Workshop Addresses Human Rights and Legal Advocacy in the ASEAN Region

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January 2013

From November 22–24, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), the Malaysian Bar and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (also known as LBH Jakarta) facilitated a workshop on human rights advocacy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). About 20 Southeast Asian public interest lawyers attended the workshop, which discussed the ASEAN human rights system and how legal advocacy can strengthen it. Held days after the formal adoption of the controversial ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, the training addressed both the limitations and possibilities the declaration presents.

During the workshop, attendees discussed legal advocacy strategies that they have employed to win cases and improve laws and policies.

“The existing ASEAN human rights system is not yet equipped with the tools and resources to effectively protect human rights. However, the very existence of this system presents the future possibility of an alternate forum where human rights complaints can be brought,” said Jennifer Rasmussen, director of ABA ROLI’s Asia Division. “This workshop aims to raise awareness about the ASEAN human rights institutions and the recently adopted human rights declaration, and start a conversation about lawyers’ role in strengthening this system.”

The workshop also featured a webinar by Dr. David Padilla, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and allowed participants to share the human rights achievements and challenges in their respective countries. The attendees discussed legal advocacy strategies that they have employed to win cases and improve laws and policies. They also identified areas for future collaboration, particularly on trans-border issues such as human trafficking.

“We hope that these workshops can strengthen regional lawyers’ networks,” said Febi Yonesta, director of LBH Jakarta. “These networks are vital to facilitate information exchange and allow us to support one another’s public interest legal work.”

ABA ROLI will continue to organize similar workshops, including two that will focus on the ASEAN human rights system and several others that focus on human rights advocacy skills. ABA ROLI—in collaboration with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development—is also developing a website to centralize information about different ASEAN human rights institutions and serve as a platform for information exchange.

To learn more about our work in the ASEAN region, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.


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