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Annual Report 1999-2000: International

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to 1999 - 2000 Annual Report Contents

Annual Report 1999 - 2000

International Activities

The Commission undertakes
bilateral international activities, generally as part of the Australian
Government's development cooperation program developed by the Australian
Agency for International Development (AusAID). The most substantial of
these is the Human Rights Technical Assistance Program, which is an integral
part of the annual Dialogue on Human Rights with China.

The Human Rights
Technical Assistance Program (HRTA) undertakes each year a series of activities
intended to assist China to promote and protect human rights. In 1999/2000
a total of fourteen activities was undertaken. These included providing
scholarship for Chinese officials to study human rights in Australia,
conducting seminars in China on human rights subjects, providing training
to Chinese judges and prosecutors and assisting with the introduction
of measures to protect women from family violence and to protect the rights
of prisoners.

The program is intended
to have both immediate and long term impact. Over the course of the past
year there have been some modest but noticeable results - for instance
the introduction of mandatory procedures for informing detained persons
of their rights, mandatory complaints procedures for informing detained
persons of their rights, mandatory complaints procedures and the initiation
of consultations between social reform groups and public authorities,
greater openness in this work of courts and the primary regular reporting
of judicial determinations, etc.

In the longer term
the program is expected to have an impact through increasing the level
of knowledge of human rights concepts, with a resultant impact on the
formulation of Chinese policy and practice. The program therefore seeks
to work with the Chinese authorities to demonstrate the value of institutionalising
the regard for human rights and to then work with those authorities to
formulate and implement practical strategies to realise that value.

During the course
of 1999/2000 the Commission has been involved in discussions with the
Vietnamese authorities concerning the possibility of undertaking a program
of joint research on human rights and a study of human rights institutions
in the Asia-Pacific region. A modest start to this program is expected
in the coming year.

The Commission has
also worked with other countries on a smaller scale and in more technical
areas. For instance the Commission has worked with the Government of Indonesia
on preparing plans for the implementation of Convention 111 of the International
Labour Organisation (relating to equality in employment) and with the
Government of South Africa on technical improvements to the operations
of the Commission on Gender Equality.

Asia Pacific Forum of National
Human Rights Institutions

The Commission's
1996-97 Annual Report announced the establishment of the Asia-Pacific
Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (the Forum) on 10 July 1996.
There are currently seven national human rights institutions in the region
that are members of the Forum: New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines,
India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Fiji. The recently established National
Human Rights Commission of Nepal is anticipated to become the eighth member
at the Forum's Fifth Annual Meeting in August 2000. The Secretariat of
the Forum is located at the Australian Commission. The Australian Government,
through the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon. Alexander
Downer MP, and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
has been unstinting in its political and financial support for the Forum.
Core project funding is provided by the Australian Government. Additional
funding for Forum activities is provided by a range of donors on a project
by project basis.

During 1999-2000,
the Secretariat's operations concentrated on three main areas of activity

(i) the development
and delivery of technical assistance and cooperation projects

(ii) information
dissemination and

(iii) administrative
support for the Forum and its activities.

Technical Assistance and Cooperation
Projects

The objectives of
these projects, which are developed jointly with partner institutions
or governments, are to:

  • improve the
    levels of appropriate skills and knowledge among members and staff
    of national institutions in the region

  • enhance national
    institution structures and procedures in accordance with the Paris
    Principles[1] to facilitate a more effective system
    to protect and promote human rights

  • provide governments
    in the region wishing to establish a national institution with assistance
    and information as requested to facilitate the development of a national
    institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Projects developed
within the framework of the Forum generally fall into two categories

(i) country-based
or bilateral projects which tend to be medium to long term technical
assistance activities focused on the development and strengthening
of national human rights institutions and

(ii) regional
projects which focus on identified areas of common need or concern
in the region.

The Forum is not
a funding agency and has no funds of its own to apply to technical cooperation
activities. Rather, its role is to develop proposals that can then be
taken to potential funding organisations, whether government or private,
for consideration. It is important therefore that any proposals for technical
cooperation be developed in a comprehensive manner and in formats that
fit with the requirements of the funding agency.

Details of some of
these projects are outlined below, under 'Regional projects' and 'Country
related activities'.

Information Dissemination

The exchange of information
is one of the Forum Secretariat's fundamental roles. The objectives in
this area are to

  • improve awareness
    among political and administrative decision-makers and the wider community
    of the value and importance of national human rights institutions

  • improve awareness
    among relevant regional governments and agencies of appropriatfunctions,
    powers, structures and legislation for national institutions established
    in accordance with the Paris Principles

  • improve awareness
    among regional national human rights institutions of the legislation,
    casework, techniques, procedures and outcomes of other national institutions
    both within and outside the region

  • provide information
    about Forum activities to member institutions, governments, United
    Nations agencies, non-government organisations and the general community.

The Forum encourages
the participation of governments and human rights non-government organisations
in the annual Forum meetings as observers. This has been an important
process to promote the establishment of new institutions, the effectiveness
of existing institutions, closer partnerships with governments and non-government
organisations and greater awareness of the Forum's activities.

Forum Administrative Support

The Secretariat organises
and services the annual meetings and workshops of the Forum; implements
decisions of the Forum; undertakes research; develops technical assistance
and cooperation projects and other proposals; seeks funding for projects
and facilitates the provision of expert assistance to governments in the
region concerning the establishment of national institutions.

Regional Activities

Fourth Annual Meeting of the
Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions
Manila, 6-8 September
1999

The annual Forum
meetings are now the largest and most representative human rights gathering
held annually in the Asia Pacific.

Financial assistance
was provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights and the Government of Australia, through the Australian Agency
for International Development (AusAID).

The special theme
for the Meeting was National Human Rights Institutions and Economic and
Social Rights. The keynote speakers were Justice P C Bhagwati, Regional
Representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and
Deputy Chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and Professor
Virginia Dandan, Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights. Participants included senior representatives
of the seven national human rights commissions that comprise the Asia
Pacific Forum and the Special Adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights, Mr Brian Burdekin representing the High Commissioner.

The Forum called
on governments to give explicit effect to their commitment to the realisation
of economic, social and cultural rights, including through their input
into the policies and programs of international financial institutions
and of international and regional economic forums. The Forum expressed
its continued concern at the detrimental impact that some policies and
practices of international financial institutions and multinational corporations
have upon the enjoyment of human rights. It noted its concern that, as
non-state actors, these institutions are not subject in law to international
human rights treaties and are not formally accountable for compliance
with them. The Forum welcomed the initiative of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights to establish a dialogue with United Nations agencies
and programs, international financial institutions, international agencies
and non-state players. The Forum also encouraged the Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights to continue and extend its dialogue with all
these bodies in its work. The Forum agreed to further explore means of
promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights and resolved
to explore closer engagement with relevant organisations.

A full report of
the meeting has been placed on the Forum's website.

Forum Regional Workshop: The
Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Advancing the International
Human Rights of Women

At its Fourth Annual
Meeting in 1999, the Forum agreed to hold a workshop in 2000 on the advancement
of women's human rights, in consultation with the NGO community. The Fiji
Human Rights Commission (FHRC) agreed to host this Workshop to enhance
the profile of human rights in the Pacific sub-region.

The Workshop was
organised by the Secretariat of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human
Rights Institutions, in collaboration with the host institution, the Fiji
Human Rights Commission. It was co-sponsored by the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and financially supported
by OHCHR, the New Zealand Government, through its Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and the Australian Government, through its Agency
for International Development (AusAID) as part of its continuing program
of support for the Forum Secretariat.

The Workshop was
held from 5 - 7 May 2000 in Suva, Fiji Islands. It was preceded by frequent
consultation between the Forum Secretariat, the FHRC and the OHCHR.

The Prime Minister
of the Fiji Islands, the Hon Mr Mahendra P Chaudhry, opened the Workshop
at a function that was also addressed by the Chairperson of the Fiji Commission
on Human Rights, Mr Justice Kepa, the Special Adviser to the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Brian Burdekin, and Justice Dame
Silvia Cartwright, Committee Member, CEDAW and New Zealand High Court
Judge.

The goal of the workshop
was to promote better understanding and observance of the international
human rights of women in the Asia Pacific region.

The workshop was
very successful and produced a comprehensive statement of conclusions.
Further details on this activity can be found in a separate report to
this meeting.

Sadly, ten days following
the workshop the elected Fiji Government was held hostage and overthrown
by a civilian coup. The Forum Secretariat, however, hopes to continue
to develop human rights projects which implement the conclusions of the
workshop with Pacific island states.

Forum Regional Workshop: National
Institutions and Non-Government Organisations: Working in Partnership

From 26-29 July 1999
the Forum regional workshop, National Institutions and Non-Government
Organisations: Working in Partnership was held in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Co-sponsors
of the workshop were the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and the Asia
Pacific Human Rights Non-Government Organisations Facilitating Team. The
workshop was attended by approximately 70 participants representing national
institutions, non-government organisations, governments and international
organisations. The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Assistance
provided US$50,000 and the New Zealand Government a further NZ$46,000
towards the workshop. A full report of the outcomes of the workshop was
presented at the Forum's Fourth Annual Meeting in Manila in 1999 and is
on the Forum's website.

Country-based Projects

East Timor

On 10 December 1999
an officer of the Secretariat participated in a symposium Darwin on the
establishment of a judicial system in East Timor, inalized by the United
Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) and the School of
Law of the Northern Territory University. The Human Rights Commissioner
and the Forum officer traveled to Dili, East Timor and met with local
NGO representatives and the Director and officers of the Human Rights
Unit of UNTAET.

In January 2000 at
the request of UNTAET the Forum inalized two project proposals: the first
a proposal for the establishment of an ombudsman's position in UNTAET;
the second a project proposal for an East Timor human rights seminar.
This seminar, developed by the Forum Secretariat and implemented by UNTAET
is scheduled to be held in Dili in August 2000 and it is expected that
the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson will participate.

Indonesia

The Forum continued
its management of technical assistance and cooperation with the Indonesian
Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). This included the recruitment, selection
and placement in May 2000 of an Australian human rights educator at Komnas
HAM for two years.

In June 2000 the
Secretariat hosted a five person delegation from the Indonesian Human
Rights Commission, Komnas HAM. The program included an academic component
and meetings with Ministers, the Judiciary, government and non-government
representatives as well as focusing on national institution policy, legal,
conciliation and education issues. The visit provided the delegation with
knowledge of alternative institutional mechanisms for the protection and
promotion of human rights and further developed linkages between Komnas
HAM and the Forum.

Iran

In July 1999 the
Secretariat met with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr Mohsen Aminzadeh
and other Iranian government officials. Discussion included the existing
cooperation between the Forum and the Islamic Human Rights Commission
of Iran.

Sri Lanka

The Forum regional
workshop in July 1999, National Institutions and Non-Government Organisations:
Working in Partnership was held in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Co-sponsors of the
workshop were the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and the Asia Pacific
Human Rights Non-Government Organisations Facilitating Team. The workshop
was attended by approximately 70 participants representing national institutions,
non-government rganizations, governments and international rganizations.
The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Assistance provided US$50,000
and the New Zealand Government a further NZ$46,000 towards the workshop.
A full report of the outcomes of the workshop was presented at the Forum's
Fourth Annual Meeting in Manila in 1999 and is on the Forum's website.

Thailand

In October 1999 the
Secretariat in partnership with the Centre for Democratic Institutions
organised a one week visit of an eight person delegation from Thailand.
The delegation was comprised of a cross-section of people from the Thai
community including members of Parliament, government officials and non-government
representatives. The visit followed the passage of the National Human
Rights Commission Act by the National Assembly of Thailand.

Vietnam

In July and October
1999 the Director of the Secretariat gave lectures to 20 Vietnamese judges
on the interrelationship between human rights and criminal law, the role
of national human rights institutions and the activities of the Asia Pacific
Forum. This project was in association with the Centre for Asian and Pacific
Law at the University of Sydney. The project was funded by the United
Nations Development Program.


[1]
Principles Relating To The Status Of National Institutions, Commission
on Human Rights resolution 1992/54 of 3 March 1992. Annex (Official Records
of the Economic and Social Council, 1992, Supplement No. 2 (E/1992/22),
chap. II, sect. A): General Assembly resolution

Last
updated 1 December 2001.