International Relations

The Human Rights Council Seminar on Universal Periodic Review (13-14) June 2013

 The elegant Mount Pleasant Hotel (Nay Pyi Taw) was the venue for the Seminar on Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review that was jointly organized by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South East Asia Region (Bangkok) from the 13th to 14th of this month.

A total of (46) participants and resource persons attended the seminar. The participants cut across a broad range of stakeholders including parliamentarians, relevant concerned ministries, UN organizations, civil society groups and NGOs.

The Chairman of the MNHRC U Win Mra and Regional Director of OHCHR Ms. Matilda Bogner made welcoming remarks on the occasion. Both U Win Mra and Ms. Matilda touched on the importance of various stakeholders’ initiatives in preparing Myanmar’s report for the second cycle, which is due in 2015. Ms Heike Alefsen OHCHR (Bangkok) then made a presentation on the “Brief overview of the UPR, – process and substance,” followed by a presentation delivered by U Nyunt Swe, member of MNHRC on the “Implementation of 2011 UPR of Myanmar-Recommendations and Preparations for the 2015 UPR.” In his presentation U Nyunt Swe dwelt in detail on the recommendations and called on the participants to make best use of this workshop to prepare for the second cycle report.

The afternoon session resumed with a presentation by Ms. Pittikan Suthidej, Deputy Director General, Rights and Liberties Protection Department Ministry of Justice, Thailand on the “Preparation, Conduct and follow up of the UPR Review of Thailand 2011, prioritization of recommendations for Implementation, coordination and the roles of government departments- reflections on theory and practice,” followed by a presentation by Ms. Karen Gomez-Dumipt, Director for Government linkages, Commission on Human Rights of Philippines on the “ Priority areas of substantive focus for implementation and the contribution of civil society in ensuring the effective implementation of the UPR.” A penal discussion involving all the resource persons followed the tea break and the discussions centered round the UPR process. The discussions were stimulating and invoked a lot of interest. The first day’s session came to a close at 17:00 hrs. In the evening, a dinner was hosted by the Regional Representative at the Tower Restaurant of the Hotel.

The session for Day Two started with a presentation by Ms. Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Chairperson on Human Rights of the Philippines and the Philippines Chairperson put up a short but informative presentation on “Cooperation between National Human Rights Institutions and Government, Parliament and civil society in the UPR”.

A question and answer session followed the presentation, after which the participants were divided into (3) groups to discuss about the “2011 Universal Periodic Review recommendations for Myanmar-Prioritization and Implementation.” The Group presentations were put up after lunch to the Plenary Session.

The rapporteurs of each group did justice to their groups’ efforts by their presentations and the seminar came to a close with remarks by the Chairperson of the MNHRC.

Member of the MNHRC U Nyunt Swe attends the Human Rights Workshop held in Bangkok

At the invitation of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, U Nyunt Swe, Member of the MNHRC attended the Workshop entitled “ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism: Challenges and Ways Forward” which was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 10-11 June 2013.

The main objective of the Workshop is to prepare the ground for the review of the Terms of Reference of existing ASEAN human rights mechanisms, among others. The Workshop was attended by the representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, and the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers; representative of the National Human Rights Institutions of ASEAN Member States; representative of regional and national civil society organizations; and relevant international organizations.

   The Workshop was divided into six sessions and Session Two: “ Pressing Human Rights Issues and Concerns in ASEAN” was chaired by U Nyunt Swe, Member of the MNHRC.

Asia Pacific Forum held a Training of Trainers’ Workshop in Yangon.

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in collaboration with Asia Pacific Forum held a Training of Trainers’ Workshop in Yangon from the 3rd to the 7th of June 2013 at Hotel Yangon. The Workshop was attended by (12) senior staff members of the Asia Pacific Region National Human Rights Institutions. A total of (9) countries were represented at the Workshop: namely; Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Nepal, India and Myanmar. The Workshop is the second phase of a two phase blended learning Workshop, the first  being the one month on-line training course that took place from the 8th of April to the 3rd of May 2013.

The on-line training course consists of (4) Modules which the participants have to undertake by going through the learning and reading materials of each module and completing the assignments proscribed to each module.

Only the participants who were  able to fulfill all the requirements were selected for the face- to- face workshop held in Yangon. Participants from a number of countries who were not able to meet the prerequisite requirement, unfortunately did not make it to the  workshop held in Yangon. Professor Chris Sidoti led a team of (4) Master Trainers in conducting  the face-to-face Workshop. It was a very fruitful (5) day event and what was stated in the first day of the Workshop, ” Learning is fun-” proved true in every sense of the word. All in all it was a workshop that exceeded all the expectations.

Training workshop for commissioners and ministry officials

In cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Sweden, commissioners at the MNHRC and government officials will participate in a two-day training workshop on the ICESCR in Yangon on 27-28 May. The purpose of the workshop is to give the MNHRC and ministry officials increased knowledge and understanding of the role of NHRIs and the government in promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights in Myanmar, and to raise awareness on the ICESCR in order to put Myanmar in a better position to ratify the Covenant in the near future.

“… the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.” In accordance with this excerpt from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICESCR is, together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the core Conventions of the United Nations. It has its roots in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not only sets forth general principles of human rights but also contains binding commitments to them.

The Covenant contains some core provisions, all subject to the principle of “progressive realisation”.  The principle acknowledges that some rights (e.g. the right to health) may be difficult in practice to achieve in a short period of time and that states may be subject to resource constraints, but requires them to act as best they can within their means and to continually take steps towards the realisation of the rights contained within the Covenant.

The ICESCR contains the Right to Work, the Right to Social Security, including Social Insurance, the Right to Family Life, the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, the Right to Health, the Right to Free Education and the Right to Participation in Cultural Life.

There is a Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights consisting of a body of 18 experts on human rights that have the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the Covenant. All state parties are required to submit a report to the Committee outlining the measures they have taken to implement the rights in the Covenant. The Committee replies to the reports submitted by each state party in the form of “concluding observations”.