The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the AICHR CSO Symposium on 13-15 October 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Participated in the Symposium were the AICHR Representatives/Alternates, representatives of ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD), representatives from 20 CSOs with Consultative Relationship with the AICHR (accredited CSOs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and the UN agencies (UNDP and UNESCAP).
In his opening remarks, H.E. Ambassador Barry Desker, Representative of Singapore and Chair of the AICHR, highlighted that since the adoption of the Guidelines on the AICHR Relations with CSOs in 2015, the AICHR has been actively engaging the accredited CSOs through its activities and programmes which address various human rights issues pertinent to ASEAN. Currently there are 30 CSOs accredited to the AICHR.
With the aim to foster understanding of the current development of human rights in ASEAN and to forge meaningful engagement between the AICHR and accredited CSOs, the Symposium provided a platform for interactive discussion on different human rights issues in ASEAN such as women and children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, trafficking in persons, as well as business and human rights. The Symposium also marked the second time the AICHR hold a Roundtable Discussion (RTD) with the accredited CSOs. The RTD focused on the way forward to enhance consultation, coordination and cooperation between the AICHR and accredited CSOs in the promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN. Few recommendations were enumerated and discussed in a frank and open manner, including to institutionalise the RTD.
As part of the Symposium, the participants went for site visits, including to Ban Pha Mee whereby members of the Akha tribe initiated a community-based tourism focusing on coffee produce and weaving. This form of tourism helps to showcase the local community culture while still preserving their values and lifestyle. In addition, the participants also visited the Mae Fah Luang University ranking the 9th among universities in Thailand which this year celebrated its 20th Anniversary and espousing Sustainable Development Goals into its operations.
Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, organised the Symposium on behalf of the AICHR with support from the Government of Norway.