Jakarta, 27 September 2016—FORUM-ASIA and the Solidarity for ASEAN Peoples’ Advocacies, for the ninth time, organized a regional consultation on ASEAN and human rights. Focusing on the theme “Strengthening Human Rights Protection through CSOs Participation in the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms,” the consultation was attended by representatives from AICHR, ACWC and ASEAN parliamentarians as well as civil society organisations from across ASEAN. The consultation identified challenges and opportunities for civil society participation in ASEAN, assessed modalities for civil society to contribute to the work of the AICHR and ACWC, and formulated recommendations on engagement strategies for AICHR and ACWC to adopt.
The two-day event commenced with opening remarks from Ms. Betty Yolanda, FORUM-ASIA Co-Director, and H.E. Rahmat Pramono, Indonesia’s Permanent Representative to ASEAN. The panels that followed were composed of distinguished speakers, including H.E. Dinna Wisnu, Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR, H.E. Edmund Bon, Representative of Malaysia to the AICHR, H.E. Lily Purba, Chair of the ACWC, Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, Datin Paduka Hajjah Intan bte Haji Mohammad Kasim, Representative of Brunei Darussalam to the ACWC, and Ms. Eva Sundari, member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights. The speakers provided lessons learned, strategies, and encouragement for civil society organisations in intensifying their participation within ASEAN bodies. Representatives from civil society organisations, including Southeast Asian Committee for Advocacy, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Komnas Perempuan, Pusat KOMAS, Child Rights Coalition Asia, Women Aid Organization, Indonesian Women Coalition, Burma Partnership, and General Election Network for Disability Access, also shared their perspectives and experiences during the panel sessions.
CSOs attending this comprehensive consultation gave key recommendations as well as their observations on the performances of AICHR and ACWC in implementing their respective mandates. They particularly noted the lack of formal engagement mechanisms within ASEAN bodies in reaching out to CSOs and identified this as a challenge that needs to be addressed. Particularly for AICHR, the CSOs hoped for a more transparent and accountable accreditation process for civil society organisations, improved effectiveness by not duplicating initiatives, and utilizing CSOs’ expertise as they are deeply involved in the field. The CSOs also encouraged the ACWC to enhance its visibility among CSOs through active engagements, considering that it does not, as yet, have a formal guideline for engaging with CSOs. All groups expressed the important role of the ASEAN Secretariat in rendering support and coordination, as sound cross-sector collaboration is urgently required to improve human rights protection.
The consultation’s organizing committee will compile all recommendations for submission to relevant ASEAN bodies, in the hope that it would encourage and assist all relevant actors in collaborating with each other to advance human rights protection within the region.