Bali, Indonesia, 29 November 2011

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The good work of the ASEAN Intergovernental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), has been acknowledged by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay.

In his welcoming remarks at the 7th AICHR meeting in Bali, Dr Surin stated that AICHR has gone a long way in terms of its recognition, acceptance and legitimacy in the area of promotion and protection of human rights.

“AICHR has given tremendous confidence and interest among international institutions and bodies whose mandates are similar to AICHR. This has generated a lot of invitations and request for interaction from international, regional, and national institutions,” said Dr Surin.

He added that AICHR, as an overaching organ of ASEAN, must gain recognition and legitimacy from experience and collaboration with stakeholders. It is only by engaging with these stakeholders would AICHR get the due recognition as the overarching human rights institution in ASEAN. There is a tremendous need for the region to be inspired by AICHR and their work.

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Also gracing the meeting was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Pillay. She mentioned that ASEAN has taken significant steps in recent years to bring the issue of human rights into its community building project. The creation of AICHR, as a regional body to advance human rights and the first of its kind in this region, is testament to this commitment. “The Member States of ASEAN have recognised that reform and renewal is necessary, to adapt to a changing regional environment and maintain the relevance of ASEAN both regionally and on the world stage. It has been encouraging to see that human rights have become an integral part of this vision, with the ASEAN Charter specifying that the promotion and protection of human right is an underlying purpose and fundamental principle of the organisation.”

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The High Commissioner recognises the importance of supporting ASEAN in this process of reform, particularly in relation to the development of its human rights mechanisms and is pleased with the fruitful relationship of trust and confidence that has developed between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office in Bangkok and ASEAN in the area of human rights. This includes support for the strengthening of the AICHR secretariat and the provision of resource persons and materials for human rights training programmes instigated by AICHR.

Ms Pillay concluded her remarks by saying that each region of the world has its unique cultures, traditions, institutions and histories, but what is common to all the regions is an aspiration for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The High Commissioner was pleased to see that ASEAN recognises this, and has started on an ambitious programme of reform and institution building to realise these aspirations for all its people. She further stated that the OHCHR stands ready to support ASEAN and AICHR in these efforts, and to work together to advance the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world.