by Nina Somera (September 2011)
The window is now open.
This was the general feeling of civil society groups, including members of the South East Asian Women’s Caucus on ASEAN, on their last interface with the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) on 8 September 2011 in Solo, Indonesia.
Both sides came prepared with their own visions of the immediate future and beyond. Civil society organisations underscored the need for effective multilateral efforts, including monitoring mechanisms on transborder issues such as migration, children on the move, statelessness, and trafficking, as well as violence against women and children committed over the internet. As a CSO representative said, “We feel that there have been different forms of violence against women (VAW) and violence against children (VAC) which happen across and beyond borders, including cyberspace.”
Another pointed out, “[Some of us] have set up shelters and provided services for victims and survivors of trafficking. Some international organizations may have also funded governments in setting up certain systems for documentation on migration and trafficking. But we are concerned that funding for cross-border mechanisms must continue and must not be limited to external donor support.”
VAW, VAC, migration and trafficking are among the areas ACWC has chosen to prioritise for the next three years. Others included in its work plan are women and children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS; social impact of climate change on women and children; promotion and protection of the rights of women and children with disabilities, child protection system: integrative/comprehensive approach for children in need for social protection; the right to quality education, including early childhood care, development and education (ECCDE), child participation, women’s participation in politics and decision making, governance and democracy, strengthening economic rights of women with regards to feminization of poverty, women’s right to land and property, promoting the implementation of gender equality in education, strengthening of ACWC’s institutional capacities of ACWC, ASEAN and other instruments related to the rights of women and children, and promotion of consultation and dialogue with stakeholders at national and regional levels.
One of the immediate plans of the ACWC is to establish a network of agencies and organisations which provides social work services for women and children. As Aline Wong, Singapore’s representative for women’s human rights, “Such a network will provide a platform for the sharing of information, intelligence, experiences and best practices in helping victims of violence. It would allow for the exchange of experts and social work professionals among ASEAN Member States, as well as provide internships, training opportunities and the exchange of technical assistance. International transfer of victims who were trafficked could also be facilitated more effectively and with the care that they need.”
The CSO-ACWC interface happened at the end of ACWC’s Third Meeting that finalised the Commission’s work plan and rules of procedures (ROP). The ASEAN Secretariat has yet to release a copy of the ROP. But it is hoped that this document will help institutionalise ACWC’s dialogue with CSOs and other stakeholders. One emerging area for collaboration is the Commission’s meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Special Assistant to the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children in January 2012. CSOs have committed to gather and share their body of data and research towards a deeper understanding of these issues and possibly, the development of common frameworks and monitoring mechanisms.
As this ASEAN window has been further opened for civil society, the interface with ACWC is expected to continue and even improve when Cambodia takes on the ASEAN chairship. The interface ACWC was held after the civil society meeting on the ACWC, organized by the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Kalyanamitra, KKSP Medan, Child Rights Coalition Asia and the South East Asian Women’s Caucus on ASEAN (Women’s Caucus) from 7 to 8 September 2011 in Solo, Indonesia.