National Human Rights Institutions in Southeast Asia: Challenges of Protection

July 13, 2017 to July 14, 2017

Asia Centre invites the submission of abstracts on the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Southeast Asia in protecting human rights. We welcome submissions from specialists in this field, including by former and current practitioners in the region’s NHRIs. 


Background and rationale:

In 2008, the ASEAN’s first-ever Charter came into force. After years of discussion coupled with
external pressure, the ASEAN leaders ultimately consent to include an article on human rights that eventually lead to the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) in 2010. Two years later in 2012, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) was adopted. These regional human rights developments were significant for an association that is rooted in the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs of neighbouring states. Nevertheless, the capacity of the regional human rights mechanism to protect human rights is a major question mark that awaits an answer.

A vital complement to this regional system is the group of NHRIs that lie at the intersection of civil society (national, regional and international) and the state. Six NHRIs have been established in the region, some pre-dating the regional mechanism. They are the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines (CRP), Indonesia National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) and the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice of Timor Leste (PDHJ). The latter is a special case. As of now, Timor Leste has yet to be admitted as a full member of ASEAN.

In addition, in order to face the regional developments and challenges, these NHRIs, while seeking to improve their national capacities, have also evolved and formalised their network and named it as the Southeast Asia NHRI Forum (SEANF) in 2009. The formalisation of SEANF is considered a commitment of the Southeast Asia NHRIs in further strengthening and enhancing their roles in protecting human rights in the region.

Internationally, they are also members in the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) and are part of the Global Alliance of the National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), formerly known as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC). They also contribute stakeholder submissions to the UPR process of the Human Rights Council.

The question arises, however, as to whether these government-sponsored NHRIs are effective in providing protection of human rights in the region. Preliminary analysis has questioned their effectiveness in providing protection.

The unique position of the NHRIs between the government and civil society provide opportunities and at the same time dilemmas in protecting human rights in the region. Their capacity to investigate human rights violations, to conduct national inquiries or public hearings and to secure remedies for human rights victims are often questioned.

This conference aims to serve as a platform for representatives from NHRIs, academics, researchers, students and civil society interested in the topic to explore, through evidence based research, the potentials, challenges and opportunities of these Southeast Asian NHRIs and their contribution to human rights protection in the region.  It seeks to explore their protection roles at the national, regional and international levels.


  • NHRIs, international human rights system and networks. How is the interaction between the NHRIs at the international level, for example with the UPR and UN? What is the role of GANHRI in the growth and development of the NHRIs worldwide?
  • NHRIs in the national context. Why states create NHRIs? What are its mandates, legal basis, powers, functions and its compliances with Paris Principles? What happens to others that do not have any? Topics can be related to NHRIs and state compliance, NHRIs and political regimes, NHRIs and judiciary.
  • NHRIs and regional human rights system and networks. Now that the AICHR has been established, how is the relationship between the NHRIs and AICHR? How have the NHRIs respond to the AHRD? To what extent the regional networks such as the SEANF and the APF could help in term of advancing the protection role of the NHRIs?
  • NHRIs and human rights protection. NHRIs’ mandates and powers are varied; do they help in securing remedies or compensation? What are their impacts on protecting human rights? Now that NHRIs have engaged with other human rights networks regionally and globally, how has it help in dealing with transboundary human rights issues?


This conference aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Convene researchers working on human rights in Southeast Asia
  • Exchange views among the authors researching the NHRIs in Southeast Asia
  • Publish the outcomes in a special issue journal and/or an edited book
  • Contribute to the academic literature on NHRIs and human rights in Southeast Asia.


  • Professor James Gomez, Asia Centre
  • Professor Khoo Ying Hooi, University of Malaya
  • Professor Robin Ramcharan, Asia Centre

Abstract Submission

Submit an abstract in English, of 300 to 350 words, together with a short bio to Full papers should be 5000 words.

Poster presentations

Limited space is available for 4 to 5 poster presentations. Your presentation may be submitted in word / pdf format to the Asia Centre for consideration. A 60×80 cm poster will be printed and displayed during the conference.

Online Participation

We welcome presentations and participation via Skype. Full conference fees apply.


  • Abstract and Poster Submission: 15 May 2017
  • Submission of full paper for conference and final version of poster: 1 June 2017

Conference Fees

  • USD$200 – Regular
  • USD$150 – Student

Day Rate (For participants interested in attending a single day of the conference)

  • USD$100 – Regular
  • USD$75 – Student

NHRIs Conference Fees



NHRIs Day Rate



This is a self-funded conference, conference fees will go towards covering the cost of the venue, equipment and logistics, coffee breaks on all days, certificates for participants, and conference communications.

Applicants are reminded that the Centre is not in a position to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships, subsidies, discounts, fee-waivers or reimbursements.

Programme Outline

Day 1 (13 July 2017): 9am to 5pm

  • Keynote speaker, paper presentations and dinner

Day 2 (14 July 2017): 9am to 5pm

  • Paper presentations and closing plenary
  • Book project consultation

Conference Structure

The conference will be structured in accordance with the four themes above.

It will be open to participation by civil society organisations, civil society groups, international organisations, government officials and the academic community to facilitate knowledge sharing and networking opportunities.

Host: Asia Centre, Bangkok, Thailand.

Conference Partners

  • About Asia Centre

    The Asia Centre, registered as an educational enterprise in 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, seeks to connect peoples and regions through collaborative partnerships.

    It provides consultancy and advisory services for academic and professional development, communications and outreach, research and publications, development and technical assistance to educational institutions, international organizations, non-profit organizations and other institutions in the private and public sector.

    Operating as a social enterprise it aims to enhance its partners’ communications capacity, global networking, knowledge base, research skills and training capacity.

  • Asia Centre

    128/183 Phayathai Plaza Building (17th Floor), Phayathai Road, Thung-Phayathai, Rachatewi Bangkok 10400 Thailand
    Tel: (66) 02-129 3773 Fax: (66) 02-129 3774

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