of the Working Group and the National Working Groups
Who we are
The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism’s
(Working Group) primary goal is to establish an intergovernmental
human rights commission for ASEAN. It is a coalition of national
working groups from ASEAN states which are composed of representatives
of government institutions, parliamentary human rights committees,
the academe, and NGOs. Working Group follows a step-by-step,
constructive and consultative approach when it engages governments
and other key players in the region.
The Working Group is recommends several options in proposing
for a human rights mechanism. The mechanism may include:
Among these options, the Working Group strongly recommended
the establishment of an intergovernmental human rights commission.
In fact in 2009, during the ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Intergovernmental
Commission on Human Rights or AICHR was inaugurated and launched
in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand.
- A declaration of principles
- A commission with monitoring, promotional,
and recommendatory functions. It may also receive complaints
from states and/or individuals. It may cover all rights,
or initially, be issue-specific where it focuses only on
the rights of migrants or other vulnerable groups. Another
option is having human rights commissions in all ASEAN countries.
A mechanism can be born when they begin coordinating efforts.
- A court which could render binding decisions.
The need for an ASEAN human rights mechanism
Many kinds of human rights violations take place in Southeast
Asia and a regional mechanism can help address this problem.
First, the mechanism will ensure that ASEAN member states
all adhere to international human rights standards. Second,
the mechanism provides a common platform where ASEAN member
states, being socio-politically different from each other,
can articulate their human rights-related concerns. Lastly,
with a human rights mechanism, the region can cooperate to
address violations and collectively show its stand on human
Benefits of a regional human rights mechanism
The mechanism can:
- Assist ASEAN member states in addressing human rights
concerns in their respective areas of jurisdiction;
- Ensure that international human rights laws are observed
and implemented by ASEAN countries who have agreed to them;
- Help ASEAN people have a common understanding of universal
human rights issues and perspectives.
The promise of an ASEAN human rights
In 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action emphasized
the need “to consider the possibility of establishing
regional and sub-regional arrangements for the promotion and
protection of human rights where they do not already exist”.
In the same year, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization
(AIPO) stated that “it is…the task and responsibility
of member states to establish an appropriate regional mechanism
on human rights” in its Declaration on Human Rights.
A growing partnership with ASEAN is creating opportunities
for the eventual creation of an intergovernmental commission:
ASEAN articulates the need for an intergovernmental human
rights body when its foreign ministers “agree[d] that
ASEAN should also consider the establishment of an appropriate
regional mechanism on human rights”. (Singapore)
The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working
Group) is created by the Human Rights Committee of LAWASIA
to push for the creation of an inter-governmental human rights
ASEAN Foreign Ministers acknowledge the Working Group and
note the importance of continuing dialogues between the two
parties on the issue of setting up a human rights mechanism.
The Working Group submits a Draft Agreement for the Establishment
of the ASEAN Human Rights Commission to ASEAN senior officials.
Working Group meetings with senior officials begin and are
“noted with appreciation” by the Foreign Ministers
in joint communiqués. (Bangkok)
The Working Group organizes its first Workshop on an ASEAN
Human Rights Mechanism attended by representatives of governments,
NHRIs, and CSOs. (Jakarta)
[Subsequent workshops are held in Manila (2002, 2007), Bangkok
(2003, 2009), Jakarta (2004), Kuala Lumpur (2006), and Singapore
(2008). The workshops are jointly organized by the Working
Group, a host ASEAN state (through its foreign ministry) and
its NHRI (if any).
ASEAN adopts the Vientiane Action Program (VAP) which lists
human rights action points with a 2010 deadline. (Vientiane)
ASEAN asks the assistance of the Working Group in implementing
the VAP’s human rights provisions. The Working Group
starts convening workshops, RTDs and meetings on the issues
of migrant workers’ rights, women and children’s
rights, human rights education and networking among NHRIs.
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN
Charter establishes an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to give
“bold and visionary” recommendations for the Charter.
The EPG submits its report to the ASEAN Summit. (Manila)
[Throughout the year, the EPG consulted parliamentarians,
ministers, the academe, and civil society to get ideas on
the Charter. The EPG Report includes a provision that the
ASEAN human rights mechanism is “[a] worthy idea [that]
should be pursued further”.]
ASEAN adopts the Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint of the
ASEAN Charter; ASEAN Leaders endorse the EPG Report to the
High Level Task Force (HLTF) created to draft the Charter.
ASEAN NHRIs (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand)
formalize support for a regional mechanism by signing a Declaration
of Cooperation which includes a provision on recommending
steps that could be taken in establishing an ASEAN human rights
mechanism to their respective governments. (Bali)
Article 14 of the proposed ASEAN Charter mandates the establishment
of an ASEAN human rights body “in conformity with the
purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter relating to the
promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers create a High Level Panel (HLP) to
draft the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the ASEAN human rights
The ASEAN Charter is ratified by all 10 ASEAN Member-States.
The ToR for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body
is adopted and approved by the Foreign Ministers. (Phuket)
The AICHR is launched during the ASEAN Summit. ASEAN Member-States
appoint their representatives to the AICHR. (Cha-am Hua Hin)
Working Group is also encouraged by the progress of the national human
rights institutions (NHRIs) in ASEAN States. The Philippines,
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand already have NHRIs, with
Cambodia promising to follow suit. Poised to sign a declaration
of cooperation among themselves, Working Group believes that cooperation
among NHRIs is a precursor to an intergovernmental human rights
With these developments at hand, the possibility of having
a regional human rights mechanism may not be as unlikely as