GENEVA — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday welcomed the endorsement by ASEAN Foreign Ministers of the terms of reference for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, which she called “an important step forward” in the establishment of a new mechanism to protect and promote the human rights of people living in the ASEAN region.
Pillay stressed the fundamental role that regional arrangements can play in protecting and promoting international human rights standards, for example by helping to address shortcomings in national frameworks and complement existing international human rights mechanisms.
The ASEAN commission will be the first regional body of its kind in the Asia and Pacific region. Regional commissions are already functioning in some other regions — for example in Africa, the Americas, and Europe.
“I strongly encourage ASEAN states to appoint Commission members who are independent and impartial, and have proven expertise in human rights,” the High Commissioner said. “I also hope that national selection processes will allow for wide consultation and participation by all sections of society.”
The High Commissioner also stressed that close cooperation and partnership with independent and effective national human rights institutions, which are already established in some ASEAN states will help to reinforce the new Commission’s role.
The High Commissioner expressed her disappointment at the Commission’s “lack of a clear protection mandate,” but said she hoped its role would expand after its launch at the 15th ASEAN Summit in October 2009.
Pillay also urged ASEAN to encourage the full integration of civil society groups in the establishment and development of the ASEAN human rights body, in line with the regional leaders’ stated commitment to create a “people-oriented ASEAN”.
The High Commissioner congratulated the High Level Panel, composed of government officials and human rights experts, who were responsible for preparing the draft endorsed by the Foreign Ministers, and said she looked forward to continued cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN States in the development of the new regional Commission.