The EESC were invited to host a delegation of the ACWC Representatives from ASEAN as part of the EU visitors programme. Further details of ACWC are contained at the base of this report for information.
Mr. Philippe van Amersfoort, EEAS accompanied the delegation and also arranged for several debates with civil society so that views could be exchanged on what activities were taking place in the EU and ASAEN , and also what the opportunities and challenges were moving forward.
The delegation also meet with Mr. Mikael Gustafsson MEP , Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality and attended as observers and special guests of the chair, a monthly meeting of the EP Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. Alongside this the delegation had a meeting on the EU's policy on promoting and protecting women's and children's rights in External Relations with a presentation of the policy of the Council of Europe on the promotion and protection of women's and children's rights.
Following a briefing by DEVCO senior officials and experts on women’s and children’s rights in EU development policies and exchange of views about the priority issues in this regard in ASEAN countries and how the EU best can support them, the delegation met with representatives of European Human Rights Civil Society Organisations. I also attended this meeting with Cristina Sorani to promote the work of the EESC in external relations and human rights activities. This was an open dialogue with representatives of European civil society organisations working on the promotion of women's and children's rights in Europe and in Asia.
The ASEAN delegation were then hosted in the EESC and had a meeting with me and members of the secretariat from SOC and REX where we informed them of the structure of the Committee, its work and impact. Of most interest to the delegation was how our opinions were used and developed with civil society. One of the most poignant questions was how we worked with young people - we explained that we had many activities but still needed to do more to include them in our forming of EESC opinions.
The delegation was impressed with our work on children and women’s rights , and on how I used entrepreneurship as a tool to empower women to know better their rights.
Mr. Philippe van Amersfoort, EEAS who stayed with the delegation explained after the meeting that he would like to strengthen civil society links with ASEAN and hoped to have a conversation with us in the near future on developing a working relationship with ASEAN. I have made a proposal for an appointment to discuss this further as several members from Asia delegations have already expressed a wish to develop this field even if in an informal capacity.
I understand this is not the core work of the Committee but appreciated very much the visit of the delegation and the opportunity to promote the committees work and our relations in reflecting the views of civil society.
Copies: President Gr1
Group 1 Secretariat
Rex Section president
The ASEAN Commission on Women and Children (ACWC) is a formal consultative body of ASEAN. It was established in 2010 with a mandate to "develop policies, programmes and innovative strategies to promote and protect the rights of women and children in the region". Each Member State of ASEAN is represented by two Commissioners in ACWC, one for women's rights and the other for children's rights. They serve for a three-tear term. The personal background of the twenty members of the Commission is currently quite diverse, as it includes high-profile civil society activists and academics as well as senior officials.
The promotion of women's and children's rights has been a consensual topic on ASEAN's agenda since the late seventies. All ASEAN Member States have ratified and are parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Nonetheless, several key challenges remain in the region, such as gender discrimination, human trafficking, child labour, limited access to education and the broader impact of poverty on the situation of women and children.
In contrast to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) also established in 2010, ACWC has a human rights protection mandate and is entitled to organise open consultation processes with civil society on issues related to women's and children's rights. ACWC also interacts quite intensively with UN bodies, including UNIFEM, and Dialogue-partners of ASEAN. ACWC members visited Washington in April 2012.
ACWC tries to ensure balance between promoting and protecting the rights of women and children. It has given significant attention to issues such as trafficking in human beings, which affects women and children in the region. During its fifth meeting, in July 2012 in Jakarta, ACWC agreed 12 projects aimed at raising awareness about best practices in eliminating violence against women and children; developing a regional network of social services aimed at victims of violence; organising conferences on cultural and religious practices affecting the rights of children; setting standards on service delivery for children with disabilities; promoting an enabling environment for children to participate in public decision making; and developing an ASEAN progress report on women's advancement and gender equality.
ACWC has contributed to raising awareness about women's and children's rights within governments of the region. It has established standards which have been brought to the attention of regular meetings of ASEAN Ministers (Health, Education, Labour, Social Welfare, Rural Development and Poverty Eradication etc.).
The work of ACWC provides interesting side-ways to address difficult or sensitive issues not openly or properly addressed on the wider human rights agenda of ASEAN (e.g. land evictions, a widespread challenge in the region, is being addressed by ACWC through "activities to strengthen the economic rights of women, particularly to land and property").
Upon invitation of the EEAS, all 20 members of ACWC will visit relevant EU institutions (EEAS, Commission, Parliament, Economic and Social Committee) and Belgian agencies (e.g. Centre pour l'Egalité des Chances) between 19 and 22 February 2013. ACWC members will essentially seek to share experience and lessons learnt on the broad set of issues falling within their mandate as well as explore possible avenues for future cooperation with the EU.