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FOCUS March 2006 Volume 43

Human Rights Education for ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has placed human rights education on its agenda, by way of its inclusion in a list of human rights concerns in the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP) 2004-2010[1] to promote "education and public awareness on human rights."[2]

In July 2005, the ASEAN Senior Officials requested the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working Group) to help implement the human rights program areas of the VAP

Consequently, the Working Group, in coordination with the Asia-Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC), organized a Roundtable Discussion on "Engaging ASEAN Governments on Human Rights Education" on 23-25 March 2006 in Bangkok. Representatives of national human rights commissions, non-governmental organizations, the academe, and United Nations institutions (UNESCO, ILO, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) attended the meeting

The meeting

  1. Took stock of human rights education programs/initiatives in ASEAN, including engagements with governments and the challenges they entail;
  2. Identified strategies or possible engagements with governments; and
  3. Recommended possible human rights education initiatives for ASEAN.

The participants presented the human rights education programs and activities in formal and non-formal education fields in Southeast Asia, including those being undertaken by UNESCO. They also raised the challenges and difficulties facing human rights education due to negative perception of human rights, problem of either failure of government to commit to human rights education or the red tape in government bureaucracies, lack of resources, and compartmentalization of existing human rights education programs

They suggested the following goals for a human rights education program for ASEAN:

  1. Implementation of international human rights education standards such as those provided in the United Nations (UN) World Programme for Human Rights Education
  2. Strengthening of dialogue or engagement between ASEAN, the UN and other partners on human rights, the rights-based approach and human rights education
  3. Establishment of an ASEAN Regional Human Rights Education Training and Resource Center
  4. Development and implementation of joint projects on human rights education.
  5. Creation of an ASEAN Committee on Human Rights Education.

At the national level, the proposed goals are meant to support the development of national human rights education action plans, adoption of human rights education policies by governments, allocation of resources to implement the action plans and policies, pooling of existing resources (non-formal education programs, materials, and resource persons), the holding of regular dialogues between government and civil society representatives on the issue, and also the establishment of national human rights institutions in countries that do not have them yet. The participants suggested the establishment of human rights education centers, inventory of human rights education initiatives and resources, holding of training (for teachers, teacher-educators, government officials, etc.) designation of focal person/agency within the government ministries for human rights education, and the holding of periodic review of human rights education activities jointly by government and civil society representatives

The proposed ASEAN Regional Human Rights Education Training and Resource Center is meant to facilitate capacity building on human rights education. It can get the support of existing education networks (focusing on human rights and otherwise), and organize meetings of university representatives to discuss human rights education

Joint projects between ASEAN and the civil society institutions can focus on an ASEAN-level training (for teachers, teacher-educators, government officials, etc.) and research activities, and a system of giving recognition to best practices in, and practitioners of, human rights education

These proposals will be submitted to ASEAN for its consideration

For further information, please contact: Mr. Ray Paolo Santiago, or Ms. Maita Chan-Gonzaga, Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Ateneo Human Rights Center, 20 Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City 1200 Philippines; ph (632) 8997691 loc. 2109; fax (632) 8994342; e-mail: or;


1. For the full document of the Vientiane Action Programme, please visit:

2. See reference number 1.1.4, Policital Development, ASEAN Security Community, Annex 1 of the Vientiane Action Programme