The ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) and Summit
From 20-22 February GAATW-IS joined around 800 civil society representatives at the ASEAN People’s Forum to prepare for advocacy at the following weekend’s ASEAN Summit.
ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is playing a bigger role in the region for 2008 and 2009 since the 11-member countries decided last year to adopt a Charter for the first time in the body’s 42-year history. The Charter, which has security, economic and socio-cultural ‘pillars’, includes a commitment to developing an ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB). The ASEAN Governments have committed to a very fast process for the AHRB, with a decision on the terms of reference to be made in July and the AHRB to be operational by the end of 2009. Thus, over the past eight months civil society groups have been active in lobbying for an AHRB that has some measure of power, and for proper inclusion of women’s rights concerns.
The ASEAN People’s Forum brought together CSOs working on issues ranging from trade to environmental protection to migration to women’s rights. It was three days of wide-ranging discussions on the ASEAN charter and associated mechanisms, including the AHRB and the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (the Migrant Workers’ Declaration).
Outside the main event, were a number of side meetings and conferences. GAATW participated in the Regional Consultation of the Women’s Caucus on the AHRB and the Solidarity for Asia People’s Advocacy (SAPA) Working Group on Migration and Labour to plan advocacy for the implementation of the Migrant Workers’ Declaration.
GAATW co-organised two workshops as part of the APF:
1. The application of the CEDAW framework in addressing the Rights of Women Migrant Workers in ASEAN countries
2. Strengthening regional action against discrimination towards migrant women of ASEAN nations.
The first workshop organised with IWRAW-AP and CARAM-Asia highlighted specific case studies of the abuse of women migrant workers rights, specifically those of a Burmese domestic worker named Aye who is working in Northern Thailand. She noted the lack of employment rights for domestic workers in ASEAN, including no paid day off (she arranged special leave to attend the panel) as well as the lack of family or social life, fear of violence and sexual violence, and the impact of such isolated and difficult working conditions on women’s psychological and physical health. The specific articles in CEDAW, General Recommendation 26 and certain mechanisms in ASEAN were then outlined as a means for women migrant workers rights to be recognised by ASEAN states.
The second workshop, co-organised with ActionAid and the Foundation for Women in Thailand, looked at multiple forms and sites of exploitation and discrimination experienced by women migrating for work and marriage.
Outcome summaries from each workshop were submitted to the organisers for compilation into one overarching statement for delivery to the ASEAN Summit the following weekend. The full text of this statement which was delivered to ASEAN heads of State on 28 February can be found here: http://www.apf2008.org/media-corner
Important outcomes from the ASEAN summit and particularly the dialogue with civil society included that the ASEAN Chair, Thai Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, stated that women and children required a separate body to the AHRB to ensure that their needs are met. In saying this, he was referring to the proposed ASEAN Commission on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC); and that in the proposed Terms of Reference for the AHRB, the role for civil society was unfortunately relegated to that of educating and creating awareness amongst the public about human rights: the leaked ToRs can be found here: