Inquiry examines human rights mechanisms in the Asia Pacific

Government and civil society groups from across the region have contributed their views on the effectiveness of human rights protection systems in the Asia Pacific, as part of an Australian Government inquiry.

Twenty-five government, non-government and civil society groups from across the region have contributed their views on the effectiveness of human rights protection systems in the Asia Pacific, as part of an inquiry being held by the Australian Government.

Established by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 2008, the inquiry will examine international and regional mechanisms currently in place to prevent and redress human rights violations and explore other possible models that may be suitable for the Asia-Pacific region.

It will look specifically at the United Nations human rights system; regional mechanisms; and the role of parliaments.

Forum-Asia, the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Centre, La’o Hamutuk (The Timor-Leste Institute for Development, Monitoring and Analysis), UNIFEM Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission, are some of the groups who have made written submissions (to view the complete list, and read submissions, visit the Inquiry website).

Submissions have covered a diverse range of topics including: the proposed ASEAN human rights mechanism; the need for a specific regional human rights mechanism in the Pacific region; and the importance of supporting the establishment and effectiveness of national human rights institutions.

The APF presented its formal submission to the inquiry in December 2008.

It noted that “although the United Nations has demonstrated longstanding advocacy for, and support of, the establishment of an Asia-Pacific regional human rights mechanism, the Asia-Pacific remains the only region without a formal mechanism.”

The APF said in its submission that the legal, social, political, cultural, religious, ethnic and economic diversity of the region present challenges for the establishment of a single regional human rights mechanism.

“It seems, at this point in time, highly unlikely that a pan-Asia Pacific human rights body, commission or mechanism will be established as had been originally envisaged. Instead, discussions and initiatives continue to focus on sub-regional (Asia and Pacific) mechanisms, rather than a unifying pan-regional mechanism.”

The APF’s submission noted that progress towards the establishment of a sub-regional mechanism in Asia is considerably more advanced than is the case in the Pacific.

“In Asia, it is clear that the established, accredited and collaborating ASEAN/APF national human rights institutions provide a critical ‘building block’ of capacity and capability which, in turn, allows and encourages incremental progress towards the establishment of a sub-regional human rights mechanism,” said the APF.

“The APF does not consider that the current tendency towards sub-regional mechanisms need compromise any future momentum or regional consensus to progress a pan-Asia-Pacific human rights mechanism.

“With sufficient resources, the existing support of its member NHRIs and in collaboration with key Australian and regional governmental and non-governmental partners and stakeholders, the APF is crucially placed to continue to assist the development of sub-regional human rights mechanisms in both Asia and the Pacific.”

The inquiry process also includes public hearings, to be held in Australia, with a final report expected to be tabled in federal Parliament later in the year.

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