On 18-23 June, a delegation of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from ASEAN countries – composed of Chairpersons and Commissioners from the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia - came together for a study visit program that aimed to strengthen the network with the European (ENNHRI) and Global (GANHRI) network on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through National Action Plans (NAPs). The meetings and workshops took place in Brussels, Belgium and Berlin, Germany.
After the establishment of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, states are now called to implement these principles through National Action Plans (NAPs). The National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs established under the Paris Principles) are mandated to launch and lead a national multi-stakeholder process, integrating all parts of society that are affected, that result in the adoption of a NAP.
Given its importance to this region of manufacturing countries, many Asian NHRIs have put this topic on their agenda. Jointly organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Offices in Manila, Brussels and Berlin, the Study Visit aims to provide support to ASEAN NHRIs through an exchange of experiences and expertise in implementing the guiding principles.
“The German Human Rights Institute holds the chair of the Global Alliance of NHRIs (GANHRI), while the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) takes over the chair of Southeast Asian NHRI Forum (SEANF). This will allow them not only to amplify and strengthen the issue of implementing the UN Guiding principles but also to make sure that a maximum number of NHRIs and states benefit from such an exchange,” says Maximillian Spohr, Head of Human Rights Department of FNF Headquarters in Potsdam.
Both NHRIs have communicated their interest to work on this issue. The CHR will make the issue of Business and Human Rights a priority during its chairmanship of SEANF and will try to support the NHRis of the other member states in their endeavor to launch an implementation process.
"The Study Visit provided us a unique opportunity to learn both from each other as well as from the EU institutions. We will be taking this back with us to see how we can strengthen our network in Southeast Asia so that we can do more things to advance and protect human rights. With FNF, we look forward to strengthening Business and Human Rights in the region," says Chairman Chito Gascon of Philippine Human Rights Commission.
The five-day visiting program is composed of expert meetings and workshops with European Union (EU) institutions such as the Commission, European External Action Service (EEAS), European Parliament and other representatives from relevant institutions and organizations such as ENNHRI and GANHRI, with whom they discussed developments on and prospects for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The meetings became networking platforms between respective institutions in ASEAN countries and some of their counterparts at GANHRI and ENNHRI.
In Brussels, the meeting with EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, ensured closer human rights cooperation between EU and Southeast Asia. As EU's first thematic Special Representative, Mr. Lambrinidis is mandated to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy. He emphasizes, “Human rights is one pillar of foreign policy, thus it’s vital for NHRIs to be empowered.”
In Berlin, the delegates were able to meet with the Members of German Parliament’s ASEAN parliamentary group, led by its Chair, Dr. Thomas Gambke. They were also able to dialogue with the Chairwoman of the German Institute for Human Rights, Professor Dr. Beate Rudolf, who is concurrently the Chair of GANHRI. An Expert Workshop on "Business and Human Rights - the NHRI Mandate" was also organized and facilitated by the Institute.
“During the meetings, we took the opportunity not only to learn their best practices but also to share our activities in the promotion and protection of human rights with them. In addition, the program provided us to meet the current chair of GANHRI in Berlin. We exchanged views on the promotion and protection of human rights both global and regional aspects. In short, the visit program contributes a lot to my work as a member of NHRI which is at a nascent stage,” shares Commissioner Nyunt Swe of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.
"Human Rights and Economic Freedom are important liberal values. They are intertwined and support each other. We liberals know that one can not prosper without the other," says Wolfgang Heinze, Country Director of FNF Philippines.
FNF Philippines is a German non-profit organization that promotes human rights, rule of law and free market. Since 1986, it has been committed to uphold human rights and freedom in the country.