From Thailand to East Timor: supporting rights defenders in the Asia-Pacific

With implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now getting underway in many countries, this is a critical time for activists and advocates to bring human rights concerns and accountability tools to bear in national level development debates. And given the distinctive institutional characteristics of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), they are in a unique position to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), particularly in development processes.

CESR’s Allison Corkery and Mihir Mankad recently led a five-day training workshop on monitoring economic, social and cultural rights in Manila. The event, which was hosted by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, came as part of our ongoing partnership with the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. Nearly 20 participants from six NHRIs across Southeast Asia – East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand – came together to share experiences of and develop concrete skills in monitoring ESCR.

Over the course of the week, participants explored the conceptual and practical relationships between the SDGs and human rights and examined the four steps of OPERA – CESR's monitoring framework which analyses outcomes, policy efforts and resources to make an overall assessment of human rights compliance. Through this process, they honed their competencies in collecting and analyzing primary and secondary data, and interpreting economic and budgetary information. The lively discussions also provided many opportunities for participants to engage in institutional cross-learning and information sharing. A key part of the workshop was the production of national institutional action plans for taking forward the monitoring of ESCR.

This face-to-face workshop was the second phase of a two-part process, having been preceded by a four-week e-learning course in November last year. Working alongside the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Global Network of National Human Rights Institutions, CESR has been developing a global e-learning platform on ESCR monitoring, which will be rolled out later this year for staff of NHRIs around the world. This will be paired with regional workshops, similar to the one just completed in Manila.

Around the world, NHRIs are increasingly seeking to improve their monitoring of economic, social and cultural rights, but implementing appropriate methodological approaches often proves challenging, not least because these institutions have traditionally focused more on civil and political rights. Having been at the cutting edge of ESCR monitoring for over a decade, and being cognizant of the tremendous potential NHRIs have to advance these rights, CESR is committed to supporting NHRIs in this endeavor.

To learn more about our Rights Claiming and Accountability program, click here.

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