6th ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development

25 September 2011

The 6th ASEAN GO-NGO Forum held in Bangkok, Thailand on the 20th of September had nine participating ASEAN member countries discussing about establishing the Social Protection Floor within ASEAN. There was a two day intensive preparatory workshop organised by the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) with guest speakers from United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).The recommendations resulting from this meeting were meaningful and conclusive towards progressively attaining the Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPFI) within each member state’s policy making arena.

The SPFI is an initiative aimed towards ensuring services and transfers to promote social protection as a tool for development and poverty eradication. States present acknowledged that everyone, as a member of the society, is entitled to equal access to social protection such as healthcare services among many others. It was further agreed upon that social protection is necessary to reduce the vulnerabilities of the disadvantaged groups in our societies.

In conclusion, there was consensus on the need to set up or strengthen existing social safety nets to protect people from falling through the nets via establishing a social protection floor. Some implementation procedures recommended included working towards ratifying the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); setting up consultative councils within each member state and ASEAN and working towards an ASEAN level declaration on establishing the SPFI within ASEAN.

The International Council on Social Welfare, a longstanding partner of the ASEAN GO NGO Forum, together with the ASEAN Secretariat and host country (Thailand), received feedback on a successful meeting and witnessed encouraging efforts by all parties towards establishing the SPFI.

MARUAH is a member of ICSW and MARUAH’s President, Braema Mathiaparanam, is the ICSW Regional President of Southeast Asia and Pacific.

Event report – “What do you do, Mr President?” forum on 20 August 2011

28 August 2011

The forum, organised by Singapore human rights Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore) aimed to provide clarity on the role of the Elected Presidency before citizens go to the polls on 27th of August 2011 to vote for a new president.

Dr Kevin YL Tan, one of Singapore’s constitutional law experts, gave a concise review of the role of the president, culminating in a list of possible grey areas arising from the said presidential functions within the Constitution. Next, Mr Alex Au, blogger at Yawning Bread, analysed 2011 – the year of watershed elections and what could possibly be on the other side.
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8th Workshop on the ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights – Day 2

17 July 2009

The Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (MARUAH) attended the 8th Workshop on the ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights in Bangkok, Thailand, 14-15 July 2009.

See Day 1 proceedings here.

In Day 2 of the workshop, speakers and participants discussed the following issues

  • Government ministries should provide logistical support to the country representatives in the proposed ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB)
  • Selection process for the country representatives to the AHRB should be transparent (Paris Principles)
  • Existing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can provide training & capacity building
  • Civil society will continue to adopt a watchdog role to monitor the performance of the AHRB
  • Civil society will be the link between governments and the public
  • Human rights issues should not merely be regarded as internal affairs, as there may be spillover effects on regional peace & security
  • Regional standards should not be used to lower standards
  • Role for AHRB beyond the regional – other regional bodies address national issues too, especially if national bodies are insufficient, or local remedies exhausted

8th Workshop on the ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights – Day 1

16 July 2009

The Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (MARUAH) is attending the 8th Workshop on the ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights in Bangkok, Thailand, 14-15 July 2009.

In Day 1 of the workshop, speakers and participants discussed the following issues

  • ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB) should not be a standalone, but part of a regime, including a set of norms
  • Human rights should be mainstreamed across the 3 ASEAN pillars
  • Concept of non-interference remains, but should be viewed objectively under international law, and not subjectively
  • CSOs should engage the entire ASEAN structure, and not just the AHRB
  • A thematic approach may be more acceptable to member states
  • Rules of procedures will be drafted to guide the AHRB
  • CSOs need to move quickly to engage states on the AHRB representatives selection process
  • ASEAN Committee for Migrant Workers (ACMW) has not made a decision on how to deal with undocumented migrant workers
  • Existing UN standards should be utilised to guide ASEAN (no need to reinvent the wheel)
  • As all 10 ASEAN countries have ratified CEDAW and CRC, the ASEAN commission on the protection and promotion of the rights of women and children (ACWC) should have standards in-line with those UN conventions

Maruah attends the Burmese community’s celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday

23 June 2009


Wee Yeong Wei, Braema Mathi and Alex Au (not in picture) represented Maruah Singapore at the celebrations organised by the Burmese community in Singapore to mark the 64th birthday of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The event was held at the Burmese temple on Tai Gin Road, on Sunday, 21 June 2009.

Photos – In Unity for her Liberty: Peace Vigil for Aung San Suu Kyi

1 June 2009

Sunday, 31 May 2009, Hong Lim Park, Singapore. Organised by Maruah Singapore.

Singaporeans from all walks of life, joined by the Burmese community in Singapore, hold a peace vigil for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi.


More photos after the break… Read the rest of this entry »

Video – In Unity for Her Liberty: Peace Vigil for Aung San Suu Kyi

1 June 2009

Courtesy of Patrick Chng from MARUAH.

Report on public consultation on ASEAN Human Rights Body

4 April 2009

Please click here for the report on the public consultation organised by MARUAH on the ASEAN Human Rights Body on 11 March 2009.

ASEAN rights body will foster justice: Prof

12 June 2008

The Straits Times has reported on the public lecture by Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn on a ASEAN human rights body, organised by MARUAH and ASEF.

ASEAN rights body will foster justice: Prof
Such a commission may extend the scope of human rights into less ‘accessible’ states
By Kor Kian Beng

PEOPLE in ASEAN countries who suffer from human rights violations would have better access to justice if there were a regional human rights body they could turn to, a visiting human rights expert said yesterday.

Urging the creation of an ASEAN-level human rights commission, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn said that this would benefit the people of ASEAN “because first, the United Nations is so far away, and second, the national setting may at times be not so accessible in terms of justice”.

He did not specify which countries he had in mind.

Prof Vitit, a law professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, noted that he was not advocating a human rights court similar to the European Court of Human Rights, but a commission.

Now, four countries in ASEAN have National Human Rights Commissions: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Prof Vitit said that a commission at the 10-nation ASEAN level could help articulate ASEAN’s concerns on human rights issues more forcefully, in a way that expressed “our concerns in a good light” without “undermining international perspectives”.

Speaking during a seminar at the Asia-Europe Foundation, he said that the commission could also push for more effective implementation of the rules and norms of human rights.

Prof Vitit was in Singapore for a two-day workshop organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

The ASEAN Charter, which member states had signed at the ASEAN summit here last November, stipulated the setting up of such a commission.

Terms of reference for the body will be put up to ASEAN foreign ministers for consideration when they meet in Singapore next month.

Prof Vitit, who is also the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights issues in North Korea, said that, although ASEAN was essentially a political organisation driven by economics, it could still address human rights issues in a “creative, innovative and meaningful manner”.

Would an ASEAN human rights commission be effective? A seminar participant, Dr Michael Vatikiotis, the Asia regional director for the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, pointed to “politics” getting in the way.

To many countries in ASEAN, Dr Vatikiotis noted, “human rights is problematic”.

Former ASEAN secretary-general Rodolfo Severino, another seminar participant, pointed to two other hurdles.

First, to be effective, an ASEAN human rights body needed independent commissioners who could act as checks and balances against other institutions and also its members’ governments.

Second, where would the funding come from?

To the latter point, Prof Vitit said that the availability of money was not the issue, but its allocation was.

Prof Vitit’s public lecture a huge success

12 June 2008

It was a full house, with standing room only, when Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn delivered his lecture “An Asean human rights body: A milestone in the 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?” on 11 June 2008. The event was jointly organised by Maruah Singapore and the Asia-Europe Foundation, attended by academics, civil society activists, students, government officials and by ambassadors and other diplomats.

A report will follow soon. Meanwhile, photographs of the event can be found here.
Public lecture by Prof Viti Muntarbhorn organised by MARUAH Singapore and the Asia-Europe Foundation