In the ASEAN region as elsewhere in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a genuine health emergency, prompting governments to take extraordinary, unprecedented measures in an effort to curb its lethal impact. While measures were taken by ASEAN Member States to genuinely combat the proliferation of the virus, others used it, sometimes concurrently, as a pretext for increasing oppression and violating human rights. Some measures have proven to be detrimental particularly to groups that are routinely subject to abuse.
Between March and May 2020, FORUM-ASIA together with the network of Solidarity for ASEAN Peoples Advocacy (SAPA) and SHAPE-SEA, conducted a series of webinars to discuss the measures taken by ASEAN and its Member States in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and their impact on the human rights situation on the ground. Participants discussed specific challenges faced both by society as a whole and various vulnerable groups – among other women, LGBTIQ people, children and youth, refugees, documented and undocumented migrants resulting from the implementation of those measures on national and regional level.
This report summarises the proceedings of the webinar series. These include findings of research into the experiences of specific groups as well as recommendations to be conveyed to ASEAN and its Member States. Recommendations centre on the need to respect, protect and full human rights as provided in international treaties and other instruments, bearing in mind their intersectionality with other aspects during and post-pandemic. The report also includes further information and analysis from media, human rights reports and other sources including issues not covered in the webinar series due to limited amount of time.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations to ASEAN and its Member States, civil society, and the private sector on ways of ensuring the adoption of human rights-based approaches in countering the pandemic. Among other things, the report recommends providing AICHR and ACWC with active human rights monitoring and protection powers and a voice in any regional plans for post COVID-19 recovery and ensuring meaningful participation of civil society in the process. These recommendations were presented during the virtual town-hall meeting in June 20201, in conjunction with the 36th ASEAN Summit.