MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) expressed disappointment yesterday over the ASEAN rights body’s “lack of clear protection mandate.”

But UNHCR chief Navi Pillay said she hoped the role of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights would expand after its launch at the 15th ASEAN Summit this October.

Pillay urged the ASEAN body to encourage full integration of civil society groups in its establishment and development as part of regional leaders’ stated commitment to create a “people-oriented ASEAN.”

She congratulated the High Level Panel, composed of government officials and human rights experts responsible for preparing the draft endorsed by foreign ministers, saying she looks forward to continued cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN states in the development of the new regional commission.

Human rights group Freedom House also urged the ASEAN to improve its new human rights commission by adding a strong protection mechanism.

The terms of reference for the ASEAN

Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights were formally approved last July 20 at the 42nd meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Phuket, Thailand.

The document calls for a body focused on promoting human rights, rather than protecting them, and emphasizes the commission’s commitment to “non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states.” – Pia Lee Brago, Philippine Star