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April 02, 2020

Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institution Forum (SEANF)

Dr. Khine Khine Win



Human Rights is part of the ASEAN community 2015 referred to in both the ASEAN Charter and the Political-Security Blueprint. In this regard, ASEAN intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was inaugurated at the 15th ASEAN Summit in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand in 2009 by the ASEAN Leaders. Here it is noteworthy that AICHR is an intergovernmental organization which means it is an organization established by the agreement among the nation-states. Members of the organization are composed of all sovereign states (referred to as member states). As of 2016, there are 10 member states in ASEAN, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. Timor-Leste is an observer country. The establishment of AICHR is ASEAN’s commitment to pursue forward-looking strategies to strengthen regional cooperation on Human rights. In terms of human rights, there is another organization namely SEANF, Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum in Southeast Asia Region.
What is SEANF? SEANF is a membership organization consisting of National Human Rights Institutions, NHRIs in the Southeast Asia region. The general objective of the Forum is to organize itself as a regional mechanism for the effective promotion, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of the peoples of Southeast Asia Region. It is comprised of six independent NHRIs, (1) The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM), The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), The Philippines Commission on Human Rights (CHRP), The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) and The Provedor for Human Rights and Justice of Timor-Leste (PDHJ). At present only six countries including Timor-Leste has National Human Rights Institution.
In early 2004, the four Human Rights Commissions in South East Asia namely KOMNAS HAM, SUHAKAM, CHRP, and NHRCT decided to come together as a united force to help fast track the establishment of an ASEAN human rights mechanism. The first formal meeting was held in Bangkok in 2004 October. During the 4th Annual Meeting in Manila, Philippines on 29-30 January 2008, the body agreed to adopt ASEAN NHRI FORUM (ANF) as the official name and at the 6th Annual Meeting of the NHRIs, the body agreed to change its name to SOUTH EAST ASIA NHRI FORUM (SEANF) to give emphasis to the geographical sub-region. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) became the sixth member of SEANF during the 9th Annual Meeting hosted by NHRCT on 12-14 September 2012.
SEANF have been carrying out activities and programs in five human rights issues of common concern. These inter-border issues and common concerns provided the framework of their cooperation, namely: (a) suppression of terrorism while respecting human rights; (b) human rights aspects of trafficking of persons; (c) protection of the human rights of migrants and migrant workers; (d) promotion of economic, social and cultural rights and right to development; and, (e) enhancement of human rights education under the Declaration of Cooperation for the protection and promotion of human rights in South East Asia. On the principle of rotation, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) assumes Chairmanship of SEANF for 2016. In this regard, MNHRC already hosted a technical working group meeting for two times, 27-28 January and 2-3 June respectively in Yangon. Establishing SEANF permanent secretariat and the SEANF’s strategic plan for 2017-2022 were part of the discussions of those two meetings. As the chair of SEANF, MNHRC will host 13th Annual Meeting of SEANF in Nay Pyi Taw in September. This 13th annual meeting will be held with two components, seminar relating to NHRIs relations with Legislative, Executive and Judiciary and annual meeting.
Southeast Asia’s economic growth showed commendable progress, however the region’s human rights and democracy situation remain uneven and fragile. Human rights remain a sensitive issue in Southeast Asia. As the network of NHRIs in the sub-region, the SEANF plays a crucial role in the protection and promotion of human rights in South East Asia. Working under a cooperative framework, SEANF members undertake joint projects or activities to address issues of common concern like human trafficking, migrant workers, statelessness, business and human rights, corruption, among others. Recognizing the need to strengthen and expand the network, they continue to encourage governments of countries in South East Asia to establish an independent National Human Rights Institution. The SEANF engages with the Asia Pacific Forum (APF), Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institution (GANHRIC) formerly known as ICC, Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), and other human rights organizations to further promote and protect human rights at the national, regional, and international level. It is seeking a regular mode of engagement with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), and related human rights bodies in Asia.
To conclude, I do hope SEANF will fulfill their objectives to the best of their abilities and I wish SEANF, the network of NHRIs in the Southeast Asia region, success in its role in advancing human rights of their people in the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Reference    :  
                      : AICHR, ASEAN Intergovernmental organization on Human Rights, What you need to know, The ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta


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