On 27 November 2019, the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held their 3rd Policy Dialogue on Human Rights in Brussels, Belgium.
The Dialogue was held in an open and constructive atmosphere and provided an opportunity to discuss recent developments in ASEAN and the EU. The participants exchanged views on a broad range of human rights issues including independent national human rights institutions, freedom of expression, opinion and information as well as freedom of religion and belief. They also discussed issues related to women's rights, children's rights, juvenile justice, right to nationality, trafficking in human beings, impact of climate change on human rights, as well as business and human rights.
The EU and ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. They also agreed tofurther strengthen their cooperation with a particular focus on combatting hate speech and disinformation while preserving freedom of expression, promoting gender equality, eliminating violence against women and girls,ending child labour and addressing trafficking in human beings. The EU encouraged ASEAN to continue to play a role in the complex issues affecting Rakhine State.
The Dialogue was preceded by consultations with civil society organisations in Brussels, during which civil society representatives from Southeast Asia and Europe had the opportunity to present and discuss issues pertaining to the protection and promotion of human rights in ASEAN and the EU. In addition, ASEAN and EU civil society representatives were invited at the opening of the Dialogue to present their recommendations for action.
The Dialogue was held as part of a comprehensive four-day visit to the EU by the ASEAN human rights representatives, which included a visit to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna. While in Belgium, participants held an exchange of views with representativesof EU Member States in the European Council in a joint meeting with the Asia-Oceania Working Party and the Working Party on Human Rights. They also visited a Belgian centre for relief and assistance to victims of human trafficking, met the Belgian interdepartmental coordination platform on the fight against trafficking and smuggling in human beings as well as the Belgian Federal Institute for Sustainable Development, and attended an event to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in sustainable development.
The Dialogue was co-chaired by Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, and by Amara Pongsapich, the Representative of Thailand and current Chair of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).
Also participating in the Dialogue were AICHR representatives from the other ASEAN member states, representatives of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, the ASEAN Committee on Women, the ASEAN Committee on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers,and the ASEAN Secretariat. The EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Myria Vassiliadou, and Ambassador Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender/Women, Peace and Security, also participated.