Asia Centre held a briefing session on 22 May 2017, in Bangkok, for visitors from the Southeast Asia Study Abroad Program of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs of Georgia Tech, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Dr. Robin Ramcharan and Dr. James Gomez led the briefing and discussions. Dr. Katja Weber led the group from Georgia Tech.
The session focused on challenges facing human rights protection and democratic transitions in ASEAN, and on contemporary governance challenges that affect human security including the difficulties of providing social protection. Institutional differences between ASEAN and other regional bodies were highlighted.
The value of the Universal Periodic Review
(UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council to human rights protection in the region was emphasized and appraised. The critical role and impact of civil society organizations highlighted. It was noted that their formal exclusion from ASEAN regional mechanisms rendered the UPR even more appealing since CSOs and other stakeholders are consulted in the UPR peer-review process.
The study group were apprised of the capacity and need for the UPR dialogue process to tackle hard civil and political issues. One of those is the shrinking space for freedom of expression (FOE) across the region, which faces threats from the criminalization of political opposition, restrictive cyber and telecommunications laws, restrictions on social media and presidential decrees in one-man or one-party authoritarian States.
Participants from the study group engaged in discussion on FOE challenges, ethnic conflict and problems of social inequality.
The study group, which was touring several countries in Southeast Asia, stopped by Asia Centre to exchange views on challenges facing the region and to share their insights on the same.
Asia Centre looks forward to continued interaction and future collaboration with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.