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ANNI: Eight points for the APF

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The Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) presented these points for discussion for the 15th meeting of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions in Bali on 3-5 August 2010.

We the members of the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), thank the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) for the opportunity to speak in this forum. We note the changes to the usual format of the APF meeting, and we sincerely hope that these changes were not meant to preclude meaningful participation of civil society groups in the discussions of the APF.

From 1-2 August 2010, the ANNI and defenders from groups working on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues, met to discuss emerging topics relevant to national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Asia, as well as to dialogue with the NHRIs from the region. During this meeting, after extensive discussions, the participants came to agree on eight (8) points which we are now putting forward for the APF to consider during its strategy-planning process.

First, we note that many reports from the NHRIs this year reflect the issues raised by the ANNI in its previous reports. We appreciate this as a sign that NHRIs are listening to the voices of civil society and placing value on civil society’s views with respect to their work. To further enrich these reports, we propose that the APF develops a template for reporting for its members, which would include information on how the NHRI protects human rights defenders and women human rights defenders on the ground. This is important since we see a rising trend of violence against defenders, particularly against those working on the issues of freedom of expression and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The ANNI extends its offer to assist the APF in developing this template for reporting for its member institutions.

Second, we note that the APF invests huge amounts of time and resources towards the development of the references of the Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ). We welcome the APF’s efforts to work with NGOs in helping develop these references. Hence, we feel that it would be important that there should be a commitment from the member institutions of the APF to seriously consider and take clear steps to implement these recommendations.  For instance, we appreciate the practical steps issued by the APF with respect to its 5 member institutions (Australia, Philippines, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Indonesia) to help them implement the reference of the ACJ on SOGI issues.

Third, we welcome the recommendation from the APF donor review on developing a mechanism for civil society participation in the APF annual meetings.  We would like to inquire however what are the steps being taken to develop this mechanism. The ANNI also offers its assistance in developing such a mechanism.

Fourth, we note the importance of training programmes for the purpose of improving the work of NHRIs. On this point, we call upon the APF to ensure that such training programmes are given to its member institutions. It is important for the APF to emphasize that these training programmes are not only for the staff of NHRIs, but also for its members, including chairpersons. We also believe that members and staff of specialized NHRIs (e.g. women’s commissions and Dalit commissions) should be included in these programmes. Moreover, in conducting these trainings for NHRIs, the APF must ensure that the participants are given the opportunity to study past and present references of the ACJ so that they can be fully utilized by NHRIs in their work. We further encourage the APF to utilize the existing expertise from civil society in these trainings by inviting civil society representatives as resource persons to speak to the members and staff of NHRIs and to share with them their work. This may also pave the way towards better understanding between civil society groups and NHRIs for better collaboration and cooperation.

Fifth, we strongly urge the APF to be mindful of its members’ vital role of engaging with international human rights mechanisms. We propose that the APF assists its member institutions in developing their expertise and capacity on submitting substantial reports to UN treaty bodies and in ensuring that the recommendations of these bodies are implemented by their governments. We also propose that the APF encourages its member institutions to proactively engage with the UN Special Procedures, particularly on advocating their governments to extend invitations to mandate holders for official country visits.

Sixth, we welcome the proposed establishment of sub-regional offices by the APF. We trust that these sub-regional offices will be established in countries accessible to human rights defenders from nearby areas, and that the APF ensures that there will be an entrenched mechanism for working with civil society in these sub-regional offices.

Seventh, we urge the APF to play an active role in the workshops on the regional cooperation in the protection and promotion of human rights. We emphasize this since the Tehran Framework identifies NHRIs as one of the four pillars in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. The APF should also build the capacity of its members in promoting the adoption of national human rights action plans (NHRAPs) by governments and monitoring the implementation of these plans.

, we urge the APF to work with parliaments and governments in countries where there are no NHRIs and assist them in the establishment of Paris Principles-compliant institutions in their countries.  We also urge the APF to include these parliaments and governments in the meetings of the APF so that they would be exposed to other models in the region and learn to appreciate the value of establishing an NHRI for the promotion and protection of human rights  in their country.

With these eight points, the ANNI reiterates its commitment to engage with the APF and its member institutions in promoting and protecting human rights in Asia.

From the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)