of women and children could be a start for better cooperation and/or coordination amongst relevant organs/bodies/sectoral bodies of ASEAN.

The Joint Workshop brought together more than seventy (70) participants – coming from the AICHR, SOMTC, various relevant ASEAN bodies/sectoral bodies, ASEAN Secretariat, relevant government agencies of AMS, National Human Rights Institutions of AMS, regional civil society organisations (CSOs), and United Nations (UN) specialised agencies.

 The Chair of SOMTC, H.E. Sieng Lapresse, preceded discussions with his Keynote Remarks – where he called upon participants to look into the affirmations contained in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) and the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD such as “to live in dignity”, freedom from “arbitrary interference with his or her privacy including personal data”, and “the right to free choice of employment”. He addressed that ASEAN should concentrate on the identification of the root cause on trafficking in persons. He viewed the Joint Workshop as the relevant forum and best opportunity for all stakeholders to initiate the development of the right legal structure and policies – building upon existing international law; the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons; Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; as well as the ASEAN Convention and ASEAN Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

Discussions during plenary sessions touched upon human rights perspective on regional initiatives, priorities, as well as policies in combating trafficking in persons (TIPs); application of rights-based approaches towards the implementation on prevention of and protection from TIPs; and highlighted the issue of vulnerability of the people affected by disaster that could become victims of TIPs. Following joint presentation by the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), and Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (DMHA) Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, discussions on TIPs for the first time looked into how it could be prevented and punished in situations of natural, as well as man-made disasters.

Following the Joint Workshop, a special closed discussion session between the AICHR, SOMTC, and relevant ASEAN organs/bodies/sectoral bodies was held – aimed to synthesize their efforts in the prevention, protection, and cooperation in addressing the issue of TIPs. The session finally generated recommendations on possible ways forward to further cooperation. Amongst the possible ways forward, whether already put forward in a work plan of each ASEAN bodies, or in form of a developing idea, include – discussions to raise awareness and understanding on ACTIP and APA after its adoption; an annual meeting between the AICHR, SOMTC, ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMTC) and other ASEAN sectoral bodies related to the issue of TIPs; inviting each other in any activities related to TIPs and human rights; information sharing on programmes of activities on TIPs; identifying areas of cooperation on mutual interest as part of the implementation of ACTIP and APA (e.g. victims of TIPs identification); and the socialisation on the ACWC’s ‘Guidelines on Protection of Women in Trafficked Situations’ through consultation with other ASEAN bodies/sectoral bodies – following its expected adoption in the upcoming 27th ASEAN Summit.