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NGOs participated actively in 11th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights

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FORUM-ASIA recently participated in the 11th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) in Suva, Fiji from 31 July to 3 August 2006. There was an overall increase of non-governmental organisations participation at the event. FORUM-ASIA's Rashid Kang reports on the achievements and output of the activities in Fiji.{mosimage}

FORUM-ASIA recently participated in the 11th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) in Suva, Fiji from 31 July to 3 August 2006.

FORUM-ASIA also participated in the Human Rights Defenders Forum organised back to back with the APF, on 30 July and 4-5 August 2006 respectively.

FORUM-ASIA’s delegation comprised of two members from the secretariat, member organisations – Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM, Malaysia), Information Monitor (INFORM ,Sri Lanka) and partner organisations – People’s Watch Tamil Nadu (PWTN, India) and Human Rights Working Group (HRWG, Indonesia).

Aside from the annual update from the NHRIs and governments in the Asia Pacific region, this year’s meeting also focused on the issues of human rights defenders, International Labour Organisation standards, rights to education and trafficking of women and children.

There were three key important achievements and output from this meeting.

First, a special slot was created in the meeting to facilitate better NGOs participation under the agenda “Reports from NGOs”. NGOs present in the APF took full advantage of the 30 minutes opportunity to speak and coordinated among themselves to deliver six oral statements.

11th apfInitiated by FORUM-ASIA, a general statement on the national and regional/ international cooperation between NGOs and NHRIS was delivered. The final text was read by Rafendi Djamin from HRWG, Indonesia.

With this, national NGOs who are engaged with NHRIs or monitoring their performance are expected to follow-up with the recommendations in the statement with their respective NHRIs.

Secondly, FORUM-ASIA and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) also delivered a joint proposal to the APF on the role of NHRIs in protecting Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). The proposal was circulated on the third day of the meeting (Aug 3), which was held parallel to the NGOs discussion forum on Human Rights Defenders. Anselmo Lee made a presentation from the perspective of regional NGOs on the role of NHRIs in protecting human rights defenders, on behalf of FORUM-ASIA and APWLD.

FORUM-ASIA and APWLD also coordinated with the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) to deliver a joint statement on NHRIs and NGOs cooperation.

Following these conscious and coordinated efforts, the APF decided in its concluding statement:

“Heard presentations from representatives of international, regional and national non-governmental organisations on the rights of human rights defenders. The Forum Council affirmed the complementary roles of national institutions and non-governmental organisations as defenders of human rights and as human rights defenders themselves. It recognised the particular responsibilities of national institutions towards human rights defenders and visa versa. It requested the secretariat to explore how the members of the Forum can protect and promote the rights of human rights defenders more effectively at regional and national levels.”

This decision provides ample space for further intervention by NGOs to ensure NHRIs perform a better job in supporting the work of HRDs.

(See full text of concluding statement here:

Third, FORUM-ASIA in collaboration with its members from nine countries in Asia, produced and circulated a compilation of Regional Assessment on the Performance of NHRIs and their Cooperation with NGOs in Nine Countries in Asia.

The compilation was considered first of its kind in the APF meeting and was widely appreciated as substantive contribution from NGOs. It was considered a shadow report to the the list of official reports by individual NHRI to the APF. The report is available on line at: The advanced copy can be downloaded here.

As a follow-up to this, FORUM-ASIA will publish a more comprehensive publication which will include the official report of the respective NHRIs, the NGOs review on NHRI report, as well as the “shadow report” – the annual assessment by the NGOs on their NHRIs. Such publication will be very useful for advocacy work to ensure the accountability of the NHRIs.