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9th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum – Opening High Level Panel Discussion

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FORUM-ASIA is proud to bring you the 9th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum (AHRDF), a platform for human rights defenders (HRDs) and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) to discuss work and advocacy efforts, and share the experiences and challenges they face.

The AHRDF also aims to enhance HRDs’ engagement with the UN special procedures mandate holders as well as regional and sub-regional human rights mechanisms. Most importantly, the AHRDF aspires to build solidarity and collaboration among Asian W/HRDs to act on common issues at the regional level and support their common struggles.

Join us as we mark 20 years since FORUM-ASIA organised the first AHRDF, in an unprecedented virtual event.

Opening High Level Panel Discussion – 9th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum

Date: Monday, 14 June 2021

Time: 4.00 – 6.00 pm (GMT +7)

Platform: Facebook LiveTwitter Live , YouTube Live
Join the conversation by commenting or tweeting your questions!

The opening high level panel discussion of AHRDF will start with a keynote speech by Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She will share her views on the current situation of defenders in Asia and beyond, as well as the steps taken by her mandate to ensure a better protection for defenders.

In response to the keynote, four prominent figures and defenders, who will also share their observations on the human rights movement in their respective country and/or region, including the challenges, opportunities, innovative strategies and lessons learnt.

Speakers for this session are:

  1. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  2. Maria Ressa, Senior Journalist and CEO of Rappler, the Philippines
  3. Aung Myo Min, Human Rights Minister of National Unity Government, Myanmar
  4. Aruna Roy, woman human rights defenders and social movement leader, India
  5. Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA

Special performance by Mai Khoi, Vietnamese singer, artist and activist.

The situation of human rights defenders in Asia

From 2019 to date, the situation of defenders and civil society organisations across Asia has grown increasingly challenging. Harassment and violations perpetrated against those defending human rights continue to increase and most perpetrators continue to benefit from impunity.

The global COVID-19 crisis, which started in 2020, exacerbated the already worrying situation for defenders. In the past one year alone, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, at least 760 cases of abuses and violations against defenders were recorded across 19 Asian countries, based on FORUM-ASIA’s monitoring. More than half of the cases recorded were related to judicial harassment (409 cases), which is often followed by arbitrary arrest and detention (323 cases). The number of killings is alarming at 55 cases, most of which took place in Myanmar, the Philippines, and Afghanistan.

Despite the restrictive atmosphere, human rights defenders and people from across Asia continue to bravely fight for their rights. Emblematic examples can be seen within the wave of pro-democracy protests that have been taking place in Thailand, the Civil Disobedience Movement in Myanmar, the Farmers Protest in India, and the anti-Omnibus Law protest in Indonesia, which have been held under the banner of the Milk Tea Alliance, alongside peoples’ movements from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Such movements show people’s determination to continuously find new ways to resist the shrinking civic space, and the rise of a new generation of defenders emerging to push for the realisation of human rights.