Discussion Examines ASEAN’s New Chapter on Human
In his welcome remarks, Co-Chair Marzuki Darusman of the
Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working
Group) noted that the 4th Roundtable Discussion on Human
Rights in ASEAN (RTD) was being held at an auspicious
time. All member-states of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) have ratified the ASEAN
Charter which has, as its human rights centre-piece,
an article which promises the establishment of an ASEAN
human rights body (AHRB).
H.E. Virasakdi Futrakul, the permanent secretary for
foreign affairs of Thailand, emphasized that the ratification
of the Charter marks a new chapter for human rights in
ASEAN in his keynote speech. Delivered by Deputy Permanent
Secretary Charivat Santaputra, he drew from the RTD’s
theme of “Realizing the People-Oriented ASEAN Community
with Human Rights” and described the AHRB as one
of the manifestations of the commitment to building a
people-oriented ASEAN. Citing the regular consultations
with regional stakeholders being undertaken by the High
Level Panel (HLP) on the AHRB, he asserted that this
participation and access by the people should continue
once the AHRB is operational.
The chairperson of the HLP, H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkeow,
then shared the progress and developments in the drafting
of the AHRB’s terms of reference. He also discussed
some of the key elements that are being considered by
the HLP taking into consideration both the international
and regional context.
Other sessions during the RTD focused on the promotion
and protection of rights of women and children as well
as migrant workers in the ASEAN context, the role of national
human rights institutions in the changing environment
of ASEAN, and the pending issues for consideration which
face the establishment of the AHRB and its relationship
with other proposed human rights mechanisms.
Working Group Co-Chair Vitit Muntarbhorn, also an alternate
member of the HLP, gave the participants a comprehensive
outline of the three ongoing tracks in ASEAN (pertaining
to the Charter-based AHRB, the ASEAN Committee on the
Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection
and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, and the
ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Women
and Children’s Rights (ACWC). The current discussion
in ASEAN, he said, favored the “alignment”
of these mechanisms.
Participants, comprised of representatives from foreign
ministries, government agencies which are responsible
for ASEAN cooperation on the rights of women, children
and migrant workers, national human rights commissions,
as well as members of the Working Group, threshed out
exactly how ASEAN’s human rights commitments can
be accomplished in this new chapter.
From the floor, representatives from agencies relating
to women and children’s issues reported that the
focal points for the ASEAN Committee on Women and the
Senior Officials Meeting of Social Welfare and Development
have resolved to work together and to set up a multidisciplinary
Working Group in the first quarter of 2009 as a first
step towards the establishment of the ACWC. This move
was welcomed by the participants who also affirmed that
the ACWC process can and should be independent and separate
from the process of establishing the AHRB. They acknowledged
that, while there are streamlining issues to consider,
these can be dealt with more competently after the establishment
of these bodies.
In effect, the participants envisioned an overarching
framework where the AHRB is aligned with the proposed
commissions (on women and children as well as migrant
workers) and has collaborative ties with them.
The RTD was held in Bangkok from November 20-21, 2008,
and was jointly organized by the Working Group for an
ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, and the National
Human Rights Commission of Thailand.
the Summary of Proceedings of the 4th Roundtable Discussion
on Human Rights in ASEAN: Realizing the People-Oriented
ASEAN Community with Human Rights here.