• HRRC Launches Latest ASEAN-wide Study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN”

    Jakarta, 12 January 2015—The HRRC today presented its latest research project, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN,” at a launch in Jakarta attended by a cross-section of society. After HRRC’s Executive Director, Mr. Marzuki Darusman, welcomed the guests, remarks were given by H.E. Stig Traavik, Norway’s Ambassador to Indonesia; H.E. Rafendi Djamin, Indonesia’s Representative to the AICHR; and H.E. Ong Keng Yong, former Secretary-General of the ASEAN and Chairperson of the HRRC’s Governing Board.
    The study takes its inspiration from the Article 22 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, wherein the Member States make a firm pledge guaranteeing freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as a fundamental freedom, and express a strong statement that “All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and beliefs shall be eliminated.”
    This political intent to eradicate religious intolerance in ASEAN is highly commendable, particularly as it sets the bar high at eliminating incitement of hatred. This study aims to contribute to understanding how, and in what ways both Member States and ASEAN as a regional grouping can begin to honour this commitment by providing an overview of state practice on the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion across ASEAN. Aside from highlighting serious issues of religious persecution and conflict, it provides a critical analysis of recent significant events, through which ASEAN, its Member States, and civil society organizations can reflect on both the progress made and the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that this aspiration is fulfilled.
    While being encouraged by the commitment contained in the AHRD, the study draws heavily from the norms and standards that have been developed in international law with respect to Article 18 of the ICCPR.
    This study hopes to support regional and domestic efforts to ensure religious freedom, including those of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in fulfilling its function of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN. It may also assist ASEAN Member States in determining further measures to take to promote effective implementation of international human rights treaty obligations, as well as encourage them to consider acceding to and ratifying international human rights instruments. Furthermore, this study aims to underscore recent empirical research which notes the positive impact freedom of religion or belief in furthering other development and social aims.
    Comprised of 10 Country Reports covering each of the ASEAN Member States and a Synthesis Report, the study is funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta and led by Dr. Jaclyn Neo of the National University of Singapore. The lead researcher and 10 country rapporteurs received guidance and feedback from six advisors with established expertise in research methodology, freedom of religion, and/or conflict (including based on religious intolerance). These advisors are Professor David Cohen of the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Professor Kevin Tan of the National University of Singapore, Professor Tore Lindholm of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Professors Cole Durham and Brett Scharrfs of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, and Ms. Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis on Conflict.
    It is a basic premise of this report that human rights abuses have significant domestic as well as regional impact. Guaranteeing religious freedom and preventing religious discrimination, intolerance, and persecution which could lead to religiously-triggered conflict is key to guaranteeing peace and security in the region, trans-nationally as well as domestically.
  • HRRC Concludes Round of Consultations on “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN”

    Jakarta, 5 December 2014—The Human Rights Resource Centre today concludes the round of consultations for its upcoming study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN.” The Study will comprise ten Country Reports, covering each of the ASEAN member-states, as well as a Synthesis Report that would provide an overview of the state of religious freedom in the region.
    Since the completion of the draft Synthesis and Country Reports at the end of July 2014, the HRRC has sought feedback on the reports from experts and practitioners engaged in the promotion and protection of religious freedom. Aside from providing a number of respected experts, academics, and government representatives with drafts of the reports, the HRRC has also held two experts meetings.
    A consultation was first held on 10 August 2014 in Singapore. This consultation was attended by Professor Kevin Tan of the National University of Singapore and Professor Tore Lindholm of the University of Oslo (both Advisors of the study), the Lead Researcher, and staff of the HRRC. Inputs of Professors Tan and Lindholm and the other Advisors of the study, including Mr. Brett Scharrfs of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University; Ms. Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis on Conflict; Professor Cole Durham of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies; and Professor David Cohen of the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice, had also been obtained at various stages of the drafting of the reports. This first consultation was held for the purpose of advising the Lead Researcher and staff of the HRRC on the overall direction of the study. The deliberately small and intimate setting allowed for honest discussions and analysis with regard to the progress of the reports and the challenges that need to be addressed. 
    A broader consultation was subsequently conducted on 8 October 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Attended by members of the academe, NGOs, and a few government representatives, the consultation gave practitioners in the field a chance to comment, provide suggestions, and even criticise the methodology and the findings of the study. The regional consultation provided the researchers and the staff of the HRRC with different perspectives from which to view the issue of freedom of religion, thought, conscience, and belief.
    The study has benefitted significantly from the consultations, with experts and practitioners charitably giving their time to review and comment on the reports. A group of NGOs also took the initiative of drafting a letter providing helpful comments on the report. The study is also richer because of the new information provided by experts that the team consulted with.
    The study is currently undergoing a final editing process and is anticipated to be launched in January in Jakarta, Indonesia. “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN” is supported by the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta.
  • HRRC Shares Main Findings of its Study on Freedom of Religion at a Regional Conference in Jakarta

    Jakarta, 18 November 2014—On 17-18 October 2014, Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), Families of Missing Persons Associations (IKOHI), Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) convened a regional conference on “Strengthening Accountability for Violations of Religious Freedom in Southeast Asia.”
    In a session entitled “Strengthening accountability for mass religious-based violence in Asia: a transitional justice approach,” Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC Research and Project Coordinator, was invited to present relevant findings of “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom on the Region.” Additionally, the organisers invited her to speak on “Comparative Lessons on Freedom of Religion and Beliefs in ASEAN,” providing the Philippine experience.
    The conference was organized to contribute to the process of stocktaking of religious freedom and accountability for religious-based violations in Southeast Asia. The preamble of the ASEAN Charter affirms the importance of complying with the principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion. However, the organisers noted that many ASEAN countries continue to struggle to make freedom of religion a reality for all its citizens. Attended by academics and researchers, the event aimed to identify key issues and share initiatives to combat impunity for religious-based violence in Southeast Asia, provide a space for victims and civil society groups from Southeast Asia to exchange experiences and strengthen understanding, and formulate recommendations and follow-up at national and regional-levels.
    The event was supported by Yayasan Bina Damai and the European Commission, and was organized to commemorate the International Day on Promoting Tolerance, observed on 16 November 2014. 
  • HRRC Attends AICHR’s “Workshop on Regional Mechanisms: Best Practices on Implementation of Human Rights”

    Bangkok, 18 November 2014—The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is the newest regional human rights mechanism and is also the first sub-regional human rights commission in the Asian region. Since it was established in 2009, the AICHR has played an important role in promoting human rights in the region. However, many challenges remain. Thus, in this regard, the AICHR convened a “Workshop on Regional Mechanisms: Best Practices on Implementation of Human Rights.”
    Upon the invitation of the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, the HRRC, through its Deputy Director, Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall, participated in the workshop that was held on 17-18 November in Bangkok. The programme was organised with a view to creating a platform to exchange and share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned among representatives from regional human rights mechanisms around the globe and other relevant stakeholders, including representatives from government agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, UN agencies and CSOs. The workshop also aimed to enhance and regularise cooperation between the AICHR and other regional mechanisms as well as other stakeholders for the better promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN. 
  • HRRC Gives Overview of Business and Human Rights in ASEAN at SUHAKAM Roundtable Discussion

    Kuala Lumpur, 10 November 2014 — On Monday 10 November, the Malaysian National Human Rights Commission, SUHAKAM, together with UNDP Malaysia, held a roundtable discussion for business on Business & Human Rights at the Sheraton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The event forms part of a series of roundtables through which SUHAKAM is drafting a framework for Malaysia's National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights.
    HRRC's Michelle Staggs Kelsall was asked to give a regional overview of the business and human rights situation in ASEAN as part of the discussion. The keynote address was given by Caroline Rees of Shift, who noted the importance of many regional developments in ASEAN for the global landscape, most notably developments pertaining to the stock exchanges' sustainability indices in the region. Malaysia's Chair of ASEAN in 2015 may provide an important avenue for SUHAKAM to build regional momentum around the adoption of National Action Plans amongst ASEAN's six NHRIs, as well as in the broader Asia-Pacific.
  • RAFI Project Team Presents Evolving Draft of the Reporting Framework in Rounds of Consultations in Jakarta

    Jakarta, 7 November 2014—The Project Team of the Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative (RAFI) conducted a regional experts consultation today, concluding the series of RAFI consultations in Jakarta for this year. Earlier on Wednesday this week, the 5th of November, the Project Team had also conducted its third consultation with civil society organisations working in Indonesia. During these consultations, the Team gave an update on the developments of the RAFI to date. Particularly, it presented the first drafts of the reporting framework and its implementation guide.
    Reporting initiatives are now becoming part of the greater landscape of business and human rights activities. There are a growing number of international regulatory and other requirements for companies to report on their human rights performance, including in ASEAN. This has raised the question of what good reporting on company alignment with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, as well as good assurance of such reports, should involve—a question that RAFI seeks to respond to.
    Rounds of consultations on the RAFI to date have brought important insights to the initiative. Reports of all consultations to date (in Bangkok, Jakarta, London, Medellin, New Delhi and New York) are posted on the initiative’s portal. The Project Team has recently issued an update of key “take-aways” from the consultations as well as bilateral discussions and webinars conducted from January to July 2014, which are setting the direction of the initiative’s next stages.
    Following on from the second round of in-depth, expert consultations with small, multi-stakeholder groups in New York and London in April of this year, the Project Team held their second round of consultation with regional experts in Jakarta to get in-depth feedback on the evolving draft of the human rights reporting framework, as well as its implementation guide. The consultation also discussed some key principles that could underpin the assurance framework. Experts shared their opinions on whether they thought the framework would elicit reports that would be meaningful for stakeholders to read and whether such reports would support better dialogues and conversations, both within the company and with external stakeholders. The experts also commented on the information sought by the framework—whether the disclosure sought would be viable for companies to report on.
    Both consultations with regional experts and Indonesian CSOs form part of the Project Team’s strategy to invite active engagement and input on the RAFI and were supported by the Swiss Embassy in Jakarta.
  • Understanding and Implementing Respect for Human Rights in a Business Context: A Conference for Business Leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia

    Jakarta, 6 November 2014—Today, a unique and timely conference will be held in Jakarta to explore the responsibilities of business regarding human rights – including good practices, innovations and challenges. Over 150 representatives from Indonesian private and state-owned enterprises, multinational companies, and civil society experts will convene to exchange experiences, share challenges, and suggest ways forward regarding human rights in a business context.
    The conference will be in plenary and small group discussion sessions and will explore:
    • Recent context and developments, including the value of international standards and the  UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
    • Business perspectives on what respect for human rights means in practice, including how companies get started, what the business case is, and how to integrate human rights into business operations
    • Issues and priorities for Indonesia and ASEAN from the perspective of civil society – including human rights challenges and common issues and impacts
    • Practices to address particular impacts including: core labour rights; impacts via business relationships, including supply chain, joint ventures and customers; and communities, indigenous peoples and security practices
    The objectives of the conference are to:
    • Convene a committed group of business representatives from Indonesia to discuss corporate action around the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
    • Demonstrate the business benefits of integrating respect for human rights into operations, products and services
    • Introduce the UN Guiding Principles, and tools and resources to assist businesses in their human rights journey
    • Explore common human rights challenges that businesses facearound the world
    • Share business experiences and approaches to implementing corporate respect for human rights in policies, processes and systems
    The conference is being convened by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), the Human Rights Resource Centre, Praxity Member Firms in Indonesia and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights.
    Contact: Praxity Indonesia - bahtiar.manurung@moores-rowland.comHuman Rights Resource Centre – info@hrrca.orgGlobal Business Initiative on Human Rights – katryn.wright@global-business-initiative.orgKamar Dagang dan Industri (Kadin)
  • RAFI is Introduced in the Philippines for the First Time

    Manila, 4 November 2014—Caroline Rees, President of Shift, visited Manila this month to present the Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative (RAFI) at an event organized by Shift and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Asia (ESCR-Asia), in cooperation with the Makati Business Club, Integrity Initiative, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, and Asian Consortium on Human Rights-Based Access to Justice. The RAFI is a project of Shift and Mazars, in liaison with the Human Rights Resource Centre.
    “Profitable Partnerships: A Workshop on Business and Human Rights in Select Countries in Asia,” aimed to increase understanding on the background and the highlights of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). The event was attended by a variety of stakeholders which included representatives from embassies based in Manila, some officers from the national human rights institution of Afghanistan, government offices, business associations, and NGOs.
    During her presentation, Rees gave an overview of the UNGP, focusing specifically on its 2nd Pillar, which relates to the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights. She compared the concept of business and human rights to corporate social responsibility, the latter being a more familiar term in the region. She went in depth and explained the components of human rights due diligence, which requires corporates to assess their human rights impacts, integrate their findings, tract the responses to their measures, and communicate the results to stakeholders. She went on to describe why the project teamdeveloped RAFI, as well as the RAFI’s objective and approach. Finally, she presented the evolving draft of the reporting framework.
    The participants were enthusiastic during the discussions, expressing a desire to know more about the ramifications of the framework, including its limitations, pitfalls, benefits, and the expected challenges. Participants were particularly interested in how companies can be encouraged to utilise such a reporting framework, suggesting some avenues for the project team to consider. The eager responses from the participants appear to indicate that there is room for further discussion of the RAFI, as well as related activities, in the Philippines.

Supported by

logo MAZARSMacArthur Foundation logoNorwayEMB logoeast west center logo