By Genalyn Kabiling
NONTHABURI, Thailand — The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will continue to work closely with the United Nations (UN) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the region.
The ASEAN leaders met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a summit last Sunday and agreed to sustain its partnership on various fields such as rights protection of women and children, food security, health, and security.
“We emphasized the importance of the promotion and protection of human rights in the region, including through increasing engagements between the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the UN,” the ASEAN chairman, Thailand, said in a statement.
“We encouraged the AICHR and the UN to continue exchanging best practices and capacity building initiatives, particularly in the areas of the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities,” the ASEAN chair added.
The leaders said they look forward to the second meeting of AICHR and the UN in Bangkok this month “with a view to focusing on future cooperation in areas of common interest.
The latest ASEAN chairman statement was issued amid concerns raised by some groups about the human rights situation in some Southeast Asian countries such as the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war in the Philippines. Guterres earlier expressed concern about the plight of the Rohingya and urged the Myanmar government to ensure the safe repatriation of the refugees.
In the same summit, the ASEAN and UN leaders agreed to sustain partnership on promoting peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.
They also agreed to intensify joint efforts in fighting terrorism, violent extremism and other transnational crimes. “We agreed on the importance of comprehensive approaches to counter-terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism, in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action for Preventing Violent Extremism,” the ASEAN chair said.
The UN chief also thanked ASEAN for contributing around 5,000 military and police peacekeeping personnel, including women peacekeepers, who have been deployed in 10 global UN peace operations.
To promote economic integration and narrow down the development gap, ASEAN and UN agreed to strengthen collaboration in trade facilitation, energy connection and interconnectivity and women’s economic empowerment, within and beyond the region as well as digital economy, financial technology and e-commerce.
ASEAN and UN will also sustain alliance in promoting a competitive, resilient and sustainable food, agriculture and forestry sector to facilitate equitable and inclusive growth.
“We appreciated the UN’s continued support to ASEAN in furthering efforts to achieve energy security in the region through joint study and publications,” the ASEAN chair said.
Strengthening ASEAN-UN cooperation in disaster risk reduction, emergency response and management will also remain a priority to build a safer and disaster-resilient community.
“We appreciated the UN’s continued support for ASEAN’s vision of disaster and climate-resilient communities including its aims in reducing vulnerability to disaster and climate-related risks, including but not limited to various natural hazards, haze pollution, extreme weather events and climate change leads to growing frequency and severity of disasters, protecting forests and biodiversity, sea level rise, and preserving environmental flows in the region,” the ASEAN chairman said.