Working Group Submits POA to ASEAN
of Action (POA) for the establishment of an ASEAN
Human Rights Mechanism was submitted to the ASEAN Senior
Officials Meeting (SOM) in Phnom Penh last June 14, 2003.
This POA is a product of the Conference on Regional Systems
for the Protection of Human Rights last October 6 to 11,
2002 in Strasbourg France and the Third Workshop in Bangkok.
Participants from ASEAN states representing their respective
governments, national human rights institutions, and civil
society groups were convened to come up with the said
POA, which is based on a step-by-step, multi-track, and
multi-sectoral approach involving the people and governments
of ASEAN. Incorporated in the POA were the recommendations
made in the First (Jakarta, 2001) and Second (Manila,
2002) workshops for the ASEAN mechanism on human rights.
The Working Group prepared a Roadmap, which was pursuant
to the POA, and submitted it to the Third Workshop for
an ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights, held in Bangkok,
Thailand, on May 28 to 29, 2003.
The action plan sets four ventures to be taken up by
the Working Group. First, it seeks to involve
ASEAN governments in its pursuit for a mechanism
by drafting a concept paper about the proposed regional
human rights system; by strengthening the involvement
of ASEAN officials in the initiative through
appropriate exchanges and dialogues; and by directly linking
with heads of state to encourage them to take
steps to promote and protect human rights in their respective
countries and in the region.
Under the Plan, the Working Group also seeks to broaden
its support base and constituency through soliciting
the support of ASEAN parliamentarians (AIPO), ASEAN People’s
Assembly, national human rights institutions, and civil
society groups. Establishing a Southeast Asian
Centre for Human Rights is deemed necessary to
serve the following functions: promotion, training and
education, database building, information exchange, networking,
institutional/capacity building to national human rights
institutions, research and publication.
The Working Group has also identified new issues and
challenges that have surfaced in the past years that are
crucial in the establishment of a regional human rights
system. Aside from the issues raised during the workshops
held in Jakarta (2001) and Manila (2002) such as human
trafficking, migrant labour, and internal conflicts, other
matters have also proven to be of equal importance, like
new anti-terrorism laws or proposed laws and their
impact on human rights, the need to respond to questions
and challenges on the mechanism, and the correlation between
foreign investments/multi-national corporations and corresponding
human rights values and the rule of law.
Finally, the Working Group will follow-up on its existing
efforts in maintaining its position with ASEAN. Confidence-building
measures and a step-by-step process will be continuously
undertaken while making references to expressed initiatives
in previous joint communiqués.