The second National Human Rights Institutions At Work Regional Training Program was held in the Philippines on May 8-15, 1999. Representatives of 5 national human rights institutions in Asia-Pacific (including the newly-established Fiji Human Rights Commission), officials of the justice ministry/judiciary of Thailand and Bangladesh, and NGOs from the countries represented attended the training. A total of 33 participants from 8 countries were in attendance. They generally occupy middle-level positions in their respective institutions. It should be noted that representatives from Bangladesh and Thailand were invited because of the impending establishment of human rights commissions in these countries.
The training focused on economic, social and cultural rights and the role of the national human rights institutions. It has the following objectives:
identify main human rights issues and trends in the region with particular focus on the interdependence, indivisibility and universality of human rights;
examine and explore organizational and program strategies for the promotion and protection of economic and social rights; and
encourage the development of an informal network for continued information exchanges.
The training has a series of inputs by resource persons at each stage of the program except the first stage which deals with the human rights issues in the region. Presentations were made on the Paris Principles, economic and social rights, investigation and monitoring of these rights, and human rights education. Group work followed each of the presentations. There were also group studies on economic and social rights cases.
Much of the learning by the participants must have occurred during the small group discussions. Plenary sessions would have provided more sharing of ideas and experiences but the time allotted was not enough to allow careful presentation and deliberation on the group reports.
The training program should be commended for putting together an impressive set of reading materials which participants can review after the training.
Economic, social and cultural rights are quite unfamiliar to most of the participants. These rights have not been given as much emphasis as civil and political rights by most national human rights institutions in the region. Much of the discussions were most probably focused on understanding these rights and the manner by which their violations can be effectively addressed as well as prevented. The issues regarding the realization of these rights were highlighted by the resource persons.
Representatives of the Sri Lankan and Fijian national human rights institutions, the newest in the region, participated for the first time in the training program.
The training program was organized jointly by the Canadian Human Rights Foundation and the Philippine Human Rights Commission.