MNHRC assumes Chairmanship of SEANF
5 October 2015
The South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) is an independent sub-regional human rights forum comprising the six existing national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in South East Asia, namely the NHRIs of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste.
Chairperson U Win Mra and Member U Nyunt Swe of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) attended the 12th Annual Meeting of the South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) which was held in Putrajaya, Malaysia on 29-30 September 2015.
The Annual Meeting was held with two components: SEANF Seminar on the Role of NHRIs in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and 12th Annual Meeting of SEANF. The SEANF Seminar was attended by 108 participants from various stakeholders including SEANF Members, Government agencies, United Nations agencies, NGOs, academic institutions and the media.
At the 12th Annual Meeting, the agenda items such as SEANF – The Way Forward; Establishing of SEANF Permanent Secretariat; Human Rights and Climate Change; Business and Human Rights; National Human Rights Action Plan; Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals; Abolition of the Death Penalty; and Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Victims of Trafficking were discussed.
On the principle of rotation, the SEANF Chairmanship was handed over from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) at the conclusion of the 12th Annual Meeting of SEANF.
The SEANF Members also issued a SEANF Communiqué ahead of the 27th ASEAN Summit containing recommendations on various human rights issues.
The South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF)
ahead of the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015
- The South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) is an independent sub-regional human rights forum comprising the six existing national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in South East Asia, namely the NHRIs of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste. Established formally in 2007, SEANF envisages to promote greater respect for and fulfilment of human rights in South East Asian nations.
- SEANF congratulates ASEAN for the significant progress it has accomplished especially in the recent past. SEANF also commends ASEAN for the countless efforts it has undertaken towards fulfilling its raisons d’etre for the betterment of the lives of its peoples. The establishment of the much anticipated ASEAN Community by year’s end will mark a new beginning in ASEAN’s journey towards fostering a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress, as envisioned in the ASEAN Charter.
- In ASEAN’s endeavour to achieve the ends of the soon-to-be adopted ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision, and to realise a truly people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN Community, we, Members of SEANF respectfully submit the following recommendations to ASEAN Heads of States/Governments ahead of the 27th ASEAN Summit scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015:
International Human Rights Mechanisms
i. That ASEAN Member States become parties to the core international human rights instruments and take concrete measures to harmonise their domestic laws with international human rights standards;
ii.That ASEAN Member States engage actively with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures;
ASEAN Human Rights Instruments and Mechanisms
iii.That ASEAN Member States uphold and adhere to the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) and other ASEAN instruments relating to the promotion and protection of human rights including the ASEAN Declaration against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region and the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers;
iv. That the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) be further strengthened by, inter alia, broadening their mandates to allow it to receive and look into complaints of alleged human rights violations and to offer their recommendations;
v. That AICHR and ACWC establish a platform for formal engagement and consultation with relevant stakeholders including NHRIs and civil society organisations;
vi. That ASEAN seriously consider establishing, in the foreseeable future, an ASEAN Human Rights Court;
National Human Rights Institutions and Mechanisms
vii. That ASEAN Member States establish national human rights institutions (NHRIs), where they do not exist, and strengthen the existing ones, in accordance with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (the Paris Principles);
viii. That ASEAN recognise the essential role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights at the national, regional and international levels. While currently, only five of the ten ASEAN Member States have NHRIs, it is nonetheless important for ASEAN and its bodies to engage and consult with the existing NHRIs and with SEANF on a regular basis on matters pertaining to human rights;
ix. That ASEAN Member States develop national human rights action plans and effectively implement them;
Civil and Political Rights
x. That ASEAN Member States take measures to guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to information, including freedom of the media, the right to security and freedom from arbitrary detention, as well as freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to peaceful assembly and all related rights;
xii. That ASEAN Member States work closely together and redouble their efforts in combating trafficking in persons;
xii. That ASEAN Member States take progressive steps towards abolishing the death penalty, and pending its abolition, enforce a moratorium on executions;
Business and Human Rights
xiii. That ASEAN Member States dedicate greater efforts to raising awareness on the responsibility of non-state actors, in particular business entities, be they multinational corporations or small and medium enterprises, to observe human rights principles and standards in the course of their business operations;
xiv. That ASEAN Member States take steps to put in place policies and regulations that require business entities to undertake human rights due diligence and conduct human rights impact assessments.
xv. That ASEAN Member States develop a national action plan on the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
xvi. That ASEAN Member States give due consideration to the serious haze situation in the region that has been recurring for many years. SEANF is disappointed with the lack of action taken by the relevant ASEAN Governments against the perpetrators, including corporations, which have contributed to this highly unfavourable environmental condition that has led to various human rights violations, especially on the right to health. In this regard, SEANF wishes to refer to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which emphasises the obligation of the State to protect human rights and the responsibility of business entities to respect human rights. It is therefore incumbent upon the Governments to ensure that the appropriate laws and policies are in place and are enforced strictly to address this longstanding issue, as well as to combat corruption and eliminate the culture of impunity. Corporate entities must also take into account human rights principles and standards in the course of their operations.
Marginalised and Vulnerable Groups
xvii. That ASEAN Member States take concrete measures to safeguard the rights of marginalised and vulnerable groups including women, children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, older persons; migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons;
xviii. That ASEAN Member States adopt an ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons and lend strong support to the international initiative led by the Latin American and Caribbean States for a United Nations Convention on Older Persons;
xix. That ASEAN Member States expedite the finalisation and adoption of the ASEAN Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, pursuant to Article 22 of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers of 2007. The Instrument should be a legally binding document that seeks to promote and protect the human rights of documented and undocumented migrant workers as well as their family members within ASEAN countries;
Economic and Social Rights
xx. That ASEAN Member States make primary education compulsory, equally accessible and free to all;
xxi. That ASEAN Member States inculcate a culture of human rights by, inter alia, including human rights subjects and courses in schools and institutions of higher learning;
xxii. That ASEAN Member States undertake the necessary measures, to the maximum extent of their available resources, to ensure that the following rights, as well as other economic, social and cultural rights of the ASEAN peoples are realised and protected.
a. Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
b. Right to adequate, affordable and decent housing;
c. Right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
Right to Development and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals
xxiii. That ASEAN Member States, in promoting sustainable development, adopt a human rights based approach to development, as well as uphold and abide by the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC);
xxiv. That ASEAN Member States make every effort, in close cooperation and consultation with various stakeholders, including NHRIs and civil society organisations, to achieve the 17 goals and 169 targets underscored under the recently adopted Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals within the given timeframe;
xxv. That the proposed ‘ASEAN Development Goals’, as underscored in the Nay Pyi Taw Declaration on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision of November 2014, do not duplicate but complement the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, in addressing the economic and social rights of the ASEAN peoples;
Human Rights and Climate Change
xxvi. That ASEAN Member States continue to give due attention to the potentially adverse impacts of climate change on the human rights of its peoples, and intensify national and regional efforts to identify and adopt mitigation and adaptation measures that are not in contravention with human rights standards; and
xxvii. That ASEAN Member States support the adoption of a universal and legally binding international agreement on climate change that will seek to keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade, at the upcoming 21st Session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) scheduled to take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.
4. We sincerely hope that ASEAN Heads of States/Governments will consider positively the SEANF’s recommendations, with a view to advancing the promotion and protection of human rights in South East Asia.