Prior to the 1990s, the ASEAN region was hostile to human rights civil society organizations (CSOs) and the discourse that they brought. This hostility dissipated with the end of the Cold War. ASEAN's grudging shift to soften its stance towards human rights was brought about not only by global trends and the openness of ASEAN member-states and officials. Several scholars have also noted the contribution of CSOs in this progress. With ASEAN’s shift, CSOs had been active to realize their desire to institutionalize a human rights mechanism in the region. Their campaign reached its peak with the inauguration of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in 2009. Despite this development, CSOs’ participation in human rights institutionalization became limited. It was only in 2015 when AICHR adopted guidelines to facilitate engagement with CSOs. As of 2021, 30 organizations are affiliated with AICHR. This paper seeks to provide an initial assessment on the extent of the role of CSOs in shaping AICHR's human rights agenda. Two time-periods are examined: (1) initial years of AICHR-CSO relations (2015-2019); and (2) pandemic years (2020-2023). This is accomplished through a thematic analysis of official statements gathered from AICHR and partner CSOs during official engagements. The analysis likewise projects the post-pandemic prospects in human rights agenda-setting of AICHR-CSO relations.
Mark Vincent Nogra, West Visayas State University, Philippines
Reymund Flores, West Visayas State University, Philippines
Lenlen Sacapaño, West Visayas State University, Philippines
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