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NGOs meet in Jakarta to strategise on ASEAN human rights mechanism

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asean.jpgASEAN human rights organisations met in Jakarta, from 5-8 August, for a comprehensive and strategic consultation meeting to ensure that the High Level Panel set up an independent and effective regional human rights mechanism. The three-day “Second Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights” was participated by more than 60 participants across ASEAN and beyond.

This turned out to be the largest gathering of human rights defenders to discuss the ASEAN human rights mechanism (AHRM) after the appointment of High Level Panel(HLP) were announced in Singapore in July.

The HLP is expected to submit its first draft of the terms of reference of the AHRB to ASEAN leaders during the 14th ASEAN Summit in December 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand.

“This meeting will bring in key actors to discuss plans toward the establishment of the AHRB and other human rights mechanism(s) that ASEAN has obliged to set up including the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children and the Instrument on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers”, said Rafendi Djamin, convenor of the Civil Society Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (Task Force).

The Task Force is a network of 16 national and regional organisations in ASEAN, which is the organiser of the three-day meeting.

While it plans to set up the AHRB according to the ASEAN Charter, it also intends to establish two other human rights mechanisms on women and children and migrant workers, slated for year 2010, as stipulated by the Vientiane Action Programme.

Meanwhile, the consultation also brought together representatives from the Indonesian Government, ASEAN Secretariat, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, and National Human Rights Institutions in ASEAN.

“The consultation will also discuss how the proposed regional human rights mechanism would be able to address critical issues confronting ASEAN such as internal conflicts, free trade agreements, and the ongoing crisis in Burma”, said Yap Swee Seng, the Acting Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, a regional human rights organisation with 42 members in 15 countries.

The outcome of the consultation will be submitted to members of the HLP at national and regional levels. Participants have shared their views and have proposed strategies to engage effectively with ASEAN governments, ASEAN Secretariat, and HLP members.

To commemorate the 41st Anniversary of ASEAN, the Task Force held a press conference to highlight the outcome of the consultation held on 7 August , followed by a public debate on 8 August in Aryaduta Hotel, Jakarta.

The public debate entitled “Challenges and Opportunities in Implementing the ASEAN Charter and its Blueprints towards a genuine People-Centred Regional Organisation” was participated by several speakers including representatives from the Indonesia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation, University of Indonesia, and Oxfam International.

For more information, please contact: Rafendi Djamin, Convenor, Civil Society Task Force on Human Rights, +6281311442159, [email protected].