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FOCUS November 1995 Volume 2

Regional Human Rights Education Initiatives

Jeff Plantilla
Researcher of HURIGHTS OSAKA

Report on a meeting on human rights education in Bangkok

Gatherings of regional organizations do not ordinarily occur. This is very much true in the case of groups with regional human rights education initiatives. It is seen important for regional organizations to come and discuss matters of common concern. That happened in a meeting organized by HURIGHTS Osaka on September 21, 1995 in Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting was attended mainly by regional non-governmental organizations based in Bangkok. Seven regional NGOs (excluding HURIGHTS Osaka), namely, Asian Coalition on Housing Rights, Child Workers Asia, End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, Jesuit Refugee Service, Asian Cultural Forum on Development, Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development, and Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education were represented. A representative of the ASEAN Canada Fund office based in Singapore was also in attendance. Two regional NGOs were not able to send representatives (Child Rights Asianet and Asia-South Pacific Bureau on Adult Education).

The meeting was mainly a sharing session. Each organization made a brief presentation on the activities that relate to human rights education. On the whole, the presentations show an interesting picture of human rights trainings, workshops and seminars addressing specific sectors and issues.

Child Workers Asia, a regional network of grassroots organizations involved in working children issue, provides a forum for sharing experiences among small organizations. Through field visits, it tries to expand the knowledge base of these organizations on human rights and strengthen their campaign programs. This month-long activity covers groups from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Nepal. It also holds regional and national seminars and workshops.

Forum Asia, a regional membership organization, had a series of regional and national workshops on fact-finding and documentation as well as on specific issues such as rights of the child and of women . It plans to have trainings on preparation of national human rights report, trial observation, and on specific issues such as child rights. It is collaborating with a Thai university (Mahidol University) in setting up a regional human rights program. It is also helping out another Thai university (Chulalongkorn University) in a peace promotion program where public discussions involving government officials will be held.

Jesuit Refugee Service, an international organization with an Asia office, engages in human rights education as a component of its direct services to refugee communities. It plans to have a more sustained HRE program to complement intermittent HRE activities along the Thai border. It collaborates with other human rights organizations on human rights education activities.

Asian Coalition on Housing Rights, a broad regional coalition of NGOs, community-based organizations and individuals, promotes exchange of information and experiences on housing conditions and helps develop alternatives to eviction. As part of its training program, workshops on capacity building (focusing on community organizing and surveying of housing rights situation) for members of grassroots communities are held. It also organizes exchange visits for young students such as engineering, medical and law students inorder to relate technical science to social realities. It advocates for curriculum change to include the housing rights issue.

Asian Cultural Forum on Development, a membership organization, published a book on human rights education. It tries to bring the human rights component to the programs of development NGOs. It likewise collaborates with other organizations on specific issues such as human rights in difficult circumstances, East Timor and Burma.

End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, an international network of organizations, engages in activities that build awareness on child prostitution. It supports the activities of its national contact organizations in 25 countries worldwide through information dissemination. It also has a training program on media for foreign correspondents.

Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education holds workshops for human rights educators. It focuses on propagation of participant-centered education method to support the programs of national groups in the region. It likewise collects materials on human rights education for use by organizations in the region. It is planning to have a regional training for members of internal security forces.

Each of these organizations are generally engaged in different forms of support activities for national/community organizations. They are basically providing avenues for strengthening programs and skills of organizations doing actual field work. Regional human rights education programs thus become the media for enhancing advocacy, training, documentation and direct service programs of the national/community organizations.

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