PHNOM PENH, 23 October 2019 – The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened its 2nd Regional Dialogue on Mainstreaming of the Right to Education in the ASEAN Community on 20-22 October in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This is a follow-up event from the first dialogue on mainstreaming of the right to education across the three Community Pillars of ASEAN organised in Cambodia two years ago.

The three-day Dialogue aims to raise awareness on the right to education as a cross-cutting issue in ASEAN as well as garner inputs from ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and relevant stakeholders to mainstream the right to education across the three Community Pillars of ASEAN. Further, it hopes to create a platform to strengthen regional cooperation on education and human rights.

The Dialogue gathered more than one hundred participants from the ASEAN Member States (AMS), ASEAN Organs, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, Entities Associated with ASEAN, UN and international agencies and various stakeholders of ASEAN and its partners. Representatives from government agencies of the AMS, national human rights institutions, CSOs dealing with education and human rights and academes from the region also participated.

In her welcome speech during the opening ceremony, Polyne Hean, Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR, highlighted that the foundation of this regional dialogue series is based on common understanding that “education is a fundamental human rights that should be promoted.” She underscored that it is imperative “to make education a meaningful right, education should be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. Participation and contribution from relevant stakeholders, especially from the ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, is another step forward in mainstreaming the right to education in the ASEAN Community.”

Further, Polyne pointed out the need for continued cooperation from pertinent ASEAN bodies and relevant stakeholders. “Coming together is a beginning, and our journey began in 2017. Staying together is progress, which we are meeting during these three days and working together is success that we should continue to further mainstream the right to education across the three community pillars of ASEAN,” she added.

The Dialogue was also graced by H.E. Remy Keo, Minister attached to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia and President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee. Remy stated, “Education is a fundamental right. Education is a human rights means that the right to education is legally guaranteed for all without any discrimination and states have the obligation to promote the right to quality and access to education.”

In addition, H.E. Remy Keo highlighted some of ASEAN’s commitments and initiatives in the realisation of the right to education, among others, the 2009 Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation on Education to Achieve ASEAN Caring and Sharing Community, the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, and the ASEAN Work Plans on Education.

In a recorded message, Dr. Koumbou Boly Barry, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education underlined that the right to education for all is key in sustaining economic development of nations. She also pointed out the role of education as a means to achieve peace and prevent mass atrocities, genocides, human right violations and conflict.

In line with its objectives, the dialogue mapped out good practices and challenges pertaining to the promotion of (i) the right to inclusive education for women, children and persons with disabilities, (ii) the right to education for development, (iii) the right to education for employment, (iv) the right to education in digital age, and (v) human rights education in ASEAN. The experts and participants shared good practices and challenges to enhancing the right to quality and inclusive education and discussed possible ways forward for the AICHR as well as relevant bodies of ASEAN to contribute to the mainstreaming of the right to education in the ASEAN Community.

At the close of the Dialogue, the Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR expressed confidence that the Dialogue would be a strong platform to further strengthen regional cooperation on education and human rights and sought full support from relevant stakeholders to continue enhancing the right to education in the region.

The Dialogue was organised by the AICHR-Cambodia and funded by the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund (ACCF).

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