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NHRIs strengthen links with ASEAN's human rights body

Graphic: Participants at the APF Dialogue on the right to a healthy environment

An APF event, held in Bangkok from 24-25 November, brought together SE Asia NHRIs, AICHR representatives, and leading civil society organisations.

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Asia Pacific Forum LogoAsia Pacific Forum

Participants at a two-day event organised by the APF have canvassed a range of opportunities for national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in South East Asia to contribute substantively to the work of ASEAN’s regional human rights body.

The workshop, held in Bangkok from 24-25 November 2022, brought together NHRIs from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste, along with State representatives to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The discussions, which also included representatives from leading civil society organisations in the region, considered national and regional strategies to promote a human rights-based approach to climate change and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

It was encouraging to see such an open exchange of information among all participants, as well as a willingness to ensure that NHRIs can contribute constructively to the development of AICHR’s proposed region-wide framework on the environment.

Asia Pacific Forum Logo Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director

As part of the workshop, AICHR representatives shared their insights on: 

  • Developments for a possible regional framework on environmental rights in ASEAN (Prof. Dr. Amara Pongsapich, Thailand)
  • Access to remedies and grievance mechanisms in environmental cases in business and human rights (H.E. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Aishah Bidin, Malaysia)
  • Children’s rights and the environment in the ASEAN context (Ms Aileen Mendiola-Rau, Philippines) 

NHRIs representatives shared examples of their work on human rights and climate change, including a public inquiry on haze pollution conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

In addition, the NHRIs of Thailand and the Philippines provided updates on activities they are conducting as part of a small grants project funded by the European Union. Both projects will provide national-level data and perspectives for AICHR representatives to consider in the development of the proposed regional framework on environmental rights.

The workshop also considered alternative approaches for addressing cross-border human rights issues. Roberto Cadiz, former Commissioner with the Philippines’ NHRI, joined the meeting via Zoom to discuss a proposal for convening inter-NHRI panels of inquiry that could collect evidence and testimonies in their respective countries and develop joint recommendations to inform national and regional advocacy.

Graphic: Participants during the workshop sessions

Civil society representatives were active participants throughout the workshop and provided updates on their advocacy efforts at the national and regional levels. They also shared insights on the shrinking civic space for environmental human rights defenders in the region and the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, women and vulnerable communities.

The workshop deepened connections established during an initial dialogue, held in June 2022, where NHRIs and AICHR representatives discussed their respective mandates and considered opportunities for collaboration on climate change and the right to a healthy environment.

“What was clearly evident is the deep willingness among both NHRIs and AICHR representatives to continue to share information and expertise, including at a regional workshop to be hosted by the APF in the first half of 2023,” Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director, APF secretariat, said.

The workshop was part of a multi-year project to promote engagement between NHRIs and regional inter-governmental mechanisms to address human rights issues in South-East Asia and the Pacific, funded by the European Union and coordinated by the APF.

Date: 2 December 2022

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Funded by the European Union

Image credits

  1. Participants at the APF Dialogue on the right to a healthy environment - APF/James Iliffe
  2. Participants during the workshop sessions - APF/James Iliffe
  3. EU logo - European Union