MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reaffirmed its commitment to push for a rights-based approach within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after convening the final meeting of the bloc’s human rights commission.
The United Nations (UN) defines human rights-based approach as a conceptual framework for the process of human development that is based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights.
“It seeks to analyze inequalities that lie at the heart of development problems and redress discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power that impede development progress,” the UN’s HRBA Portal online said.
“The Philippines has always been at the forefront of strengthening a rights-based approach in ASEAN,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said. “While the promotion and protection of human rights should not be politicized, it is essential that we continue to work to make human rights central to the ASEAN agenda.”
Chaired by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Leo Herrera-Lim, the 25th meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was held in Bohol on November 26-27, with 10 ASEAN Member State representatives and the ASEAN Secretariat attending and reviewing the progress of the implementation of the bloc’s human rights priority programs and activities for 2014-2017.
“I commend the AICHR for the excellent work it has done throughout the Philippine Chairmanship in promoting and integrating a rights-based approach in the political-security, economic, and socio-cultural pillars of ASEAN,” Cayetano said.
Assistant Secretary Herrera-Lim informed Cayetano that it was under the Philippine Chairmanship that the AICHR first met with ASEAN Senior Economic Officials to discuss initiatives to promote corporate social responsibility and strengthen human rights practices in the private sector.
“We hope that our interface with the ASEAN’s Economic Community can be held regularly and we can have concrete collaboration with them on how to apply the rights-based approach in the business sector,” Herrera-Lim said.
According to the DFA, the priority areas in the work of the AICHR are promoting the rights of the child, mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in the ASEAN community, the rights of women affected by natural disasters, and the implementation of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP), which had recently entered into force.
The AICHR will undertake its first joint project on promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with Child Rights Advocacy Asia, a civil society organization (CSO), which has consultative relations with AICHR.
As per the agency, this is the first time the AICHR will collaborate with a CSO on a joint project.
The AICHR already discussed and finalized its priority programs for the 2018 cycle, which include the enhancement of public awareness of human rights among the peoples of ASEAN and promoting capacity building for the effective implementation of international human rights treaty obligations.
AICHR-Philippines also handed over the chairmanship to AICHR-Singapore, which will begin its mandate on January 1.
The Philippines has hosted a total of three AICHR meetings during its Chairmanship.
The first meeting was held in Boracay in February 2017. During their second meeting, the Commission met with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Manila in August 2017, where the AICHR presented the activities, achievements, and main developments in ASEAN’s efforts to mainstream the human rights agenda in the work of ASEAN.