RIAH hosts first conference on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism

On 21 March 2014, the Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities (RIAH) hosted an international conference on the evolving ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

Callaghan Centre blocks thin

Beyond Cultural RelativismThe conference was the first in a series of six scheduled to be held over the next three years as part of a research project, ‘Beyond Cultural Relativism: The Human Rights Mechanism of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 2014-2016’, funded by the British Academy. The project brings together colleagues from Swansea University and the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD) working in the fields of politics, international relations and law, led by Dr Gerard Clarke from the Department of Political and Cultural Studies (PCS). Three of these conferences will be held in Swansea and three in Manila.

In contrast to international criticism, labelling it as an example of ‘cultural relativism’ or of ‘regional particularity’, the project will explore the ASEAN human rights mechanism as a valuable addition to global and national mechanisms to promote and protect international human rights standards and to ASEAN’s plans to become a people-oriented community.

The first conference included papers from Dr Gerard Clarke (PCS) and Dr Helen Quane (College of Law) from Swansea University. From UPD, the audience heard presentations from Prof Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, Director of the Institute of Human Rights in the College of Law and Herman Kraft from the Dept of Political Science and director of the university’s Institute for Strategic and Development Studies.

In addition to Swansea and UPD colleagues, the project provides for participation by other academics and policy makers from the UK and Southeast Asia and the conference heard a valuable reflection from Dr Sriprapha Petcharamarasee from the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University in Thailand.  Sriprapha is better known internationally as one of the founding commissioners of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights where she served as Representative of Thailand from 2009 to 2013 and her reflection offered a valuable insider perspective on the evolving ASEAN human rights mechanism.

The conference was opened and closed by Lord Williams of Baglan, honorary fellow in the Dept of Political and Cultural Studies. Lord Williams served as Director of Human Rights in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in the early 1990s and went on to become UN Under Secretary General and his comments offered a valuable historical  perspective on the current struggle to advance internationally-recognised human rights in Southeast Asia.   

The second conference under the project is due to be held in the College of Law, University of the Philippines, Diliman, in October 2014.

Beyond Cultural Relativism - conf photo









Photo: (L to R): Dr Gerard Clarke, Dr Helen Quane, Lord Williams of Baglan, Herman Kraft, Dr Sriprapha Petcharamarasee, Dr Alan Collins and Prof. Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan.