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ASEAN gets commission for children and women

Originally appeared in The Jakarta Post

April 8, 2010

ASEAN officials inaugurated Wednesday the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), to augment the human rights body established last year.

The ACWC has a mandate to, among others, develop policies, programs and innovative strategies vis-à-vis the rights of women and children in the region.

“As commissioners we have the task of improving the standard of implementation of the rights of children,” Indonesian ACWC commissioner Ahmad Taufan Damanik said after the inauguration, held a day prior to the bloc’s summit, which kicks off Thursday in Hanoi.

Under the terms of reference of the establishment of the commission, the ACWC comprises representatives from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Each state is represented by two commissioners, one for women’s rights and the other for children’s rights, who serve three-year terms and may be consecutively reappointed for an additional term.

Child rights activist Damanik, based in North Sumatra, has been appointed the Indonesian commissioner for child rights, while activist Rita Serena Kalibonso, from the Mitra Perempuan women’s crisis center, has been named the country’s commissioner for women’s rights.

“In the next three years, we are mandated to establish a children’s and women’s rights monitoring system in Southeast Asia and will deal with sensitive issues relating to children and women,” Damanik said.

Among the issues are child trafficking, abuse and labor, which he said was experienced almost universally in the 10 ASEAN member states.

Some states also face the problem of child combatants.

Damanik said tackling child trafficking could begin by focusing in the Mekong Delta countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, and between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesian human rights activist Yuyun Wahyuningrum, who works with ASEAN, lauded the inauguration of the ACWC and said the new body had an even bigger mandate than the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

“The ACWC has a protection mandate, which the AICHR doesn’t,” she said in Hanoi.

She added the ACWC had the mandate to support the participation of women and children in the dialogue and consultation processes in ASEAN as related to the promotion and protection of their rights.

“This opens up the opportunity for public participation in the processes,” Yuyun said.

Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, Rafendi Djamin, was upbeat about the rights commission and the ACWC working together and cooperating closely to prevent an of overlap of responsibility or scope of work.

Djauhari Oratmangun, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director general of ASEAN affairs, said the establishment of the new commission boded well for the region.

“Some five years ago it was difficult to imagine that ASEAN would have special bodies dealing with human rights issues,” he said.

“Now, a year since the ASEAN Charter took effect, we have inaugurated the AICHR and the ACWC.”

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This post is in: ASEAN

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